“We love your garden!” shouts the passenger in a passing blue BMW convertible.
“Thank-you!” exclaims Francis Maltby from behind a shady latticed alcove at his riverfront Campbell Avenue garden. A wasp joins us in the refuge from the burning, humid Saturday heat. The insect spreads its legs wide to delicately balance on the surface tension of the water trough, then grabs a drink.
Outside, we walk a narrow path through a cloud of honeybees busily stripping the oregano, goldenrod, yarrow and stunning tiger lilies. We step into a hidden sunken patio area, then inspect a giant yew rescued from a construction site.
The Maltbys’ prominently-located home gets lots of passing traffic, and dozens of compliments a year, Francis explains.
His garden – just one of 18 featured in the North Columbia Environmental Society’s first Garden & Art Tour this Friday – displays the diversity that exists in Revelstoke’s garden scene, which is undergoing a transformative revival.
Local gardens are mini-ecosystems unto themselves, blending vegetables and flowers, medicinals and ornamentals, studied order and controlled chaos.
Maltby, a well-known defender of the local Columbia River ecosystem, explains they’re managing their ‘urban meadow’ for conservation and biodiversity values, mixing native and agronomic species to create a beautiful oasis that supports birds, insects and controls invasive species.
Not mowing the tall, native grasses at its periphery is part of the philosophy; the grasses are habitat for bugs, some of which deposit their eggs on the tall grass.
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Another goal is to stretch out the blooming season from spring to fall.
Clara and Francis try to be somewhat laissez-faire, balancing the garden naturally by allowing the plants to compete with each other. They step in to control runaways, like lupins or a recent buttercup infestation.
“It’s not easy,” Francis explains. “We put a lot of work into it. Lots of things happen; we try to allow it to develop the way it’s going to develop.”
Gardening isn’t a hard news topic, yet we go off-the-record several times. Doing your own thing causes tension with the authorities, it seems. The Maltbys’ garden even earned the ire of a Stoke List troll – who proved to be a shrinking violet in the face of daughter Erica Maltby’s withering rebuttal.
Normality is often tyrannical, seeking approval through disapproving; lawn chemical ads portray the neighbours for a reason. In a community surrounded by forest, the Maltby’s garden has a fire management plan now.
I’ve spoken with Francis about his garden in the past, and felt I got his philosophy. Visiting in person, you pick up the nuances you overlooked.
I look forward to meeting more gardeners on Friday to learn what guides their creations.
Revelstoke Garden & Art Tour
The Revelstoke gardening scene is undergoing a revival, seeded in part by the local food movement.
“There are a lot of people who have long-term plans for their gardens,” said Revelstoke Garden & Art Tour organizer Hailey Ross. “They’ve gotten re-inspired lately and they are re-invigorating their gardens.”
The tour features 18 local gardens paired with local artists, who will install their works in situ for the one-day affair this Friday, Aug. 9 from 4–8 p.m.
Ross said there’s been lots of “friends nudging other friends” to get involved with the tour, including gardeners and artists. “People are just excited to share what other people are doing, but of course most people are modest about their garden,” she said.
Garden enthusiasts are encouraged to pick up a tour map and then take to bikes in groups to visit the gardens, most of which are in the downtown area.
There are many highlights. Sandra Davis’ garden on Ninth Street features a unique blend herbal, culinary and medicinal plants. She’s paired with artists Jenn Fusick, who creates ‘art from the heart’ acrylics.
Ken Sakamoto started his Japanese-themed garden on Downie Street in the 1950s, and has built up a school of about 70 koi in a well-pruned garden featuring flowers and a productive vegetable garden.
Stu Smith & Sarah Harper’s Track Street East veggie patch features asparagus, squashatapus, tomato and basil arranged in a large, aesthetically-pleasing fashion. Always eccentric and unique artist Bruce Thomas is creating an acoustic installation for their garden.
That’s just a sampling of what’s available. “Chances are somebody’s going to offer you some home-brew from their plums or their grapes – I’ve heard mulberry wine,” Hailey hints.
Tour maps are available at Art First or Chantilly Kitchen. Suggested $5 donation per person. The event is paired with Revelstoke Bike Fest, so consider touring on two wheels. The NCES also hosts the Midsummer Night’s Green event at Terra Firma Farms on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. See the Times Review community calendar for more.