Recently I spent time in the compact, whimsical garden of Susan Renaud, a Thunder Bay Master Gardener in Training, To me, this leisurely glimpse behind the garden fence was just as inspiring as any stop on a planned tour. Susan gardens with a quiet fearlessness that I admire. I asked her to share some thoughts on her garden. The interview follows ...
How long have you been gardening in your location?
A: I've been gardening here for almost as long as I've lived in this location – since 1997. When I moved in, the backyard was a hay field. I started small and it grew every year.
A: My garden has more sun in mid-day than shade, and for the most part I grow plants that love sun; however, I have a few plants that I've placed under a large Pine tree and they are thriving. These include cimicifuga and astilbe. Others grow there voluntarily, like ferns and persicaria.
The majority of my garden space faces west, and because there are fences on the north and south, and a large garage on the west side, a micro-climate of sorts is formed. Most locations have sun for at least four hours. There are some other shaded areas as the sun moves around, so I am careful about what grows in these spaces, and have had to adjust. In one of these locations, three years ago, I built a tiny greenhouse that takes up an area that has morning shade. It's the perfect spot to start things in the spring.
What is your main interest in your garden? What do you like to focus on?
A: My main interest is perennials. Each year they clump a little more into mature plants and I am always pleasantly surprised. The scents from the phlox and lilac are a wonderful addition to the colours. When the perennials have outgrown their beds, I am able to divide and pass some along, as well as fill in other spaces. Most plants that live in my garden have been given to me by others. Some I have purchased from our local Master Gardener and Horticultural Society plant sales. A few have come from Vesey's Seeds. I even have some plants saved from my mother's garden.
My focus has been to try and create small, interesting areas that come as a surprise to the visitor and I have created tiny trails from one area to another. This year because of the wet weather, everything grew to twice its size, so the trails have been somewhat obliterated.
What is your greatest challenge in your garden?
A: I think the challenge for me this year is my new raised bed. The vegetables and herbs are not doing well, but I have it on good authority that the soil needs another year to become viable and I am satisfied with that estimation. An experiment in the works. And I never give up on my garden.
A: My garden reflects me in that I love to experiment. I am sometimes disappointed when I cannot get an item to flourish, but when I look at all the plants that do so well, I can move on and try something new and different. These experiments are usually in the form of a vegetable. I try something different each year. Last season it was tomatillos for the first time and this year I have planted herbs.
Is there a garden quote that inspires you?
A: There are two in particular that speak to me. I hope you can include both of them.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
― Cicero (106-43 BC)
Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.
― Barbara Winkler
Is there a garden tour in your community? Share in a comment.