Garden tour: A bountiful garden in Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec
Many of Françoise Grenon’s fondest childhood memories feature the family-owned nursery that her father opened in 1948 in the Saguenay region, about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City. “All winter, I’d do my homework in the greenhouse,” she says. “Flowers are my life.” Françoise dreamed that someday she would follow in her father’s horticultural footsteps. “Years ago, when I moved to Montreal, I lived in an apartment with no space for a garden. I told myself that one day I’d have a large piece of land where I could do whatever I wanted.” Françoise’s dream came true in 2005, when one of her clients (she works in sustainable development for an industrial company) mentioned his house was for sale in Saint-Hippolyte, 80 kilometres northwest of Montreal. “My husband, Jacques Mayer, had wanted a house there. It was destiny,” she recalls. Once the couple saw the 7,900-square-metre sloped property, they knew it had great potential to become a fabulous weekend retreat.
‘Becky’ Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum ×superbum ‘Becky’) peek over a rainbow of plants, including Eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis cvs.), Billard spirea (Spiraea ×billardii), ‘Berry Smoothie’ heuchera, yarrow (Achillea millefolium cvs.), pelargoniums, mother of thyme, golden oregano, Rudbeckia cvs. and annual fall chrysanthemums.
Garden catmint (Nepeta ×faassenii cvs.) points through the archway into one of Françoise Grenon’s many garden rooms. A climbing kiwi vine (Actinidia kolomikta cv.) frames vibrant ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies.
Françoise plants up containers for additional splashes of colour throughout the garden. Here, canna lilies, perennial golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria cvs.) and trailing variegated Vinca provide texture and contrast to the deep red coleus and spiky blue fescue (Festuca glauca cvs.) in front.
Along one of the paths, visitors are treated to bountiful blossoms, including Rozanne hardy geraniums (Geranium ‘Gerwat’), Phlomis umbrosa, Menzies’ burnet (Sanguisorba menziesii), verbena, roses and ‘Sarastro’ campanulas.
Size: 3,250 square metres
Orientation: East and south
Age of garden: 10 years
Conditions: Marshy at the bottom of the property, so sand is added to the soil; elsewhere, it’s enriched with compost
Growing Season: April to October
Focus: Thousands of specimens of flowers and shrubs, some grown from imported
Francoise likes to layer the plants along the stone steps throughout the property to create a hugging effect. Here, she mixes Weigela florida cvs., red-flowered mother of thyme (Thymus Coccineus Group) and blue fescue cvs.
“I love the burgundy-leaved canna lily hedge behind the stone wall. I dig up the bulbs in the fall, store them in peat moss and replant them in boxes in April to bring back to the country once it’s warm enough,” says Françoise.
Against a dense wooded backdrop, lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), ‘Hansa’ and ‘F. J. Grootendorst’ shrub roses and ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies offer bursts of colour in late summer.
Françoise and her husband, Jacques Mayer, were thrilled that the previous homeowners had built natural stone stairs connecting the various levels of the garden. They‘re the only things they didn‘t have to build while landscaping.
The couple can often be found relaxing on a bench beside the largest pond, near a newly built cedar pergola facing the patio. “When nature wakes up in the spring and I see everything growing, I’m filled with wonder,” says Françoise. “My father once told me that true joy is all about the little things – a flower, a sunset – so I’ve always looked at life that way.”
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