When it comes to sound design principles, solid construction techniques and appropriate plant selection, Hank and Susan Moorlag come out in aces and spades(pun intended).
Both have done a remarkable amount of down-to-earth work (yeah, that was intended, too) to create a backyard garden that reflects their needs and interests.
Hank, now retired from the RCMP and from two five-year terms as ombudsman, has gardening in his genes. His father was in the landscaping and nursery business in Ontario, acting as manager for Weal and Cullen.
Both Hank and Susan started 53 varieties of annuals and perennials from seed as he pointed to one rock bed containing 300 pansies that will soon bloom into a riot of blue and yellow ribbons.
Pointing to the trees, Hank remarks that the three crab apple trees and high bush cranberry shrubs and a rare variegated leaf lilac tree offers vertical elements to the layout design.
The couple collected a ton of rocks that frame all five rambling triangular-shaped beds: “One day, I will count them all so that our guests can play, Guess How Many Rocks Are In the Garden Game.”
Three truck loads of road mix gravel were dumped providing a dual purpose of drainage and raising the beds to keep heat in the soil. Six to eight inches of topsoil was added to that.
First, the Moorlags laid out the patio stone walkway leading to the main house and to the greenhouse. The walkways act as guides to create the five triangular-shaped beds.
Another bed has a profusion of miniature plants, Dwarf Sweet Williams, Irises, Lamium and other creeper plants which will provide ground cover.
A hand-built arbour provides a pleasing centre piece that takes you through the walkways and invites you to sit under the swing or enjoy sitting on the patio chairs.
“In two years, the Virginia Creepers will cover the arbour completely,” Hank comments with no hint of impatience.
Two of the spruce trees he kept, the rest he dug out with a Bobcat.
“Until last week, Susan and I hauled 50 trays of plants back and forth from the outdoor garden and back into the greenhouse where the temperatures were assured of being plant friendly.”
The shed provides a dual purpose of protection for the plants against adverse weather and temperature changes as well as storage for gardening tools. It is also home to trays of plants with names on them designated for friends and the church: “I like to plant for them.”
Outside, Hank shows where he will build another lattice stand to act as a screen for the propane tank. The canary bird vine will take over the trellises.
Another rock-edged bed contains Hank’s pride and joy: the rose bed.
“Soon there will be an explosion of Persian Yellow blooms,” he says. “Here’s a Red Leaf Rose in the centre and a White Morden Rose, a Parkland from Ottawa, a McKenzie and a variety of blooms named after our explorer heroes.”
The Hope for Humanity will soon complete his collection. With great pride and a tinge of nostalgia in his voice, he remarks that this bloom commemorates 100 years service of the Red Cross.
Before long, the hardy, small tea roses and the rest of the roses will burst into a riot of colour.
“This potted Brugmansia will pop up to five feet in height.”
It looks like a parasol with hanging trumpet flowers. His sister sent Lady’s Mantle and Phlox from Ontario in zip-lock bags.
“These tomato plants came from Jack Cable’s tomato seeds. The rocks came from quarry sites, open fields, but not from road sides where soil erodes.”
There is a saying that gardening does not begin in the spring and does not end in fall with the decline of the season, but begins in the winter with the dream.
The Moorlags made theirs come true.
PHOTOS: SUSAN MOORLAG & HANK MOORLAG