Garden of Jonny Faykes

Jonny Faykes, St. Andrew’s, Manitoba

Dorothy Dobbie

Jonny Scott doesn’t just have a garden. He is a gardener, through and through. You can tell by the big thinking he applies to his landscape: gardens that burst with exuberant life occupy his gigantic yard from one end to the other.

We visited Jonny in 2014 when he lived in Winnipeg on an 80- by 150-foot lot on Somerset Ave. “My garden is full of plants that came from family, friends and strangers,” Jonny told us when we wrote about his city garden. Mentored by his grandmother, he said he started collecting plants when he was 13 and he still has many of them to this day. He added to his mental collection during his travels around the world and fell in love with the way they gardened in Australia. “Some of the gardens were structured but they were based on a natural look,” he says.

There are many similarities between this garden and the one we saw before. That is because Jonny brought much of the garden with him when he moved here. He also brought 20 yards of topsoil to make sure his babies were comfortable in their new home.

For the past seven years, Jonny’s mission has been to turn this acreage near St. Andrews, Manitoba, into a garden paradise. Most of the 5 acres are already filled with delightful surprises. Treasures to watch for include trees such as catalpa, not a natural in this part of the country, and a special white spruce with a golden hue that shouldn’t be so happy here in this part of Manitoba. Add to the list a sugar maple, a holly tree, some bamboo and a star magnolia, none of which are common here and which represent only a few of the many wonderful varieties he grows, and you begin to see the talent behind Jonny’s gardening success.

He also indulges his woody plant passion with common but exotic looking sumac, whose ferny leaves add a different texture among the plantings. For contrast, he has interplanted these shrubs with the deep purple of monkshood.

These plants are companions to other odd varieties of botanica, such as popcorn geranium of several types. A magenta flower on an ornamental flowering raspberry shrub from B.C. calls out to the viewer. It doesn’t really produce much fruit, but the flowers are lovely, and the seed heads are intriguing. A star-shaped red petunia, Ruellia elegans, from Brazil demands attention from both hummingbirds and people.

Annuals that normally sit sedately in containers revel in the generous soil prepared by Jonny. An eager angel’s trumpet tries to elbow an ornamental swan out of the way. Mexican marigolds taunt the green world with their brilliant orange hues. A castor bean has set seed and is covered with prickly pink casings.

This is not a tidy garden; it is one where things grow with abandon. Not that Jonnie doesn’t employ some order, he does. But he loves enthusiastic plants and sometimes they are just determined to have their way.

Big plants have free rein here. In late August, fleece flowers have already shown their finest but are still bravely flying the flags of their recent splendour. Hydrangeas are just coming into their own. Perovskia, the Russian blue sage, has the freedom to stretch here, its blue-mauve blossoms set off nicely by the pinker tones of native phlox. One can see the blue-edged blossoms of monkshood, in the background of this planting. Arctic impatiens, much maligned by those who worry about invasive species, have a place to display their orchid-like flowers here. Vigorous goldenrod highlights some young cedars. Joe Pye weed is just beginning to show bloom.

A stone pagoda lantern nestles next to a little blue spruce that shelters a nearby India Buddha, both part of an eclectic collection of ornaments from around the world that turn up throughout the garden.

For Jonnie, everything found has garden potential: tile rubble becomes an attractive slate path, pieces of Tyndall stone make a tidy pathway edging. Jonny’s garden philosophy is to work with nature, not against it.

Jonny’s property is vast and in the “back quarter”, there is a wide-open field that invites the winds to tear through his shelter belt of old and very large trees. This can wreak havoc on the garden, so it is a constant battle to keep things under control. There is always a project underway: something to fix or renew or add. Ah yes, there is always something to add. Plants are attracted to Jonny; at least it seems that way.

In a sheltered area near the field, the remains of a series of raised garden beds speak of one-time ambition to create a market garden to help support this large property, but water, or rather, lack of it, has become an insurmountable issue. The only source is a well to answer the needs of this hot, dry place. As it is, it takes eight hours to water the rest of the garden.

Gardening is a year-round pursuit for Jonny. He loves to enhance the outdoors so in November, he begins to mount his spectacular Christmas light show, with over 50,000 lights that illuminate the countryside. He has a garage packed to the rafters with Christmas decorations.

Jonny has turned his passion into a business, Domestical Landscaping. He spent nine years working with Harry Schriemer at his Molson Greenhouse, starting when he was just 15, and then for five years with Winnipeg’s landscaping division, before going to Australia to learn even more about horticulture.

He has created and completed large garden projects and small, but in every one of them, he has left a bit of his heart.