Alberta Garden: Connie and Dave Prendergast

Beautiful Garden

Connie and Dave Prendergast

Sedgewick, Alberta

When they lived on Vancouver Island, Connie and Dave Prendergast didn’t think too much about gardening. Greenery was all around them and most of the time they rented their homes, anyway. But when the moved to Alberta to help with a sick parent, they found they missed a certain lushness of the landscape.

About 11 years ago, they bought a house in Sedgewick. Around the same time, Connie’s mom bought a new build and hired a landscape designer. When Connie saw how the designer transformed her mother’s yard, she thought of BC. This was something she could do.

The home they bought had been owned by an older couple who loved to garden, but who hadn’t been able to take care of the yard for years. Connie watched the garden. When a new flower came out, she would go to the internet to try and figure out what it was and how to care for it. “As I learned to amend the soil and add stuff and take care of it, I found things coming up more and more every year, things that weren’t there the first few years. Like lilies and tulips.” 

She didn’t really plant much, though; then eight or nine years ago a massive storm hit and took down seven trees, including big evergreen outside her kitchen window. The neighbours helped them clear away the brush, but when it came to the stump, Dave said either he could take it out or Connie could grow a garden around it. She chose garden.

Connie put in shade plants and the garden just grew from there. “I like shade plants, with the big leaves, the ferns, the variety, colours and textures. I almost like that more than I like flowers,” she confessed. There are quite a few gardeners who surprise themselves by feeling this way. She does have an affinity for peonies, though.

What Connie does not have an affinity for is the slugs that invade her garden. She didn’t notice any until she put in some strawberry plants in 2013. “The next two or three years, they started to get worse and I started to get concerned,” she says. She tried beer traps and crushed eggshells and a number of other remedies, but nothing worked. “Finally, I broke down and decided to do what some of the people online were saying and go out at dawn and dusk and just pick them.”

She got about 200 per day for 2 or 3 weeks straight, which reduced the numbers significantly. Then the next spring, Connie pulled up some bricks to remove the grass beneath them and found a bunch of slug eggs. She put in cement powder to discourage egg-laying. That worked for a few years.

This year, with all the rain, the slugs have been back and Connie has gone to war. She’s back to picking them at dawn and dusk, armed with a bowl of soapy water and an orange peeler, which she says works well to skewer them. When there are a lot of slugs to get, though, she just does it bare hand. “If you grab them fast enough, they don’t get a chance to slime you,” she says.

Every year she puts in a few new plants that she hasn’t had before. It’s usually 4 or 5, but this year she got to 16. There is ligularia, woodruff, red astrantia, tickseed and baptisia. She also got a piece of her mothers Turkestan burning bush. 

Photos by Shauna Dobbie and Connie Prendergast

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