Lloyd Howard’s Mountjoy Avenue property is blessed with towering trees of many varieties, multi-coloured mature rhododendrons and an array of shrubs and perennials in the undulating garden beds surrounding the 1927 home.
But the star of the show for this year’s For the Love of Africa Water Garden Tour will be the large naturalistic pond in the back, where the soothing sound of trickling water provides the ideal accent to the surrounding green space.
The 10th annual tour, hosted by the For the Love of Africa Society Saturday, July 9, raises funds for the society’s projects in Africa. Howard’s Oak Bay garden is among nine on this year’s tour.
Around the pond and surrounding space, Howard has worked with the rocky outcroppings and towering Garry oaks, casting dappled sunlight across the rear garden, where it’s a challenge to see where the rock ends and the garden begins. “(It’s) exposing rock and encouraging moss and having them make their own statement,” he says. “I just love the rock outcroppings and what I can do with them.”
No surprise, nearby Abkhazi Garden, where he volunteered for several years, was a big influence, he says.
With the pond’s foundation in place when Howard bought the home, he enlarged and enhanced it with the help of Shibusa Ponds and friend and local garden designer Cyril Hume. “He had a great eye for this place,” Howard says.
A stunning magnolia, evergreens, hostas, irises and multiple ferns add rich textures to the layers of green.
Howard has transformed the space over his 29 years here, though the bones of the 1.16-acre garden were good from the start. “The bones were here, so I had the fun part coming in,” he says. “It was probably the big trees that attracted me.”
Nurturing those older specimens and adding his own – “I planted a lot of Japanese maples,” he notes – has created an urban sanctuary of year-round interest. “When I moved it was definitely a spring garden and what I encouraged was a spring and summer garden,” he says, adding that with the addition of the maples, “fall is gorgeous now here.”
Winter hellebores and swaths of early snowdrops tease the multitude of rhododendron and camellia blossoms to come, blooming beneath the towering blue atlas cedar and sequoia in the front, likely planted in the 1920s.
While much of the garden has a more natural feel to it, the sunny front patio is more formal in design with heuchera and boxwood, a nod to his long career as a professor at the University of Victoria’s department of Hispanic and Italian Studies.
“I think (gardening) is a nice counter to what I do at work because there you don’t see the results right away, especially with research,” Howard says. “Here you put in a few hours and you can see the results.”
Water Garden Tour Details
• The 10th annual self-guided Victoria Water Garden Tour July 9 highlights outdoor spaces where water features such as fountains, waterfalls, ponds, streams and lakes have a defining role, providing an environment for birds and other wildlife and a relaxing atmosphere for all to enjoy.
• For the Love of Africa is a local volunteer organization that partners with projects in needy areas of Africa, currently Tanzania, to build infrastructure for education, health care and vulnerable children.
• Tour tickets are $25 per person and will be available online at eventbrite.ca and from Brown’s The Florist, Dig This, Elk Lake Garden Centre, Gardenworks, Marigold Nurseries and Wildwood Outdoor Living Centre (at Cannor Nursery).
• For information, visit watergardentour.ca or email