Clever accents and winding paths make Robert Argall’s garden a big favourite.

North Island Rhododendron Society Mother’s Day Tour

North Island Rhododendron Society Mother’sDay Tour

The slow start to summer this year is both good news and bad news, the good news being that the 2018 annual North Island Rhododendron Society Mother’s Day Tour Sunday, May 13 should almost hit the peak of rhododendron flowering. While some of the six gardens on this year’s tour are relatively new, there are also a couple of old favourites that have been updated and changed.

The gentle slope of Ann Chevrier’s garden is an ideal canvas for shaped beds of perennials and mature rhododendrons, some of which are accented by Asian features. One of the striking features in the garden’s design is a meandering pond complete with waterfall and a dry stream bed that winds down along the slope. Another punctuation mark, a crevice garden designed by NIRS member Dany Fortin, proves that small truly is beautiful.

A special feature in the King Road garden of Ann Chevrier.

Speaking of small, Louise Casson shows that you can turn any city lot into a work of art with features normally seen in much larger spaces. Shaped around a pond, selected plantings of hostas and ferns lend an illusion of space along with other shrubs and companion plants. A new cobbled patio updates this small gem.

Since he was a youngster, Wolfgang Hoefgen has worked in nurseries, propagating and nurturing a variety of plants but his specialty has been conifers. You’ll see a wide variety of these and other rare and unusual shrubs dotted through his densely planted yard interspersed with striking variegated dogwoods and red bud. It’s hard to believe that there are more than 400 different varieties of plant on this city lot.

Antje Guertler also has a large city lot that is mapped out into miniature garden areas—a small “woodland” garden, an English cottage garden and a striking rock garden that has floral waves that spill down a rocky slope creating a veritable Niagara of colour. Carefully pruned fruit trees and rhododendrons are accents in the carpet of spring bulbs and other perennials.

Robert Argall’s garden is in a category all to itself. In its sheltered position on Wireless Road, the park-like setting is blessed with a climactic zone slightly higher than other places in the Comox Valley which allows plants that might otherwise struggle to flourish here. South Korean camellias, for example. Other unusual specimens include a Chinese lantern tree and Chilean fire bush. Winding trails snake through a variety of large mature rhododendron and azalea shrubs that open out into a large orchard with a tranquil fish pond. One of the best features of this garden is its display of thousands of spring bulbs that provide a Gauguinesque tableau each spring.

And for something completely different, walking into Kailey Caldwell-Waluck’s garden is like a visit to a tropical paradise. Appearing for the first time on an NIRS garden tour, describing his garden Kailey says: “I specialize in weird species and this is a collector’s garden.” In addition to a wide selection of palms, ferns and thriving bamboos, there are many hard schefflaras and tree ferns as well as established banana trees (that actually grow bananas). It all goes to prove that the Comox Valley fairly earns its reputation as a Canadian rainforest.

Gardens on the tour open at 10 a.m. and run until 4 p.m.. Tickets cost $10 for all six gardens and are available at Art Knapp’s Plantland, Anderton’s nursery, Home and Garden Gate, Blue Heron Books and Hidden Acres Nursery in Campbell River. Every ticket includes a free entry into a draw for a prize rhododendron. Some tickets will also be available at the gardens.


Antje Guertler’s garden features waterfalls of colour.

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