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Photo by Eleanore Kosydar

Photo by Eleanore Kosydar

Katie West sits on one the of rock retaining walls in her hillside garden.

Coexisting with nature

By Meg Young, Special to The News

Katie West’s garden is nestled at the end of a quiet road and perched high on a hill overlooking a pond that connects to Cootes Paradise.

From her deck, West watches herons fish in the water below. There is a spiritual feeling in the garden. West is a mindful gardener. She balances her gardener’s desire to create her own work of beauty with her naturalist’s desire to support the plants and wild life native to the area. She also allows herself to have fun.

Wearing her naturalist’s hat, West has created a snapping-turtle nursery at the entrance to her property. Snapping turtles have for decades deposited their eggs where her house and garden now stand. To replace their lost laying grounds, she has mixed yards of sand with soil along the path turtles have traditionally travelled. They are using it.

West’s artistry is evident as the visitor climbs the wooden steps to reach the house. The steps are bordered by tiered gardens filled with day lilies, irises, peonies, and viburnum. One bed is xeriscaped with cacti and other desert plants. A red rose bush climbs the side of the house; lavender spills over the walls. This is the sunny section of the garden, even sunnier since the removal of eight Manitoba maples.

You have to look carefully to see West’s playfulness. A section of an old Singer sewing machine protrudes from a bed, rusting gears hide under a day lily. Metal sculptures are placed throughout the garden.

The shade garden is on the side of the house bordering the forest. A stone wall holds up the steep hill. West has planted hosta, dogwood, boxwood, and Japanese maple. A 15-foot high redbud reaches out over a sloping path that connects the upper and lower gardens. Squirrels regularly snap its branches as they leap down from higher trees. West accepts the squirrel damage and prunes accordingly.

By the house and in the forest on the immediate edge of her property, West has counted 60 black walnut trees. She has planted native trees that will survive under them – redbud, tulip tree, serviceberry and dogwood. Because of the roaming deer, she has netted the trees. High fencing could solve the deer problem, but it would change the atmosphere of her garden.

This is an unusual garden, both cultivated and natural, serious and light-hearted. It is a pleasure to experience.
West’s is one of five Dundas gardens and four Waterdown gardens on this year’s Carnegie Gallery Secret Gardens Tour. The tour takes place Sunday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased for $20 at the Carnegie Gallery, 10 King St. W., Dundas, 905-627-4265; Bryan Prince Booksellers, 1060 King St. W., Hamilton, 905-528-4508, or by emailing the Carnegie at carnegie@carnegiegallery.org. The Secret Gardens Tour is the Carnegie’s major fundraiser. The gallery is a not-for-profit organization that has promoted the arts and crafts since 1980.

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