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Sooke Harbour: News: Sooke Secret Garden Tour

Annual tour - First Sunday in June
June 6, 2004 | 10 am - 5 pm | Rain or Shine
Self Guided Tour - More Information:
Sue 646-2298 or Merle 642-7248

Sooke gardens - iriss
Photo Credit: Emile & Pierre Lacroix

Sooke's garden secrets are out

Joanne Hatherly, Times Colonist
Saturday, May 29, 2004

There's a reason for the word "secret" in the Sooke Secret Garden Tour.

"These gardens are hidden from view from the street," says event organizer Betty Tully. "You have to go inside them to see what they've got."

And that is true of Lori and Bob Messer's secret garden. From the roadside, their unassuming bi-level seems to be a thicket of wild alders and salmonberries. But a few steps down the driveway tells a different story.

There, rich beds of star-petal purple camas and blue forget-me-nots flow along a curved grass pathway. Behind the low-growing perennials, snow-white bleeding hearts brush against the delicate fronds of maidenhair ferns. The greenery rises up to leather-leafed rhododendrons, a wild cherry tree, an oak leaf hydrangea and pink-flowering currants, cresting in a wild alder and salmonberry copse.

The garden has a soft-edged ambience that makes it look as though it rose up out of the ground effortlessly. But such is not the case. When the Messers moved into the bi-level with their two daughters in 1987, the yard was a tangle of Pacific scrub.

"It was all blackberry and thistles as tall as the deck," says Lori.

Years of hard garden labour brought the half-acre property to heel, but not entirely. "We wanted to keep that wild hedge, so it looks as though the garden melts away into the forest," says Lori.

The texture and hue of the foliage shifts subtly as the path leads to an opening on the north side of the property.

"I think of the garden as rooms," says Lori, "and each room has its own character." Here a large cherry tree spreads its boughs over the centre lawn, forming a sunlight-dappled canopy. An artful woven willow and alder bench sits under the tree.

Waves of cranesbill geraniums, columbines and bluebells swell around lace-cap hydrangeas and bamboo. Lori uses blue blossoms as the foundational colour for her garden, and accents it with creamy whites, reds and pinks.

More pathways trail off into the wild growth. Moving to the west side of the property, we come upon an alder dripping with the creamy pink blossoms of a 40-foot tall clematis Montana vine -- one of the most aggressive-growing members of the clematis family.

Interior renovations usually come before garden landscaping in most homes, but not so with the Messers. Instead, it preceded and defined the interior renovation.

Designer Jim Merrill opened a three-sided view to the gardens by removing a centre wall and creating an open-concept living space to give the interior an outdoor ambience. The colours of nature flow into the living room in deep green leather sofas and timbered beige easy chairs.

The vaulted ceiling features exposed beams. Natural light floods in through six skylights set against the centre ridge.

As the garden path moves in an undulating pattern, so too does the wave of carpet against ceramic tile between the living room and hall.

A sturdy cedar-wood counter curves unevenly around the kitchen work zone. A lower-tier countertop pattern has the fibrous look of handmade parchment paper.

In keeping with the natural theme, the counter meanders in unfitted curves with gentle cambered detailing. A third tier was sunk lower to conceal small appliances from the living room views.

An old broad-slatted deck was replaced with a rich fir trim and glass pane deck to open the views to the garden.

As Lori walks through the garden, she reveals a keen knowledge of the local deer population's dining preferences.

"There's another plant the deer like," says Lori as she points to munched-over stems and foliage. But she's found a cure in "scarecrow sprinklers" that come with infrared heat sensors that sense the deers' presence and shoot a fountain of water at the unwelcome visitors.

But the sprinklers come with one drawback. Sometimes Lori forgets to turn them off.

"They were set when the garden tour volunteers came to photograph the garden," says Lori. "I was at work, so I don't know if anyone got soaked."

A shot of water seems harmless enough, but I find myself dodging everytime I happen past one of these ordinary looking sprinklers, even though Lori has assured me they're turned off. Lori laughs as I half-leap away from one set at the south side of the house.

"I often flinch as I go through the garden, too," she laughs.

- - -


- The fifth annual self-guided Sooke Secret Garden Tour takes place next Sunday, June 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Focusing on Sooke's coastal community, the gardens will reflect Sooke's past, present and future.

- Check out the historic Harris House organic farm with its weathered barn and small heritage seed company.

- See seaside gardens designed to be deer friendly, shade gardens, an all-season garden and an ingenious water and rock garden. And no garden tour in Sooke would be complete without a viewing of the Sooke Harbour House gardens.

- Women in Tune have fashioned this tour, which makes for a lovely day in the country. Tour-goers will be able to enjoy garden performances by string trios, flutists and a choral group from the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra at several of the gardens. Original artwork by Sooke artists will be on display.

- Tickets are $15 and are available in Victoria at all the Gardenworks Centres, Marigold Nursery in Saanichton and Dig This (downtown store). Tickets can be purchased in Sooke at the South Shore Gallery and Shoppers Drug Mart. Proceeds support the arts in the Sooke area.

Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria) Quick Links

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