Inspiring Gardens

Denman Home and Garden Tour—set for May 9 and 10— showcases the unique features of Island living.

Andrew Fyson’s home and garden.

Andrew Fyson’s home and garden.

A founding member of the Denman Garden Club, Tait has helped endless gardeners on the path to digging, planting, fertilizing and mulching. She loves to give plants away and every year her overflowing garden provides plenty of extras, which she has passed on to gardeners not just on Denman, but also Hornby Island and in the Comox Valley.

Des Kennedy says Tait’s garden is one of his personal favorites. “Jimmy Tait’s garden is a lovely manifestation of the remarkable woman who created it. She is a gardener in the truest sense—someone who has tenderly worked the earth for many years for the pure love of growing. It is a gardener’s garden, deeply textured with a wide knowledge of plants and an intimate understanding of their relationships. And it is a beneficent garden, freely shared with others, just as Jimmy shares her time, her gardening knowledge and numerous excess plants with grateful recipients,” says Kennedy.

It is because of Tait that the Denman Home and Garden Tour will take place in May this year, says tour coordinator LeeAndra Jacobs.

“She insisted!” says Jacobs, with a big smile.

Tait explains: “I was on the first five or six tours but they were always in the summer and my rhododendrons and azaleas were over. I got tired of saying, ‘This was lovely a few weeks ago.’”

One year, Tait even put out photos during the tour so visitors could see her blooms in all their glory.

“I wanted to be on the tour again but said I would only do it if they changed the date,” she explains. This year, she finally got her wish. Her property is one of 10 on the tour, half of which are new this year. The full list, as well as further information about the tour, is posted at their web site.

As well as the rhodos and azaleas, Tait’s garden in spring is full of bluebells, many species of primrose, viburnum, yellow and orange Welsh poppies and fawn lilies.

Tait loves the colors and shapes of her many flowers, but what she loves best about her garden are the smells. Above all, scent is her guiding principal in making planting choices, and she will go to great length to search out particularly fragrant varieties.

“My azaleas are scented, you know,” she says proudly. “They are an unusual hybrid with wonderful fragrance. You can smell them all the way from the road!”

Tait remembers being on the very first Home and Garden Tour in 1991. Although it’s hard to imagine now, since the tour is so well-established, back then it was an innovative, daring idea brought to fruition by a few dedicated people fuelled by adrenaline and conviction.

Sandy Kennedy traces the genesis of the tour to two very different sources: civil disobedience to stop mining in Strathcona Park and a visit to England she and Des took 20 years ago.

The Kennedys had spent years building their house, using mostly found and recycled materials, and had, during that time, gardened extensively—but only food gardening.

“We’d put all our energy into growing food; that was basic to how we live here,” she says. “We were homesteaders.”