Garden Photo of the Day

Stella’s garden on Vancouver Island, Day 1

Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Stella Carriere

Today’s and tomorrow’s photos are from Stella Carriere. She sent so many great ones that I didn’t bother cutting any!

She says, “I moved to this property in Cedar on Vancouver Island between Nanaimo and Ladysmith in the fall of 1999. Just a fraction under 3/4 of an acre, areas had been cleared for the house and septic field, leaving a good number of native cedar, fir, alder, and arbutus. Rather than cutting them down and designing the garden from a blank slate, the trees were left, including two clumps of big leaf maple suckers, and the garden was developed around them.

“The property has very little soil as I sit on a shale pocket and the native trees are very shallow-rooted but I work with what I have. What started as a sunny garden too hot to support hostas brought from my garden in Vancouver has now evolved into a shaded garden.”

Beautiful, Stella! I LOVE the tall trunks of all the trees. And is that a gunnera in a pot on your patio? Swoon. We’re feature some wider views of the garden tomorrow. Thanks!

——I know you all have some days off for the holidays coming up….So go take a photographic stroll through the photos you took in your garden this year, and send some in to me! [email protected]….. Thanks!

Arbutus on the right with western red cedar behind it.

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View Comments


  1. user-1020932 12/23/2013

    things i have learned from GPOD:
    1. every square inch of Vancouver Island is beautiful
    2. if i am to have a Gunnera look like that i will have to immigrate
    3. i would probably kill, maim or take hostages to have that beautiful cinnamon barked Arbutus
    everything is just spectacular, Stella, and for someone who has very little soil you have succeeded in a most beautiful way, i will be anxious for tomorrow's photos

  2. Srasgarden 12/23/2013

    Breathtaking! Love the trees! So often they are cut down to make it easier for the builders to work around. We were in Oregon this past summer and the trees there also were spectacular with considerably less invasives growing on them. I agree - every square inch of Vancouver Island is beautiful.

  3. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/23/2013

    Let's see. Take one dedicated gardener, beautiful trees, great plants, cool garden structures; throw in some rocks. Shake well. Put on Vancouver Island, and Voila! Magical.

  4. tractor1 12/23/2013

    Love it all, the perfect harmonious balance of elements. And a fantastic patio, with a grand view of all those trees and shrubbery... like that fountain urn too in its perfect setting. What is that creeping growth on the stone steps, I like it, and why is that tree trunk 'bandaged'? More pictures, please!

  5. Quiltingmamma 12/23/2013

    What a lovely garden! Working with local native plants and trees means soil or lack there of isn't so important. Love it all and was quite enamoured with all the paved walkways and decks and that little stone area with your water feature. I admire the forethought of design and sticking to it. I tend to move into established homes, so that kind of hardscaping doesn't get done. Arbutus are lovely. I miss the West Coast. Looking forward to the next installment.

  6. greengenes 12/23/2013

    good morning gardeners! Hi Stella! What a wonderful setting! I enjoy seeing every shot and iam looking forward to tomarrow as well! I love all the hardscape. We put some in here and I know how much work it is to do. Everything looks so nice and clean! And I learned something about the arbutus tree! When I first saw your pic of it I thought to myself, that looks like a madrona tree. So I looked it up and yes! It is! We have these at our place and we love them so! They bring such a nice color against the greenery! Your place looks more than three quarters of an acre! Great gunnera in the pot. Thanks for sharing with all of us!

  7. Aarchman07030 12/23/2013

    Really lovely--the spatial flow of the garden is wonderful. I particularly like the broad, stone steps leading up to the terrace.

    Looking forward to tomorrow's images.

  8. User avater
    HelloFromMD 12/23/2013

    Hi Stella, I really like your curved beds edged with rocks and the island bed. Curved lines lend a gracefulness you just can't get from straight lines. Are those rocks from your property? If so, someone has some muscle. I enjoyed the drama in the first photo of your house created by the wooden arbor. Did you design that and have it built?

    Michelle, we would like to hear how your talk went.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

  9. User avater
    meander_michaele 12/23/2013

    Stella, there is so much to enjoy and admire in your photos. I am hubba hubba over the dramatic handsomeness of your heavy beamed pergola (is that what you refer to it as?) and gaga over the expansiveness of your patio areas. Those hardscape elements are such perfect foils for the stunning plant material that you and Mother Nature are working in partnership to maintain. That sizable arbutus trunk is amazing. Here in the southeast, we come close to the cinnamon color with the exfoliating bark of the Natchez crape myrtle but don't usually see them develop that kind of diameter.
    The front of your home is set off so beautifully with those colorful hanging baskets. Everything, everywhere, looks gorgeous! Looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.

  10. GrannyMay 12/23/2013

    Great job Stella! I love the wide stone stairs and wonderful, spacious, curvy patio framing the house. I also love the natural feel of being amongst native trees, then using their shade to advantage with hostas, hydrangeas and other shade-tolerant plants. Is that Maianthemum in the top-right photo?

    I too have a rocky base with little soil and find that pots work well. Yet I have lusted after a Gunnera for years, but never thought of growing one in a container. Thanks for that idea!

    Jeff I wonder if you could try Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' in a container?

  11. sheila_schultz 12/23/2013

    Stella, your gardens are simply beautiful. The incredible trees have created the perfect backdrop for your plants. I wasn't familiar with Arbutus, but now that I am, Jeff might have a fight on his hands. That bark just calls out to be touched.
    I also love the way the trees are reflected on the glass topped table, and the 'cut-out' in the patio for the fountain is design genius. I'm eager for tomorrow's installment. Vancouver Island is most definitely a bit of heaven!

  12. cwheat000 12/23/2013

    I am a firm believer, established trees make the property. It was excellent insight to work around them; and what a fine job you did. I too am lusting over that great cinnamon bark, your beautiful patios, and that amazing thick wood arbor.

  13. user-1020932 12/23/2013

    May, maybe i'll give that Arbutus a try next year. it says Zone 7 and i am 6b/ 7a. stella, do they handle heat and humidity ?

  14. GrannyCC 12/23/2013

    Hi Stella thank you for the beautiful views of your garden. Nice to see another Vancouver Island garden. I am glad you left the trees. They give wonderful structure to the garden.I have Gunnera next to my pond in a boggy area so if that is a Gunnera you must have to give it lots of water.The hanging baskets are full and lush. Are those Begonias? Looking forward to more pictures.

  15. AnneinQC 12/23/2013

    Really beautiful Stella. Good for you for leaving the trees, so much better to leave established happy plants when you start a new garden, and mature trees add so much even if they do take up garden real estate. I lived in Victoria for almost 4 years (but didn't garden) and also appreciate the ideal climate there compared to our short season here in central Canada. you can grown so much more there, one tree I remember in particular was the Monkey Puzzle - probably because of the funny name!

  16. quinquek 12/23/2013

    What a lovely, and serene garden! The older, tall trunks really help to establish that sensibility. The sweep of patio, with its curves, winding through plantings, is the absolute polar opposite of decks, hanging in the air, propped up on popsicle sticks. (guess which we have!) The use of space and how we move through it is so important, and you've done a great job. I love the cutaway in the patio where coarse stone underlays the water feature. Nice touch to incorporate it into the patio that way.

  17. wGardens 12/23/2013

    Great job! I wouldn't have guessed that your property is only 3/4ths of an acre. The mature trees contribute to that, I am sure, and what a fantastic impact they make. And I just love those wide stone steps... Some really great plant material you have used (WOW! GREAT Gunnera!) and incorporated and I look forward to tomorrow's posts! (And hoping for more next spring!)Thanks for sharing.

  18. juststellar 12/24/2013

    Thank you all for you lovely comments.

    Yes, that is gunnera in a pot on the deck. I brought it from Vancouver with me when I moved and had it planted below the water pot on the deck. It did suffer from lack of water over the dry summers we get and then one year it just did not come back from one of our rare cold winters. Then as a complete surprise three years later I noticed gunnera leaves poking out of the ground. Anything than wants to survive that much has to be given half a chance, so I dug it up and put it in a pot and there it has survived for two summers. I have a drip system set up for my hanging baskets in the front of the house ( tuberous begonia and lobelia) and that same line waters the gunnera in the back.

    As for the arbutus it is particularly fussy about the soil it grows in i.e. gravelly free draining soil is required. It is difficult to transplant and does not start readily from seed. I have lost two over the years. The first to soil disturbance from the house foundation and the other from a late spring snow fall that literally split the trunk wide open.

    The waterfountain pot is one of those happy accidents. The access for my septic tank is right by the back patio with power right there as the system is a pumped one. Much easier moving loose rocks rather than tearing the patio up for access to the tank.

    All the rocks are from the property and were painstakingly moved with a furniture dolly to outline the beds.

    That is creeping thyme on the patio stairs. It never flowers as it is too shady but it makes a great ground cover on the steps and holds up to paw and foot traffic.

    The birch are bandaged in an attempt to save them from downy woodpeckers. They have been extremely active this year and I fear their drilling will girdle the bark and kill the trees.

  19. tractor1 12/24/2013

    Stella, I like how all your photos include sky, I like the 3rd down on the right best... with that deep blue skay and the sun to your back. I have to agree that your 3/4 acre seems much larger. As to the woodpeckers they are doing what woodpeckers do, they are eating insects, so I totally agree with mainer59, I'd too have an arborist have a look. Sometimes there's an insecticide to apply that will be effective. Something you can try is to lure the woodpeckers away by placing suet blocks away from your birch trees. Woodpeckers eat bird seed too so put out a couple of feeders.
    Thank you, Stella... and Merry Christmas to all!

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