Today we’re visiting John and Joanne’s garden in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
In the 28 years we have owned our house we have chosen not to fence the back. It makes the yard look bigger and offers regular opportunities to chat with passersby on Stoney Creek Trail. The downside is that dogs that are supposed to be leashed occasionally come barging in. It is not uncommon as well to have deer prance through the yard a few times a year. Once in a while we hear of people having sighted a cougar or bear in the area.
When we bought the place in 1994, the entire backyard was overrun by sumac and English ivy. It took quite a few years before the place had a garden look.
In a windstorm that reached gusts of nearly 100 km/hr on March 10, 2016, a cottonwood tree came down and took a 20-inch-diameter Douglas fir and a cherry tree near the deck with it. The cottonwood was about 150 feet tall, and its canopy punctured four holes in our roof and took out part of the deck as well. People from the other side of the street could see the top of the tree lying on the peak of our roof. It took three tree fallers 5 to 6 hours to clean up the mess. Because the wind was a south one, the roots of the cottonwood on the windward side did not have enough purchase with the ground because those southside roots were right next to the creek.
You will also notice that the back “lawn” can barely be called that. Because we live in such a temperate climate with the backyard in shade most of the year, it is a losing battle to try fend off the moss that naturally grows on the ground and makes its appearance on the branches of the trees, especially during our wet winter season. Abbotsford receives about 5 feet of rain annually, most of that happening from mid-October through mid-March.
Two years ago, I took the plunge and dug out about 8 inches of dirt to create a 525-square-foot patio, all by hand, replacing it with 6 inches of crushed stone and bedding sand, again by hand. What a job! We had no way to access the backyard with a truck, so everything had to be carted by wheelbarrow from the front driveway to the patio area. Including the patio pavers, I estimate that I handled about 120,000 pounds of material by shovel and wheelbarrow that spring. Projects like this make me appreciate the equipment so readily available on farms like I grew up with and worked on for many years.
Color echoes in the front yard in spring, from the dark new leaves of the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9), to the color of the front door, to the abundant flowers of heathers (Erica sp., Zones 5–9) in their spring bloom.
The back patio was clearly worth all the hard work it took to put it in!
Lush shade beds overflow with plants.
The mossy lawn makes a nice contrast to the beds filled with plants.
Not fencing the yard allows the garden to add borrowed landscape from the creek and the trail next to it.
A Rhododendron adds bright flowers over a carpet of perennials.
Slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis, Zones 5–8) in spring bloom
Sometimes the trunks of mature trees are the most spectacular feature in any garden.
View of the back garden, looking out to the trees beyond
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