Best In Show Yard Interview
Carrie Hamilton – Winner 2014
1. How long have you been working on your masterpiece?
My husband, Chris & I bought our house 11 years ago & for the first 3 years we just tried to spruce up the yard, but there were a lot of problems. A major concern was our 1 car garage. We needed a larger garage to put the vehicles in during winter, so we replaced the old one & it was like a total snowball effect! Our new garage meant a new driveway, which changed the layout of our backyard & it also meant we had to change the siding on the house. Basically, we ended up ripping everything out. We added upper & lower decks off the house & replaced the fencing, had the sod stripped & the yard graded, added irrigation & cut out bigger garden beds. We replaced all the cement walkways with cobblestone & added new grass. Chris built two pergolas, a shed with a roof garden & I stacked several metres of rock borders to create raised beds & walls. We added a pond & water features. I planted the gardens & Chris designed penny posts (a procedure that involves drilling, gluing & nailing thousands of pennies onto all of our deck posts throughout the yard). It was a huge undertaking for us that stretched over 6 years, but the “bones” of the yard (the structural components) are 99% complete & now we are able to focus on tweaking certain areas as the yard starts to grow into itself.
2. Did you have a master vision of what it would look like in the “end” or did everything take shape as you went along?
When we decided to really commit to the project, I drew up a blueprint for the yard, front & back. However, we have definitely done a lot more than we originally planned as unforeseen issues popped up along the way & new projects were imagined… so really, it was a bit of both.
3. When do you start prepping for the Spring?
I start as soon as I can, at least with the Spring cleanup. Once the snow melts, it always feels like a massive amount of work to tackle & all of a sudden! But when I get a little overwhelmed, I think of that saying, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”, which helps keep it in perspective. As soon as the weather cooperates, I’m outside checking on all the plants, raking, cultivating & cutting back whatever I can.
4. What are your big plans for this year?
I would like to focus on working out some of the kinks: making more room for plants, taking out what doesn’t work, and just trying to perfect the vision. Chris will most likely complete the penny posts this summer. He jokes that when he’s finished, he’s going to lie on the swing for the rest of the season & watch me weed.
5. Where do you get your gardening supplies and plants? And why?
I hit up Salisbury Greenhouse several times a year because I love the variety & all the interesting new items that arrive throughout the season. Oh & I love the hot pepper varieties, which makes my husband very happy when I bring them home. I love their perennial section & have bought dozens of variegated phlox & sedum for my front gardens. I also like to check out the other garden centres in & around Edmonton because I love being in greenhouse environments; it’s an exciting time for this Edmontonian!
6. Where do you find most of your design inspiration?
I look at gardening books (I think I have the entire Lone Pine series) & online inspiration like Pinterest. For many years, my sister-in-law has subscribed me to Canadian Gardener magazine & it’s always filled with interesting gardening ideas. One thing that I started doing the last couple of years is taking photos of our yard & making notes about what works & what doesn’t for the following Spring so that I have a plan of attack.
7. Do you have friends and family inviting themselves over to enjoy all your hard work?
Yes! In the summer, we always have friends & family popping by. If it’s a nice weekend, I know there will be visitors so I stack the pantry & bar with goodies. 🙂 It’s my favourite place in the world to be, so it makes me very happy that our friends like to come by & enjoy it too.
8. What advice do you have for someone who is just getting ready to dig up his or her yard?
I think it’s crucial to invest in good soil. Over the years, we have trucked in so much compost & peat moss to amend our soil, but it has really paid off. The plants are happier, it’s easy to work, it holds water better & we have a very healthy microenvironment largely due to it. Also, some advice that I didn’t follow in the beginning, but wish I would have was to plant everything in accordance to their maximum size potential. At first, I wanted to fill up every free space in the yard & now I spend a lot of time moving things around & giving away shrubbery & perennials because I over planted.
9. How do you scratch that gardening itch in the off-season?
Truth be told, I actually like a little break in the winter. It’s nice to take a vacation from the yard. I spend a lot more time out & about walking in the city parks during the off season, which is refreshing & inspiring too. But when I do have an itch, I find looking at beautiful yards online or going through photos of our yard from the previous season allows me to daydream about & anticipate the coming summer.
Do you think your yard is brag-worthy? Find out how you can enter this years Salisbury Yards contest.