Garden Photo of the Day

A Unique Vancouver Island Garden

By Kim Charles

Teamwork on Vancouver Island has created one beautiful garden setting!

"I inherited my love of gardening from my Mom, though it didn’t really “blossom” until we moved back to Duncan on Vancouver Island 14 years ago.  One project at a time, my husband and I started transforming our half acre yard.  First we added the “sunny” garden in the back corner.  My husband built a pergola in so that we’d have a place to sit out of the hot afternoon sun.  I’m the “idea person” and my husband is the builder – it’s a pretty good combination!  
After the sunny garden we took up half the lawn in the back and created our “shady” garden behind the house.  This includes a dry creek bed where we put all the rocks that we dug out of the ground.  We have very poor drainage in our yard as it is all built on fill, so we’re constantly trying to improve the drainage.
Next came our pond area.  Of course we have goldfish, but the biggest treat are the birds that are drawn to the water for drinks and baths.  We have a deck/dock at one end of the pond which keeps the fish pretty safe from the heron and raccoons.
In between we have expanded gardens, added patios and seating areas, transplanted many plants that didn’t work where I first put them and generally have tried to make the garden as low maintenance as possible.  We love to spend as much time as possible outdoors and are blessed here on Vancouver Island with such a long gardening season." Nora Dowsett

Have a garden you'd like to share? Email 5-10 photos and a brief story about your garden to [email protected]. Please include where you are located!

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

You don't have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!

Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.

Follow us: @finegardening on Twitter | FineGardeningMagazine on Facebook | @finegardening on Instagram

View Comments


  1. frankgreenhalgh 09/19/2016

    Hello there Nora - What a cracker of a story, beautiful gardens and an innovative team (since together you and your husband generate and apply ideas)! Your husband is dead right about one project at a time - otherwise a large landscaping/gardening job can simply be too overwhelming. Love the pergola, hedge and pond and shaded areas. Keep up the good work.
    Have you tried mixing gypsum (hydrated calcium sulphate) into the soil to improve the drainage? Cheers, Frank

    1. user-7007498 09/19/2016

      Frank, good to see you back on the blog, engaging like your old self. Your responses had become very restrained and I was beginning to worry. Cheers.

      1. frankgreenhalgh 09/19/2016

        Great to hear from you Kev. Aussies can sulk a bit, but usually get over it quickly and are then simply dangerous. However, I'm on my best behaviour so that I don't offend you polite and diplomatic guys any further.

  2. user-7007498 09/19/2016

    Nora: What a stunning garden. I love the style of your garden. You have managed to make it look much larger than a half acre. The pond is great. How relaxing to sit out there and watch the fish. Terrific use of texture to create interest throughout the beds, with just the right amount of color to "pop". I, myself, tend to overdue it at times. Thanks for sharing.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/19/2016

    My, oh my, Nora, you and your husband have certainly created your own piece of paradise over these past 14 years. Each of your garden areas is so lovely and, with the healthy lushness of all your plants, it's hard not to imagine that you're planting in pure black gold. The pergola positively dripping in rose blossoms is quite a beautiful sight. It looks like you have several varieties of climbers mixing and you recall their names?

  4. NCYarden 09/19/2016

    Goodness! What a splendid garden! Forever envious of PNW gardeners. Everything looks so fresh and healthy. Your garden is a beautiful reflection of your well balanced relationship. Nice when it works out that way. So many great features in the garden...I like the combination. Thanks for sharing.

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 09/19/2016

      Ha, David, why haven't all of us avid gardeners just packed up and moved to the PNW. Good lord, things look so gorgeous out there.

      1. NCYarden 09/19/2016

        Yes, it sometimes makes me question what I am trying to do here...certainly at least during Summer.

  5. wGardens 09/19/2016

    You two obviously make a great team! Your gardens look great! Love the pond. Your area certainly looks bigger than it actually is. Lovely climbing roses, the colors are wonderful together.

  6. alicefleurkens 09/19/2016

    Beautiful gardens. And your climate is great for it also. We used to live there for a while. Your pond is so pretty. At one pace we lived We also had a nice pond. The blue heron tried to get the fish. We thought he had succeeded. We did not see any fish for 2 weeks. But they were hiding at the bottom under the water plants. Great job making the world a more beautiful place.

  7. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/19/2016

    Nora, gardens like yours are one of the reasons I fell in love with Vancouver Island while on vacation quite a few years ago. Your teamwork has really paid off and I love your gardening philosophy. There is so much give and take because a garden is an ever-changing, ever-evolving work of art. Thanks for sharing the fruit of your labor.

  8. sheila_schultz 09/19/2016

    Your gardens are filled with so much interest, Nora. All the different rooms have their own personalities and are planted beautifully. You and your husband make a fine team, indeed!

  9. user-4691082 09/19/2016

    Nora, you and your husband are a winning combo. Everything is bright, bold, and beautiful! That hedge is so tall, is it yours? Hopefully, it belongs to someone else and they have to maintain it! And Frank, we're not all diplomatic. In fact, some of us are rip snorters! ?

    1. frankgreenhalgh 09/19/2016

      Hey Rhonda - OK we can still have a bit go fun then. How about this conspiracy theory? Cheers

      1. user-4691082 09/19/2016

        I'm afraid it might be true! If anything happens to Indonesia, we'll know who to blame!

  10. Sunshine111 09/19/2016

    Gorgeous! I am loving the echinacea agapanthus combo!

  11. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 09/19/2016

    Nora, love the story of your garden evolution. We here in the PNW do get rather spoiled being able to grow so many varieties of plants and you have done an outstanding job on your half acre. We have over two acres and I'm afraid it makes it hard to concentrate on just one project at a time. We currently have at least three going:) I love your shade garden and all of the seating areas. Great job! Thanks for sharing and I hope you're getting this nice rain.

  12. schatzi 09/19/2016

    Absolutely beautiful! You two make a good team. Love gardening in the PNW. Love the pond and the echinacea-agapanthus combination.

  13. user-5627921 09/19/2016

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful gardens. Love your plant combinations, especially the echinacea and agapanthus. The shady path looks so inviting, as does the pond area. You were smart to tackle your half acre one project at a time. We have two acres, and I always have multiple projects in the works at any given time. The PNW is indeed a gardener's paradise!

  14. Cenepk10 09/19/2016

    Gorgeous- those roses ... ahhhh on the pergola are amazing... so pretty - Cool deck over the pond too.

  15. Cenepk10 09/19/2016

    Shady path is cool too

  16. User avater
    noradowsett 03/01/2017

    Hello! Nora here. I do SO apologize for the tardiness of replying to all of your lovely comments! I actually didn't realize there WAS a comment section until I was reading a recent article on a garden in Finland! Then I thought "hmmm, I wonder if there was a comment section to my story?" This winter has been more harsh than we've had in some time here on the Island and I'm impatiently waiting to get outside into the garden. I'm not sure that you all will see this post but, regardless, thanks again!!!

    1. Sunshine111 09/19/2017

      Hi Nora!

      I discovered this on my Facebook timeline this morning, as I had like the first picture so much that I had posted it on my Facebook page. And then I wanted to see the rest of the pictures, and I opened the whole post.

      And then I saw your reply to us all.

      Just as an FYI, when you click reply on someone's comment, they will get an email notification and know that you have responded. There is quite a group of us that comment on photos and we've gotten to know each other in this way. Please feel free to join in?

      1. User avater
        noradowsett 09/19/2017

        Thanks Lily! I'll be sure to comment more often on all the lovely gardens they show. It is a great winter pastime!

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest