Active volunteers in multiple organizations throughout the Cowichan Valley, it’s amazing retirees Gary and Carie Saville have any time at all to spend at home developing their own secret hideaway. It’s a labour of love, for the North Cowichan residents and soon their garden, and all it’s hand-crafted charm, will be on display for their fellow green thumbs to admire.
The annual Cowichan Family Life Garden Tour returns for its 25th year on May 12. One of the smallest gardens on the tour, the Savilles are proud to share their passion project. The couple, married 50 years, plans each detail together and then Gary gets to work making it a reality.
“It’s a small garden, but I could get lost out here all day,” he admitted. “I can be sitting over here with a glass of wine,” he said motioning to the cozy seating area under a pergola, “and I’ll look at a corner and think ‘oh yeah that needs such and such’ and the wheels start working and we kind of go from there. It’s been a labour of love for eight years.”
The couple bought the home roughly eight years ago and have been tinkering away at the grounds ever since.
“It was mostly shrubs,” Gary explained. “No perennials or flowers so I’ve kind of gone that route and worked on it from there. Perennials are so much easier to take care of and are less costly. I don’t like putting stuff in and then throwing it out at the end of the year.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t like colour.
“I’ve gradually built it up,” he said.
Potted annuals, tulips, camellia, tiger lilies, daffodils, and more can be noticed amongst the bigger plantings that dot the property. The collection of rhododendrons have staggered blooming periods so there’s always a pop of colour to be seen.
“I think the other thing I’m trying to show gardeners is you don’t need a huge space to have a beautiful garden. You can do stuff in a smaller space and it works,” Gary said.
With eight-foot walls surrounding the entire garden, the couple uses the courtyard as another room of their house — for meals as a duo and even at times entertaining upwards of 45 people at a time.
“It’s different. You don’t see many houses with a wall that goes around like this in B.C. When it’s warm, we treat it as another room. We don’t have a big house,” he said. “I just love sitting out here. We can look around and look at something and think ‘oh I remember that!’ It’s just great to have this out here.”
Years ago the pair sold almost everything they owned and headed south with just each other and their fifth wheel. Evidence of their fascination with Mexico, Arizona and southern California is displayed in the eclectic decor hidden throughout their garden — some of the pieces are prominent, others take a keen eye to notice.
“We just love the style of the houses down [south] with their closed courtyards, although we didn’t have any idea when we came back off the road that we would buy something like this. We collected a bunch of items from Arizona and Mexico not knowing we’d have a place like this so it was a bit of fate I think. When we found this place we both looked at each other and thought, ‘oh wow. This is going to work for us’.”
The annual Cowichan Family Life Garden Tour runs between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on May 12. For just $25 per person, participants can tour six Cowichan Valley gardens, speak to master gardeners, attend a garden tea catered by VIU, and chat in the garden with columnist Helen Chesnut.
The event is Cowichan Family Life’s major fundraiser for the year, and money collected is put toward providing affordable and accessible counselling to residents of the Cowichan region.
For information on a shuttle service being offered, please visit www.cheerscowichan.com
To learn more about the garden tour, please visit www.cowichanfamilylife.org