Gerda Alderson

Gardeners reveal their secrets

What has been a well-kept secret won’t be for very long. People who live in Sooke might not be aware of the goings on behind the hedges and gates on properties scattered around the area but, on Sunday, June 5 from 10 a.m/ to 5 p.m., they have a chance to find out.

Sooke’s Secret Garden Tour is a self-guided garden tour where interested folks can talk to gardeners, stroll through other people’s yards, bid on auction items, listen to music, feast their eyes on classic cars, and shop for plants. It’s all part of the annual fundraiser for the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra.

Nine years ago, Gerda and John Alderson moved into a house along the edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They are avid gardeners and their property is a testament to their dedication and passion. As you approache their driveway the tantalizing scent of heather welcomes you into the gardens where you are greeted by a profusion of colourful plants and shrubs. They have chosen plants that would grow well in this coastal climate and nurtured them to perfection.

The amazing space they live in wasn’t always as it is now. When they first acquired the property along Austin’s Place, they dug the whole yard up by hand. They didn’t want the mess a backhoe would make. They even saved the “Sooke potatoes” and used them for the landscaping. Sooke potatoes are rocks. They got rid of the 10’ high hogweed and scrub that was obscuring their view of the water and built hedges to protect them from the winds which blow fast and furious along the Strait, and to afford them some privacy. Then they really got to work.

“I brought my plants with me, 150 pots with several plants in each,” said Gerda.

They moved to Sooke from Salt Spring Island where they had first retired to but found their relatively inaccessible property difficult as they advanced in years. Another house and another garden in Sooke soon demanded their attention.

They haven’t stopped planning and planting and are continually moving  plants around as they get to big for the space. John built a small bridge over a dry “creek bed” and a greenhouse using salvaged glass windows. They do  everything themselves, it’s all a part of their lifestyle. They have created different spaces in their yard allowing them to move around to where the sun is or isn’t. Their biggest problem, like many Sooke gardeners is the deer. While they don’t mind sharing space with them they do get distressed when a treasured plant is stripped naked one year when it wasn’t previously. But they have learned to live with the deer and the bears which from time to time wander through the area.

“We did what we like,” said John.

The Alderson’s story is pretty similar to many others who are willing to showcase their gardens in the secret Garden Tour. It is a true labour of love and it shows.

“We did what we like,” said John in explaining their garden plan.

The Secret Garden Tour takes in a wonderful blend of ornamental, oceanfront and view gardens. Water features, garden structures, a plethora of plants and shrubs, as well as creative and comfortable sitting areas which are all on display. Gather ideas and take photos for use in your own garden. There will be refreshments in selected gardens and members of the Sooke Philharmonic will be playing music.

Your ticket is your detailed map to all of the 10 gardens on the tour. Tickets can be purchased in Sooke at Shoppers’ Drug Mart, People Drug Mart, Westburn Garden Centre and Double D Gardens. Tickets are also available in Victoria at Gardenworks, Art Knapps at Mattick’s Farm and Dig This. For details call 250-642-1397 or log onto www.sookephil.ca. Tickets available June 5 outside Peoples’ Drug Mart. Event happens rain or shine.

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