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A living laboratory E

Story and photos by Sean James

volving over the last 12 years, this garden has been a series of exper- iments in eco-friendly beauty – a

living laboratory and library of plants and animals. The crew and designers at Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco- consulting have been using the garden to trial plants for everything from salt tolerance to pollinator support. Sean James, the progenitor of the garden, is passionate about ensuring that beauty is a key part of ‘green’ designs. It’s been described as an “English cottage on steroids”.

It’s not everyone’s garden,

which is fine. Gardening is an art form as legitimate as painting and sculpture. Good art should polarize viewers. Since the garden is the home and

office of a landscape company, it’s also used for design inspiration. Garden designers get something akin to writer’s block. A walk in the garden relaxes the mind and reveals many combinations of plants. During a stroll, ideas can spring up like seedlings. And, since the plants do well in the local soils, customers can be assured that plant choices will thrive in their garden. It’s not just beautiful – it’s practical. The garden is also used as stock for

upcoming landscape projects, focusing on hard-to-find native species and other rare perennials, helping pay for its own upkeep. Customers can come and stroll through to see what sorts of plants they gravitate towards and even check out the low-voltage lighting – also an art form worth investing in. Edible delights

Grazing through the garden is a

This English-cottage-on-steroids garden requires little water and supports a variety of life, providing inspiration for the landscape designers who work here and passers-by alike.

16 • Beautiful Gardens 2015

favourite past time for employees. The property came with several fruit trees, grape vines, asparagus and more. Now, with their new additions, even more edibles are dotted throughout the garden, but they are not relegated to a remote corner like a punished child. This ensures a better predator/prey balance with local wildlife and insects. While many folks have colourful pots of annuals by their front door, in this garden, tomatoes, beans and squash are given pride of place. People forget that many edibles are beautiful! Kale adds colourful texture. Fruit trees have lovely spring flowers which also offer the all- important early nectar for butterflies

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