One of the first times I met Kari Hodge we had a discussion about moss. When I got to see her garden I was delighted at the wonderful use of local mosses. It is all natural, of course, but what is of interest is that the moss at one level is secondary to all the other perennials and shrubs. It is the backdrop to the other players in the garden. It is surprising too, because most gardeners want to get rid of moss.
The front of the Hodge home, near St. Charles Lake Rd. in the city’s South End, gets full sun, but early on this spring morning it is very still and subdued. This garden has a very natural look. The tulips are complementary. Thyme carpets areas, nooks and crannies. Thymus “Elfin” is growing well between the rocks of the natural stone walkways.
Although the tulips, daffodils and other flowers tell you this is a spring garden, they seem less important than the shrubs, the stumps, the ground covers, the rug junipers. The placement of the rocks is subtle and they seemingly have been there forever. Some stone is covered with moss, others with that quasi-moss, Irish moss, (sagina subulata).
Hodge likes natural flowers such as trillium, fern, wintergreen. She has shifted from a formal garden to a more natural setting complete with wild plants like those she finds on her walks in the woods.
As in any fine garden, there are special areas that are pleasing to the eye. The red-orange-gold tulips are a wonderful choice to grow beside the rug junipers (juniperus horizontalis) with the chartreuse needles.
Another delight is the gold in an upright juniper, yellow tulips and a glowing gold shrub. The drifts of snow-white flowered sweet woodruff beside a drift of dark blue ajuga illustrates Hodge’s artistic flair. The light purple in the lamium was juxtaposed with a purple-pink azalea in full bloom.
Succulents are in the nooks, crannies and the overhang of rock. A reddish-pink variety of saxifraga arendsii was a warming light in the cool morning. The red continues nearby in a rusty red variety of hens and chickens—sempervivums.
Hodge also paints but gardening is a much larger canvas. Gardening is a “gift.” She says it is play for her; “golf would be work.”
As a child in Norway, she observed the joy both her grandmothers derived from their flower gardens. Her maternal grandfather introduced her to alpine plants near his mountain retreat and to the botanical garden in Bergen.
Her favourite plants are associated with memories: lupines beside the road, foxgloves in England and bearded iris her father cultivated. The irises put on a great show. Her dad would have been proud.