Gardens - Featured Gardens

Exotic garden retreat

Karen York
Photography by
Janis Nicolay

A plant-packed property in Victoria, British Columbia is part botanical garden and part Dr. Seuss.

Paul Murphy’s plant-packed urban property in Victoria, British Columbia, is part botanical garden and part Dr. Seuss. By the front door, a tropical-looking tree dahlia (Dahlia imperialis) with stems “as thick as my wrist” looms over the roof; huge thistly cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) brandish spiked globes resembling medieval maces; and giant Broussa mulleins send up towering spires of flowers over felty silver leaves.

“I like plants with character,” says Paul, with considerable understatement. “They can stand alone and also work with others. “My garden is my laboratory, where I experiment with plants,” adds this self-taught garden designer, who turned a passion into a profession. “It also allows clients to see various plants in situ, even though they’d never want this themselves,” he says, gesturing to a particularly exuberant area.


Garden stats
Size: 765 square metres
Zone: 8
Orientation: Back garden faces north; front garden south
Age of garden: 6 years
Conditions: Mostly sun; clay with pockets of friable soil thanks to ongoing conditioning; wet in winter, dry in summer
Focus: A collector’s garden with more than 1,000 species and varieties
Growing season: Year-round
Favourite product: Hori hori knife, excellent for digging, weeding, planting, root pruning and more
Tip: Use mulch and compost but don’t forget micronutrients: Add glacial rock dust and bone meal when planting and liquid kelp fertilizer throughout the growing season

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