Gardens - Shade Gardens

A lush landscape on a shady lot

Bethany Lyttle
Photography by
Thomas Fricke

A couple overcomes a challenging climate to create a garden full of texture and tone


Gardeners Doris Mae Oulton and Cam Mackie Occupations owners of a con­sulting business Years gardening more than 25 Size 9 x 21 m plus 6 x 23 m on the boulevard Orientation west Conditions almost full shade; heavy clay soil Growing season mid-May to end of September Zone 3b

Change may be good, but it isn’t always sunny. So discovered Doris Mae Oulton and her husband, Cam Mackie, when they moved to Winnipeg from Ottawa just over 20 years ago. “We’d come from having a perfect plot with lots of sunshine to this,” Doris Mae recalls, referring to their elm-shaded lot in a city with a very short growing season.

“At first, I set my mind on certain plants,” she says. “It was only after many failures that I came to terms with the garden and realized it was the boss.” Plants that couldn’t take the harsh weather, slugs, clay and canker worms had to go. Survivors? Well, they remain today. “That’s one reason I have so many hostas,” says Doris Mae.

shady-lot-1.jpgThe couple’s willingness to adapt paid off. Viewed from an upper-level window, the verdant grid of beds and patios suggests both the elegance of a French formal garden and the wonder of a child’s literary landscape. Surely a garden designed by C.S. Lewis would have looked like this.

The lush tapestry of interlocking gardens includes winding pathways, terraced beds and a gurgling pond. Pebbles underfoot announce your entry into the intimate contemplation garden. The arch of an arbour conjures romance. And patios, rectangular and brick, give a nod to the linear 1912 Georgian house that Doris Mae and Cam call home. Tucked here and there is seating, some of it in colours as bright as summer blooms. Throughout, sculpture inspires. Obelisks—and bean poles—reach skyward. An ash tree dances in the wind near the back, while even the walls of the garage provide cottage-like charm with their vine-covered trellis work. Is it any wonder that neighbourhood children love it here? Or that it’s been host to countless outdoor meals and parties, chess games and even a wedding?

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