We began our Rhododendron garden because of our children – No – not to get away from them but because they were beginning to grow away from us!As our daughter Vicki and son Rod were becoming young adults we realized our role as parents was changing.
Allan was working many weekends and I was working weekdays and our family life was changing dramatically. In order to spend time together I would trade a weekday shift for weekend and Allan and I would have a day away.On one spring day we discovered ‘Rhodo land’ a rhododendron nursery just off the Pat Bay Highway (no longer exists) and we fell in love with Rhodos.
We had been building ‘Misty View Farm’ since 1972 when the bulldozer pushed in the driveway and cleared the house site and top field.It faces southwest and is sloping land that goes from hot dry rocky outcroppings to swampy lowlands and woodland, just over thirteen acres.The water supply is from two wells, one thirteen foot ‘dug well’ from 1972 and a four hundred and fifty foot drilled well built in 1988 specifically to get more water for gardens.We have a drip system to trees and shrubs and overhead sprinkling on the front rockery.
Before 1988 we had built an orchard of fruit trees including some espaliered trees and a huge vegetable/cutflower garden, an eight acre farm area and out buildings; several rock walls with raised gardens, trees, shrubs and perennials; bulbs and annuals.A nice rose bed that was becoming deer fodder.We felt we had enough to do with children, farm and garden.With the discovery of the rhodos we felt we could incorporate a few by the wooded area at the top of the property to the left of the driveway when driving down.We made a list of our favorites and planned to plant in the fall.In our quest for things to do together we thought we might join a garden club because it fit both of our interests well.The Cowichan Valley Rhododendron society was just getting started and the first meeting we went to we felt so welcomed.At the meeting in a room behind the new First Memorial Funeral Home, we found companionship sitting on stored coffins and sharing information on rhodos and learning from experts.Later in the year we were invited to tour gardens of other members which increased our pleasure as well as our friendships.Our life was starting to move down a very comfortable and friendly garden path.
We planted our first rhododendrons in the fall of 1988 - one row down the side of the yard.As we planted Allan remarked that it would look better if more were planted in behind and staggered to make the planting look fuller.I agreed but felt it would be “too much work”, but we did decide to do so on a point of land closer to the driveway and at the bottom of the planting.Off we went again in the spring to purchase more plants armed with a ‘Greer’s (bought at a meeting) and stars in our eyes.
We put a drip-water system into the first planting in the spring so we never went the ‘hose and time routine’ which may have broken our spirit; it seemed so easy, andit encouraged us to go ahead and make more plantings behind the others.The rest is history – as we cleared more land we planted. As we found more beautiful plants we cleared, right across the top of the yard, leaving one area of native plants in which we are adding more of the same.
Our clearing and planting was done to reflect the natural beauty of the hillside.The rocky outcrops were shoveled off by hand, and power washed to bare rock.The crevices were filled with soil and planted with alpines and small rhododendrons.In the dry areas succulents and bulbs reside, thriving in the hot summer sunshine and draining well through winter rains.
Through the years we have been to many conventions and gardens in the Pacific Northwest.We enjoy going together to watch those gardens grow, meet the creators and borrow ideas that would fit our garden and lifestyle.Allan discovered a love for magnolias and has a large collection growing here.We joined the Magnolia Society to learn more.He also dusted off his camera and started to record our life around flowers.We both enjoy heading for the mountains to revel in nature’s gardens and record them for others to see.I want to bring to others who are not so able, the satisfaction of using plants in their lives and caring for living things.So I have been studying and practicing Horticultural Therapy.
Life goes on. Our children are grown.Our daughter married her husband Chris in the garden.Our grandchildren Christy and Todd love to see if the Easter Bunny has come to leave eggs in the rhodos.Often when we are moving plants around, our son Rod comes from up Island and everyone gets together, hoping a few plants won’t fit here and they can take them home to their own gardens.