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I guess it’s an occupational hazard, but I consider most gardens to be a work in progress; always anticipating what the next season or following year will bring. Like a botanical fortuneteller, I am always looking to the future. My own garden is definitely no exception to this rule, but it is truly a lovely place to relax on a warm summer’s eve.

Step inside

Everyone who visits finds it hard to believe, that this four-season collector’s garden was only started in late 2007. Since that time, I have amassed a large collection of plants that occasionally threaten to take over the neighbourhood. It is a small 8,000 square foot garden found in an urban setting with attributes of the Gardenesque, Arts & Crafts, and botanical garden styles. There are currently over 1000 varieties, species, and genus in this garden. Hostas, rhododendrons, irises, and epimediums live harmoniously with hellebores, lilies, dwarf conifers, and roses. My growing collection of thalictrums, trilliums, and aroids adds dramatic flair to a palette already abundant in colour and excitement.

Challenges & triumphs

My garden is in a neighbourhood lacking mature shade trees. To create the right environment for shade-loving perennials and shrubs was a challenge. In part, this was remedied by layering fast growing shrubs, and by planting many small trees suitable to urban limitations. Another way I designed these planting areas was to use the shade created by structures on site; taking advantage of the vertical space they provided. By using fences, arbours, and the house itself, and by growing plants into shrubs and columnar trees, striking plant combinations were created, as a result of my creativity.

  Some secrets for success

The success of the garden comes from deeply enriching the soil and ensuring the plants nutritional and water needs are met. I plant heavily at first to create impact early, rather than waiting many years for foundation plants to fill in. This instantly creates exciting plant combinations and there is immediate satisfaction for those of us not willing to wait years for plants to mingle. I love to experiment with bright colours, bold textures, and leaf shapes. Repetition in my garden is often found by using different plants of similar colour or texture, rather than repetition of same plants. I prune frequently and am ruthless with underperforming specimens. I continually try planting and trialing plants in sunnier, shadier, wetter, or drier conditions than they are used to. Although not my main focus, ‘zonal denial’ is always an important part of my plant experimentation. Many plants are hardier than they claim to be and microclimates exist everywhere. What is lacking in maturity in this garden, in my opinion, is made up for with youthful exuberance.


What my garden means to me

This garden is a fantastic botanical garden, a learning garden for myself, and a teaching garden for others. I use it as an opportunity for clients to visualize possibilities for their own gardens, and it has been part of numerous garden tours, including the Conservatory of Music Garden Tour and Master Gardener tours. It has been photographed by many renowned photographers and will be appearing in Gardens West, Canadian Gardening and Taunton’s Fine Gardening magazines in 2013. Additionally, the garden has been used as the venue for an exhibition called 'Art in the Garden' where local artists showcased their works on a warm sunny, summer day. But most importantly, it’s a great place to sit and smell the flowers.


All content © 2012 PAUL MURPHY GARDENS Victoria, BC Canada. All rights reserved.