Garden Tour

Welcome to Ted & Nadine Staunton's garden

Surrey, B.C., Canada

2468. East side of the garden, looking toward the front gate.

2477. Just inside the front gate is a shed which originally housed chickens. The roof shakes were sawn from the trunk of a fallen cedar. Smoke bush to the left; white-flowering viburnum at centre, hydrangea at right. Back of the shed are filbert nut bushes, which border the edge of a ravine.

2484. Looking west from east side of property, with maple leaves overhanging at top right. Flowering spirea (pink florets) at bottom right foreground. Tall green plants beyond spirea: bee balm. Bush at centre left with multiple stems: winter flowering viburnum. Large tree trunk at centre right: native cottonwood.

2784. Foreground: heather bed. The bench was made from branches of filbert nut trees which border the ravine. White-flowering plant growing up cottonwood tree is a climbing hydrangea; bush behind bench is a golden privet.

2401. East side rockery; steps lead to 'upper lawn.' Terrace wall features unusual fieldstone rocks (e.g. the one at centre with horizontal stripes). All rocks were found 'as is' on the property; none were chiselled or split. Skimmia bush in right foreground; small dark-leaved wigelia near foot of steps; tall foxgloves in left foreground.

0314. 'Main' pergola, east side. Self-fertile kiwi climbs the pergola's left post, behind Irish yew; yellow-leafed vine on the right post is a flowering jasmine; oak-leaf hydrangea to the right.

0127. Alongside main pergola, looking west.

0309. Pathway on edge of east-side ravine. Large rocks to the right were piled up by a bulldozer clearing the property when house was first built; Ted repositioned the rocks in a semicircle to contain a level flower-bed to the right. Now those rocks were something else to move by hand!

2427. Note the 'green man' on trunk of an alder tree.
2426. Pathway round base of east side rockery. Nadine picked up the weird piece of wood on the side of the street.


2423. Looking back at 'main' pergola from lower part of garden, with various hostas in the foreround. A clematis climbs the nearest support post. Upper foreground: overhanging leaves of the winter fire bush.

2752. Looking east toward 'main' pergola. Flowering Rose of Sharon on the upper right, tickweed (yellow flowers) lower right.

2715. Looking south toward sundeck. Overhanging leaves are from katsura tree.

2400. Steps lead down past Winter Fire bush; in winter, after leaves have fallen, its stems turn red. Tradescantia (spider-wort) in the left foreground (purple flowers). Winter-hardy fuschia sits on column.

0277. Steps alongside Winter Fire bush.

2425. Pathway to climbing hydrangea (white flowers), making its way up cottonwood trunk. White flowers to right: bed of spirea, with oak-leaf hydrangea growing above.

2419. Pathway from side of church looking east. PJ rhododendron at centre; ligularia (dark leaves) to the right; geraniums (pink flowers) in lower right foreground. Ted built the curving brick wall, the inspiration for which came from the eddies of sea-waves flowing across the beach.

0235. Moss pathway below church.

2418. Pathway following upper edge of ravine from base of katsura tree (trunk on the right), alongside church. Trees in the distance are maples.

2399. Main pergola, looking east.

0262. Looking west from main pergola.

0341. Rustic seat among the flowers (daylilies, Mexican feather grass, foxgloves).

2721. When Toby decides to take a seat, who's going to argue?

2539. A profusion of flowers on the clematis alongside the grass walkway.

2491. Foot of winding concrete path, from grass walkway, leading up to sundeck.

2417. Pergola as seen from front of church. Hostas, irises, bear's britches, spirea, heuchera, Himalayan poppies in the foreground.

hh_3. Pergola as seen from further west, on grass walkway.

2429. A concrete path winds its way across the rear of the house, below the sundeck, connecting the east and west sides of the yard. Whitish plant to the right is Dusty Miller; light patch on the upper left is zebra grass. Irises and day-lilies line the pathway.

2794. Winding pathway below sundeck.

2457. Looking down on the same concrete path from the opposite direction.

2458. To the west of the sundeck is a bed of spirea, with hanging basket above.

hh_1. Stone steps leading up to the sundeck. Tree to the upper left is a columnar flowering cherry.

0273. Front of church, with concrete slabs recently replaced with cobblestones.

2432. In winter the building is quite visible, but in summer is almost totally screened off. Ted did all the woodwork on the church including making the overlapping rough cedar boards. The front door was originally intended for use as an interior 'french' door.

2442. Church as seen from circle pathway.

2763. Angel ornament, with Virginia creeper in foreground.

2764, 2757, 2759. The church interior, and views from within.


2460. View from upper sundeck towards the north-east.

2462. Alongside the church on its east side is a set of semicircular steps, built to echo the effect of wavelets on a beach.

2466. The same pathway, west side. Ted placed these large rocks to create terraced beds for natural flora such as trillium;
in spring, the area is carpeted with bluebells.

2467. The same path below church. Bed of periwinkle (quite happy in the deep shade) is to the bottom left.

2793. Pathway on edge of ravine on north side.

0231. Archway to moss path, north side.

0272. Path leading toward archway, west side, below church. Dark tree in the background is a hemlock; in foreground are sedums and spirea.

2789. Toadstools in a tree.


2398. The top of the arch is made from a main branch of a flowering cherry tree that had to be cut down. Recently-planted hop vines are making their way up the support posts, and their vigorous growth will soon soften the archway. Hanging from the top beam on the left are various rusted garden-tools that were found on the property; on the right are some wooden fishing-net floats that were found in the adjoining ravine.

0264. Looking through the arch, now with the hop-vine fully grown.

2459. View from upper sundeck toward the north-west.

2431. The garden seat was taken out of an old car that had been pushed into the ravine.

2397. The same area as seen from the winding concrete path.

0266. The garden shed, east side view, its wall screened by a curly willow tree.

2396. Steps leading down to little garden shed, which was once a small open-sided gazebo but is getting much more use after recent conversion. The solid mahogany door was originally from a ship's cabin. Ted did all the woodwork, including hand-crafting the decorative facia-boards. Deep trenches were dug across the yard to carry power lines for lighting, electrical outlets etc. White plumes to the right: giant goats' beard. Bush in front of the shed: an azalea, which bears orange blossom in springtime. The overhanging tree is a white-star magnolia; to the rear is a curly willow.

3174. Pathway leading to our garden shed. Ted made the decorative facia boards. Wooden fishing floats were dug up in the nearby ravine.

0294. Garden shed, south side. The overhanging tree is a star magnolia. Ted made all the retaining walls by dragging large rocks up from the ravine, by hand. The ground cover in the foreground is Japanese spurge.

0268. Steps from circle lawn to sundeck.

2735, 2736. Two varieties of hibiscus syriacus althaea (Rose of Sharon) in flower; Bluebird (left) and Red Heart.

2447. Above the shed is a ginkgo biloba tree, with a collection of smoothly rounded stones found in the yard at its base, and supporting a hanging planter containing an orchid cactus on one of its horizontally-outstretched arms.

2411. A cobblestone pathway runs under the arms of the ginkgo, with the church across the lawn in the distance. Plants on the left are peonies; purple flowers are campanula (Canterbury Bells); tall magenta spikes are foxgloves.

2455. View from along the cobbled pathway at the car seat, down toward the rustic arch. Ginkgo leaves overhead; stewartia tree centre left; katsura tree upper left.

2436. Looking eastward from the same viewpoint.

0007. The 'circle lawn' was seeded with micro-clover as an alternative to grass.
0108. The 'circle lawn' at a later date.

0238. The 'circle lawn' looking west, with Ted's cast-iron oven door 'art gallery' displayed on the trellis fence.

2785. Semicircular latticework fence screens garden from west side.

0225. The gateway was re-purposed from some very old latticework screens.

2803. Rhodo in front of garden shed.

2799. Steps, west side.

0291. Pathway skirts flower bed on west side of property.

0293. Waterfall and stream, west side.

0320. Ted built the bridge across the stream, which in this picture is not running.

0325. Looking north from rhododendron-lined pathway on west side.

2453. Golden rain tree on west side of garden.

0326. Pathway to west side of house, made from broken-up concrete, curves gently around the steep hillside.

0328. Looking back down pathway to west side of house. On the right is the edge of Nadine's kitchen garden, bordered by raspberries.

0329. Pathway continues to front of house, with vegetable garden to the left. This area catches the most sunshine on our north-facing property.

0333. View of pathway leading to west side of house, through metal archway.

0335. View of garden pathway from the front steps of the house. Small tree is a pink cloud Japanese maple.

2786. A well-dressed visitor takes a few moments to rest among the flowers in the front garden.

2801. Front yard, vegetable garden.

A couple of shots from different seasons . . .

Above: The church, on a snowy day

Above: Trees in the fog.

"Surrey's Best Garden" photo contest entry, June 2013

Surrey Leader Community Newspaper

For Ted and Nadine Staunton's winning photo entry (above) in the 2013 contest for "Surrey's Best Garden" in the Surrey Leader newspaper, Rebecca Van der Zalm of contest sponsors Art's Nursery (below, right) presents them with a $250 gift certificate (photo: Evan Solomon, Surrey Leader).

The following article was scheduled to appear in the October 2014 edition of Gardens West magazine
but unfortunately, production was halted when the magazine ceased publication.
The article is reproduced here courtesy of contributing author Michael Lascelle.

The Garden that Gives Back

By Michael Lascelle

Michael Lascelle
That part of Surrey found along the Fraser River between the Pattullo and Port Mann bridges is often thought of as being quite industrial, given its many warehouses and railway lines. However, just up the hill is the residential area known as Bolivar Heights.

Nestled in the often foggy second growth forest lays the remains of a former strawberry farm and the garden of Ted and Nadine Staunton. They have called this neighborhood home since 1973 and purchased their current .9 of an acre in 1989, when they and their four children outgrew their last house.

It began as a sloped L-shaped lot surrounded by a bit of a ravine which had been used for dumping debris and boulders for as long as the area had been inhabited. The Stauntons' first project was to build a house on the lower part of the property and begin terracing the steep grade, which was proving difficult to mow.

Not one to waste local resources, Ted began the long (some might say perpetual) job of terracing the garden by recovering the boulders which had been bulldozed into the adjacent ravine when the land was originally cleared for farming. His forays down there have taken on an almost archaeological tone (given its former dumping status), with such finds as a cast iron bathtub, a vintage Austin car (whose door handles were salvaged for his greenhouse) and a myriad of 1920-30s era railway, military and household items (mostly old medicine bottles), including a beautiful silver bracelet.

As Ted puts it, "A house is just a place where you go to sleep between adventures in gardening," and given its many paths, hidden views and hand-made features, a tour of this landscape can honestly be described as an adventure. That said, it is an equal partnership with Ted (a former graphic designer who still dabbles in font design) handling the construction or reclamation phase, and Nadine (a retired financial planner) managing the plant selection and pruning.

But that's not to say that they don't disagree at times; take the pergola for instance, while Ted may have decided that one vine for each post (clematis montana Fragrant Spring, actinidia arguta issai, campsis radicans flava and jasminum officinale Fiona Sunrise) would be interesting, Nadine insisted that it was a bit too much and time has proved her right.

Still, like all wise gardeners, the Stauntons have come to realize that a landscape is constantly evolving and is never really finished, which suits Ted the expansionist just fine.

The entrance gate to the back garden is beautifully decorated with a piece of twisted hazelnut, and many of Ted's hand-crafted benches are made from wood salvaged here because recent city bylaws don't allow open-air burning, so, as he says, you might as well do something with it.

Just inside the gate one finds a gently sloped lawn alleyway edged in dwarf boxwood (Buxus sempervirens Suffruticosa), a classic garden shed (converted from a chicken coop) with a cedar shake roof and banks of hydrangeas and variegated shrubby dogwoods. The landscape here is north-facing and Nadine finds that the dry shade can be a real challenge. In her words, "You get to learn to love hostas," but she has also had to rely on a number of partial-sun perennials that provide a long season of colour but don't require a lot of pampering.

Prominent among these are daylilies (hemerocallis), threadleaf coreopsis (c. verticillata), hardy geraniums, goatsbeard (aruncus dioicus) and campanulas. 

Nadine also makes extensive use of foliar colour throughout the garden, with burgundy accents including purple smokebush, ligularia dentata Othello, Japanese barberry (berberis thunbergii), red Japanese maples (Emperor 1 and Bloodgood) and lysimachia ciliata Firecracker.

The gold highlights she has chosen include the potted cupressus macrocarpa Wilma Goldcrest and spiraea japonica Goldmound in the front garden, numerous ornamental grasses (carex elata Bowles Golden, acorus and hakonechloa macra Aureola) as well dicentra spectabilis Goldheart in the back, with a stunning golden hops vine (humulus lupulus aureus) winding around a rustic arbor that empties onto the lower lawn.

But Nadine's favorite task is just wandering around the garden and speculating where changes are needed, and with the drier weather she has been actively phasing out the astilbes in favor of more drought tolerant plants.

The turf here does not get watered, and irrigation is limited to 15-20 minute timed sprinkler increments or watering individual plants with a can replenished by one of the rain barrels installed on the side of house.

Ted allows the artist in him to emerge through hand-made benches, arbors and the focal point of the garden, a beautiful rustic church with a steeple that began as a Victorian folly.

The many paths he has created throughout the landscape are an eclectic mix of mortared stone, interlocking pavers, patio slabs and even live moss for the less frequented walkways on the lower landscape, with all of it carefully transplanted from his own garden. In essence, they have created their own private park, which in Nadine's words is "not manicured to death," and they like it that way.

Ted is out there "every day, rain or shine," while Nadine seems to revel in the potential of the landscape rather than complaining about the work involved in maintaining it. "I really enjoy having a big garden, it gives me plenty of scope," she says, and that can-do attitude seems to have worked wonders, which Ted is more than happy to implement when given enough time (he is currently negotiating with Nadine for a new gazebo).

It is a very symbiotic relationship that the Stauntons have with this landscape; it provides water, leaves for mulch, stone for building materials, natural wood for arbors and even the occasional artifact, while they in turn nurture the land and enjoy the wildlife such as chickadees, coyotes, bald eagles, raccoons and even the occasional bear that shows up.

This place is also a focal point for garden tours (both are members of the North Surrey Horticultural Society) and other such gatherings, and with six grandchildren, the annual family barbeque often hosts upwards of 30 people.

Personally, I can't think of a better place to spend time with family than this serene garden, a peaceful landscape which is simply an honest reflection of the couple who created it.

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Recent visitors:
Lynn Valley Garden Club of North Vancouver, B.C. (June 13, 2015)
Petal Pushers Garden Club of Langley, B.C. (June 18, 2015)

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