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It all started with the trees

Photos by Veronica Sliva. Karen Stancombe’s Burlington garden. K

aren Stancombe gardens at the edge of the Carolinian forest in Burlington, an area considered

to be in zone 6b. This allows her to freely plant exotics such as rhododendrons, which she does and takes for granted in her lush front yard. But she is conscious of the trees that

surround her home and she knows how precious they are as civilization creeps further and further into the Carolinian forest, where so many species barred from the rest of Canada grow. She cele- brates this with a lovely wall hanging of an A.Y. Jackson-shaped tree attached to one of the brick walls of her house. The trees are what attracted her to the

house in the first place, back in 1988, when she and her husband discovered the property. It was February but she loved the way the branches traced a path against the sky; by the time they moved in, it was late May and the trees had leafed out, lending a shady character to the yard that captivated her even more. Karen’s husband was a grass man and he began by happily cutting down

20 • Beautiful Gardens 2014

But Karen demurred. She didn’t like the idea of ground covers. This then, was the start of it all. She

decided to fill in the space with plants, but first she had to learn how to garden so she took courses and watched televi- sion gardening shows and learned what- ever she could. Along the way, she discovered some

A. J. Jackson inspired tree artwork.

the vegetation under the trees, only to discover that this did not reveal a smooth lawn underneath. So he laid down some nice velvety sod, but the grass died when the trees leafed out fully. Novice yard owners, they called in an

expert who told them the facts: grass would not grow here where it had to compete with shade and tree

roots. “Plant some ground cover,” he advised.

new loves to complement her apprecia- tion of trees. She took a liking first to hostas and later to peonies. “I love hostas,” she says. “And I love peonies, which I plant everywhere I can in the garden.” Soon, her yard was not enough and eventually, her plant skills found their way – with permission – onto the sunny hydro right-of-way behind their house. In the early days of this garden, this

is where they planted their vegetables: tomatoes, onions, peppers – all the good things that a growing family appreci- ated. But as time went on and their three adopted children grew up and left home, there was less need for this. Today, a widow, Karen has turned this plot over

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