DAY TRIPPER: It’s day lily season at Ripon’s Jardins d’Emmarocalles

Photography by Eric Fletcher.

Photography by Eric Fletcher.

By Katharine Fletcher

When Michel Tardif and Mireille Albert retired, they turned a weekend project into a full-time endeavour — their dream garden. To do so, the couple transformed five of their 80 acres of flat pastureland property into a world of winding pathways through colourful perennial beds of hemerocallis (day lilies), echinacea, phlox, hostas, and heucheras.

Tardif, who retired first, launched the venture in 2008 — landscaping, creating pathways and beds, and ordering specimens the couple had researched and wanted. On weekends, Albert planted. Three years later, in 2011, the Jardins d’Emmarocalles boasted a collection of 1,500 day lilies, including 17 foundation specimens. Among the easiest perennials to grow, day lilies come in many shapes and glorious colours, with some possessing an exquisite fragrance, as well. In addition, day lilies are edible, meaning they can be incorporated into some deliciously surprising summer salads.

And echinacea? The Jardins d’Emmarocalles has flowers that range in size from dwarf to metre-high and in hues of red, orange, yellow, purple, and white. The beauty of these, and all the perennials, is complemented by art installations and antiques that are integrated throughout the beds. Occasionally an antique chair beckons. Placed just so, it invites you to sit and contemplate the surrounding beauty.

Plan to linger overnight, for the couple’s heritage farmhouse doubles as a B & B. An overnight stay allows the garden lover to stroll the gardens throughout the day, as well as to appreciate the blossoms, flowery perfumes, shrubs, and art by moonlight. Come morning, a breakfast featuring local artisanal foods inspires further exploration of nearby Ripon. Don’t miss sampling the refreshing strawberry wine from Domaine Mont-Vézeau, then visit proprietor and potter Linda Boulianne, who also sells handmade floral tiles. And before you leave, don’t forget to ask why the couple named their dream garden d’Emmarocalles.

Many visitors to Les Jardins d’Emmarocalles come specifically to see the collection of 1,500 colourful day lilies, including this one named Web Browser. (Photography by Eric Fletcher)


Hours: Open daily from May 5 to Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Open Friday through Sunday from Sept. 7 to Sept. 30.

Admission: Adults $7, children (12 and under) free. Season pass $152.

Getting There: Ripon is 80 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, accessed by Highway 317. 1068, rte. 317, Ripon, 819-983-6476,

Katharine Fletcher writes eco-tourism, environment, and gardening stories from Spiritwood, where she enjoys her organic gardens of vegetables and perennials.

IN HONOUR OF SPRING: An interview with philosopher/gardener Merilyn Simonds, author of A New Leaf

An interview with Merilyn Simonds, author of A New Leaf, a book of essays that offer both practical gardening tips and more spiritual musings prompted by a year of growing seasons in her expansive eastern Ontario garden  By Sarah Brown

Photography by Garrett Elliott.

It is a book that started life as a blog. In 2009, writer Merilyn Simonds was looking to explore shorter forms and write about something she loved. That was when her son designed a website for her and a blogging career was born.

Every week Simonds would add one gardening-inspired post as the frugalista gardener. “It was a real delight to write, because there was no sense of having to commit to a really big project,” she explains.

When a frequent visitor to the blog, who also happened to be an editor with Doubleday Canada, suggested that the essays be developed into a book, Simonds was thrilled.

Her blog project grew into the 2011 book A New Leaf, which features 59 essays, most of them beautifully reworked versions of frugalista posts.

The essays are often very contemplative. Do you find yourself composing as you garden? The general spark of what I want to pursue starts in the garden, but I don’t write the essay in my head. I find I need to have a pen in my hand to actually get down to the business of writing. But the initial stimulus comes from working in my gardens — that’s what provokes me into the essay-writing headspace.

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A POOL WE LOVE: A gorgeous natural granite swimming pool in a backyard setting

Natural Beauty: As the rock heats in the sunshine, the water temperature rises naturally in the pool. A pump ensure the water circulates and is also used when the pool needs to be drained for a full cleaning. Photography by William P. McElligott

MAKING A SPLASH: The joy of swimming in a natural granite pool

This feature appears in the  April 2012 edition.

By Katharine Fletcher

Photography by William P. McElligott

Talk about taking a natural formation and transforming it into a stunning backyard feature! Carole Larose and her husband, Wayne Corneil, did just that after buying a country home in Carp nine years ago.

When the couple purchased the 1.6-acre property in 2003, the central feature in the backyard was a fish pond created from a natural fold in the granite rock that dominated the landscape. The previous owners had dammed one end of the formation with cement to stop any outflow.

“As soon as we saw it, we decided we’d try to transform the pond into a swimming pool,” says Corneil.

The couple first tried a traditional chlorine-based system but found the chemicals too harsh — for them and the dogs they welcome regularly. They then began researching alternatives, finally settling on a saltwater option. Today the fish pond is nowhere to be seen, and in its place is an amazing saltwater swimming pool that gets used from May to September.

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GARDENS: Get inspired! Four great New Edinburgh gardens to study

Hattie Klotz creates her own mini garden tour of New Edinburgh, discovering four striking front gardens, knocking on the door, and interviewing the homeowners to discover the inspiration behind their great green spaces

Take a tour of the gardens »

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