Jeff's garden above the lake...

An early summer visit

Years ago I met Jeff and was lucky enough to hit it off…

Lucky because he is a man with a great love of plants and a greater love of creating and nurturing a sense of home all within a wonderful sense of design.. Plus he’s really funny.

He had the good fortune to be able to claim a portion of his family’s land above a picturesque lake in the Quebec countryside and there he set about building his forever home.

The last time I wrote about this garden was in 2017 here and since then, there have been some changes.

The garden is still impeccably maintained by Jeff himself, and I can’t help but think that my almost aborted visit on this unsettled overcast day was preceded by much weeding, sweeping and primping. The tree in the foreground here is an Amur maple (Acer ginnala) - one that Jeff has pruned up and made open, perfecting creating enough visual space for the glorious martagon lilies.

Jeff tells me with a chuckle that these ones are called ‘Gaybird’ - perfect. Thankfully, the dreaded lily beetle doesn’t seem to have found them in this halcyon countryside, nor the other trumpet lilies in other parts of the garden. This bed had been full of hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) before, with three clipped golden globe cedars providing a foil, but the grasses soon became too overwhelming for the globes and Jeff dispatched the former elsewhere. Now he has opted to use this bed to showcase some lovely shade loving perennials, among them Athyrium ‘Lady in Red’, a lovely astrantia, as well as some deschampsia grass and a few other gems.

But it is really the other beds that I love the most…the long narrow one, barely three feet deep, against the house especially that is planted with a rhythm of Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum), golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) and astilbe. There are also hellebore and hosta, as well as the towering trumpet lilies and a purple leafed snakeroot. Two diminutive azaleas are also in here, although one has really struggled and is moments away from being dispatched, while the other will continue marching on for now — although both Jeff and I have read it its rights…

The magenta petunias in the pots are all Jeff: no wallflowers here.

I am sad that I’ve missed the display on the fringe tree at the corner but Jeff assures me it was spectacular and very fragrant. We agreed that it should be judiciously pruned, taking off the crossing and wonky branches, and staking it straight — is a leaning tree charming or just annoying? We opted for the latter. I’m so glad we are of like minds!

These two beds that hug the road are lush with grasses, Siberian iris (the very first we planted aeons ago! that is, the deep blue ‘Caesar’s Brother’), with Siberian cypress and Japanese rock garden juniper along the edges.

The previous bristlecone pine in this bed succumbed to some mysterious blight…and because it was the focal point in this view and I couldn’t (nor could Jeff) imagine it without such a gnarly, unusual and striking evergreen, well of course another one was planted. This one - fingers crossed - will live on well beyond Jeff’s time on this planet (sorry Jeff) and become the sentinel we imagine it as…

And these monumental steps are planted with several varieties of thyme. Because thyme loves crummy soil, we did not amend those sections, rather used the back fill from making the stairs, with its residual flotsam and jetsam. It would be funny if you could have seen both Jeff and I, perched on the stone edges of these stairs in our shoes, teetering on the edges, tiptoeing from one stone to another, in order to avoid stepping on the thyme. Well, maybe I would have stepped on it had I been in bare feet…but it was amusing nonetheless…

When I look at this photo I see the exuberance of this garden reflects Jeff’s own. I absolutely love that he loves his garden, that he cares for it so tenderly and more, that I get to visit and swan around, to my heart’s content, making suggestions as to what needs tweaking, what looks spectacular and what was a good idea from Day 1.

Thanks Jeff for letting me be a part of your country dream.

Can’t wait for the next visit.