Garden Photo of the Day

Michele’s garden in British Columbia

Today’s photos are from Michele Foster in North Vancouver, British Columbia. She says, “We moved into our house the summer of 2009. The property was overgrown and hard to look at.

“First, we joined a gym so we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. We tackled a section each year because so much effort was involved. We didn’t even know we had retaining walls until the overgrown junipers were pulled out. You can imagine my joy!

“Working with a clean slate I decided to make summer the main theme for the gardens. I considered how the house would look when we updated it to a Tuscan yellow stucco and new terra cotta roof tiles and designed the gardens to compliment that.

“We planted ‘Karl Foerester’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerester’) all the way up the steep driveway. Hydrangeas, sedums, Russian sage, and black-eyed Susans are staples in a sunny garden. The gunnera is massive and neighbours often stop and take photos. Hosta, Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra and cvs.) and astilbe are a gorgeous, easy care combination in shady areas. I find slugs don’t care too much for the blue hostas.

“Fall had to be considered next, and we strategically placed shrubs–Cotinus coggygria (smoke bush), Euonomous alatus ‘Compactus’ (burning bush), ninebark (Physocarpus ‘Coppertina’), and an off-centered Japanese maple (‘Osakazuki’–one of the most stunning fall colours)–so they were part of the deliberate design. The summer flowers like the sedums deepen in colour and really compliment these as the season goes on. A sweet autumn clematis makes a bigger statement every year and is becoming quite stunning to see. We planted Boston ivy on the retaining walls and the house.

“Spring became a show of mainly chartreuse (euphorbias), purple (aubrieta and rhodos) and orange (euphorbias, deciduous azaleas, and Spirea ‘Magic Carpet’) with pops of white (Iberis and bridlewreath spirea, blue lithodora, and red poppies.

It’s obviously and fortunately an ongoing project. When we’re done we’ll have to move, LOL… fortunately we never will be.”

Michele, I want to LIVE in that seating area! Everything is gorgeous. And I am more jealous of your gunnera than you could ever know. So darned Jurassically cool.

I’m getting reports that many of you are still not getting the daily email. Email me at [email protected] with any issues and we’ll try to address them on this end. Thanks for your patience! –Michelle

View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 06/04/2014

    Hats off to you Michele and your family for your accomplishment! So smart of you guys to go to the gym before embarking on this major project too. Did you have a specific plan for each area before you started the section?

    That private seating area with summer plantings and your view are to die for. Look forward to seeing more. I'll be sure to look around for your garden if I'm ever by North Van.

    Have a great summer!

    1. michelefoster 06/05/2014

      Thank you so much PC, Yes, each area had a theme. The privacy of the seating area feels like a santuary wiith a view. The Gunnera needs Its own postal code. We keep it wet and happy! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos! We're so secluded h
      here, it is fun to share them.

      1. perenniallycrazy 06/05/2014

        You have created a SANCTUARY indeed. I am curious about your process of planning each space. Did you get any help from a designer or local nursery or a friend?

        I think all of us are experiencing Gunnera Envy. Sure wish I had the real estate to grow one of those babies. Have a great day!

        1. michelefoster 06/06/2014

          Thanks again PC! Each section took an entire season. The rocks, the roots the unhealthy soil was labor intensive. We couldn't have soil dumped because we would have to haul it up a 45 degree incline. I worked in a nursery so enjoying my employee discount, we bought bags of Sea Soil, landscape soil and soil booster and/or sand. Now we make our own with compost and recycled soil.
          We hired a strong helper and together with my fiance they wielded a pic, moved tons of rocks, broke unmovable boulders etc. I was in there too but knew my limitations.
          I'm delighted to say I designed all of it. Working in a nursery is the best place to learn plant knowledge. I became a Master Gardener to fill in the gaps. Design is something I share with my mother's side of the family. it's been an immense joy to see what I could do with this blank slate. It's ongoing too. We're going up the next level to turn a filled in pool the size of a tennis court into an area with a large greenhouse for all my brugsmansias and propagation attempts, attached to a fan shaped deck stepping down to a mix of rectangle raised beds and round barrels for veggies.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/05/2014

    Michele, you all have certainly worked some serious magic on your property since your purchase of it in 2009.The thought that you have put into your plant choices has really paid off. Your seating area is celebratory of summer with bold colors and yet it has an elegance and sophistication. Added to all the beauty you have created in your landscaping, you have the icing on the cake with that stunning far reaching! Where in your yard do you have the best opportunity to take that vista in?

    1. michelefoster 06/06/2014

      Hello m1. Thank you for your kind comments.
      The great thing about living at our place is the terracing in the back. The seating area in the back is one large terrace where I keep potted plants that I can interchange as the season evolves. We had a mother bear attack in our back yard so a joint fence was built with a couple neighbours. They removed some weedy shrubs and trees along the fence line and suddenly "Hey I can see downtown from the sitting area now..." who knew? so we love that.
      The next level up is a filled in pool the size of a tennis court. It sits at roof level so the view is sweeping from there. We will erect a large greenhouse, fan shaped deck and raised beds for veggies. It will have it's own look and feel from the other areas. We're working on that right now.
      A perch for two at the very top and a gazebo with a porch swing are in the plans as well to utilize the views. They are different from each spot.
      The roof is flat and begging for more purpose than keeping our heads dry. The annual Celeration of Light fireworks are great to see from up there. In fact it is probably the very best vantage point of all. I'll turn that into something marvelous after I'm satisfied with all the other areas.
      I feel very grateful every day to live in such a lovely place.
      Thanks again for your interest.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 06/06/2014

        Thanks, Michele, for taking the time to give such a detailed answer. How doubly interesting that: #1 you had a bear attack in your...gulp...backyard and #2 how that contributed to opening up your stupendous view. Your future plans sound awesome and I admire your energy to tackle big projects!.

  3. greengenes 06/05/2014

    Beautiful is not good enough of a word to describe your home and gardens, Michele. absolutely fabulous. You have done well in your choices. And to find a retaining wall! That's awesome! For a sloping site it all works great together. The color of the seating seems to anchor the whole area, too. Do you open up your gardens to the public? Thanks for sending these pictures for all of us to see! Happy gardening!

  4. pattyspencer 06/05/2014

    Really nice - you've put in a lot of hard work and it shows - my favorite pic is the one overlooking the landscape - must be full of breathtaking color in the fall

  5. davsav 06/05/2014

    Love the driveway plantings!

  6. hontell 06/05/2014

    Beautiful garden, love gunnera, wish i could grow it.
    On another note, it's always a shame when programmers feel the need to justify their paycheck and screw up a perfectly good thing. Had to join whatzit to post comments and all they want to do is flood my inbox. Now I have to login to change that mess. Would love to have been able to enlarge the photos, but nope, just little postage stamps. It's really a shame we can no longer enjoy the GPOD.

    1. MichelleGervais 06/05/2014

      Hi Howard. I'm so sorry that the GPOD has lost all of its enjoyment for you. In my mind, I'm likening this transition to moving to a new house. We still haven't painted the walls, unpacked all the boxes, or hung art on the wall, but we're working on it. Check back in a while and we might just be settled in and ready for formal company. In the meantime, if you're willing to navigate around the boxes, make yourself a cup of tea, and keep us company while we get organized, stick around! ;-)

      1. hontell 06/06/2014

        I'm here to stay Michelle.

  7. GrannyMay 06/05/2014

    Lovely transformation Michelle! My favourite photo would be the patio where your green couch is complemented by the Hakone grass and Hrydrangea, its orange cushions and umbrella reflected by the Gartenmeister fuchsia. Would have loved to be able to enlarge the photos to see more detail. Thanks for sharing!

  8. NWAgardener 06/05/2014

    Spectacular garden and views Michele! You did a marvelous job of taming the "slope" along your drive. I love your plant and color combinations. On another note, I am so pleased that GPOD is back!! I have gone to my computer first thing every morning for years to see the lovely garden of the day. I agree with Howard, however, that it is a shame the pictures can not be enlarged. Come on, we're gardeners and we want to see the details!. Maybe your talented programers can make that adjustment. Overall, glad you;re back!

  9. user-7006981 06/05/2014

    Thank you ......I loved how you put it Michelle G. New house etc. Change is always hard when you like the way it was. I too look forward to seeing the gardens of the day as NWA gardern said. I too like to see the details. Thank you to all of you who send in your pictures. I am still trying to make mine look Southern Calif. with drought problems is a challage. The garden of to day was outstanding. the front of your house is wonderful Michelle. Love the back yard and what a view...

  10. wittyone 06/05/2014

    Being a higgledy-piggledy gardener myself, I do admire someone who can sit down before hand and really think out their plantings with reference to the house, sun/shade, views, etc. The one big thing you did think of which is often not considered is the future color of the house. Flower color choices really do need to be made in conjunction with the color of the big backdrop behind all those flowers and shrubs. We're struggling now with deciding on a new color for the dormers/trim on our limestone house and even changing such a small area will make some difference in terms of how the present plantings right around the house will look. Not to mention trying to get two people to agree on an appropriate color, that's a whole 'nother discussion right there.

  11. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/05/2014

    Ooooh!. Ahhh! Stunning. Lots of cool plant combos. Great job.

  12. janeeliz 06/05/2014

    Elegant and exciting garden, Michelle! Love your use of texture and color. Lovely placement and choice of shrubs to compliment your already drop-dead-gorgeous view! What fun it must have been creating your front entry hillside. Fantastic job!

  13. cathy_leffler 06/06/2014

    Hi Michelle-- I Absolutely love the new website. I look forward to seeing and reading it each day. Thank you.

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