McGregors brainstorm interesting gardening solution - Spring Home and Garden 2017
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BY DENNY SCOTT
Twenty-five years ago Lynda and Duncan McGregor ran into a problem with stinkweed plants in their backyard on the slope off what is now the Greenway Trail. The resulting solution created a unique garden that draws the attention and comments of those passing by.
The couple, who live on Westmoreland Street just west of Dinsley, enlisted the aid of Londesborough-area horticulturist Robert Hunking.
At the time, Hunking was handling the gardens at Blyth Memorial Hall which had recently undergone a $2.4 million significant renovation and, while Lynda doesn’t recall the exact circumstances, she’s certain that she came to Hunking for help.
“When I moved here in 1984, the whole backyard was covered with stinkweed,” she said. “You can’t eradicate and the only thing that ever hurt it was chemicals.”
Lynda explained that she wanted to rid the yard of the plant and approached Hunking for a solution. He suggested planting something else on the slope where the weeds were the worst.
“The stinkweed provided good ground cover, so the land was good for growing,” Lynda said. The end result is a fantastic garden.
The garden features four sections of raised planters built on to the hill at the back of the property. Each space is separated with wood and accessible thanks to paths built in between the gardens.
“It’s a neat conversation piece,” Duncan said. “It’s fun to work at.”
Lynda also enjoys working the space, saying that, because of its tiered design, she can stand while doing most of the work, except for the ground work and work on the highest tier.
“There is something satisfying about it, as well,” she said.
The two say that working in the garden is good therapy, whether it’s working through the spring or being out in the sun later in the summer.
Right now, the space is filled with mostly perennials including daffodils and tulips and, in July, the couple usually fills the space with whatever flowers they can find for a second wave of colour. There are also a few annual plants placed for colour.
Duncan loves the garden because it borders the property. He says that, with the trees and traditional gardens, the tiered gardens create a contained space on the property. He also says the papyrus grass, along with the colour and vibrancy from the garden, makes for a nice, relaxing place.
Architect John Rutledge must have felt the same way because, when replacing a pergola for Lynda and Duncan, he created a giant archway which, when viewed from the streets, frames the tiered garden perfectly.
The garden is viewable from the street and much closer up by walking on the Greenway Trail which runs along the top of the hill where the garden sits.
Lynda says most conversations start there.
“People will be on the Greenway and we will be working and they will stop to chat,” she said. “People are interested in it.”
While the entire garden is important, Lynda said some of the most important parts of it are the square gardens that form the bottom tier on ground level.
The space is split into four sections, three of which are used for herbs or tomatoes or other items, however the fourth houses garlic bulbs.
“I plant garlic bulbs in the fall and cover them in mounds of compost,” she said. “It keeps them toasty all winter and they start poking through the compost in March.”
Right now, the scapes of the garlic plants are over a foot tall.
“When those scapes start poking through, it’s a beautiful sight,” she said.
Lynda and Duncan use the plants for medicinal benefits due to their high anti-oxidant content, though Lynda admits she also loves to cook with them. Her children also love garlic and she says she gives them bulbs from the garden as gifts which are always appreciated and used.
She cuts the scapes off early in the growing process and either adds them to food immediately or processes them with olive oil then freezes them for garlic flavouring all-year round.
“It’s a great plant to grow and that’s a perfect space to grow it,” she said. “There have been no pesticides or herbicides used there for 30 years and it’s all done very naturally with the compost.”
While they love the space, Lynda said that the original goal of the garden, to control the stinkweed, may not have exactly gone to plan.
Using thick gardening cloth and wood, they had hoped to drive the plant away, however she said she is starting to see the plants make a comeback.
However, after 25 years, the garden and its infrastructure is still standing, still drawing attention and still providing exercise and therapy for Lynda and Duncan and it’s hard to point to a better investment.