Story by Shauna Dobbie, photos by David Johnson
Visiting the garden of a collector is always a wonder. How many varieties of the plant do they have? Where do they shop for them? The collection is invariably far beyond what is sold or what has been sold at local nurseries for many years. This is the expectation you have when go to visit the garden of esteemed judge and avid gardener Ken MacDonald in Charlottetown. When you arrive, all these assumptions fall away, and you are drawn into his incredible garden.
Ken died last summer a few weeks after our visit. He leaves behind an astonishing 900 varieties of hosta.
And yet his garden did not look like a collector’s garden. It looked like a beautifully worked and kept general garden that contained a lot of hostas.
Ken loved all plants. Foliage is of utmost importance here; flowers are just something some plants happen to produce. Occasionally they draw attention, such as with the begonias that arrest the eye. The textures and variations of size and shape are the real focus here, and Ken manages to play them off of one another with the accomplished sensitivity of a true virtuoso.
The house is at the corner of two streets, with plenty of frontage. All of it is obscured by trees and borders of grasses, shrubs and peonies, except for a bit next to a blue spruce, where you can spy a bow window behind a border of drying alliums, rodgersia and a weeping caragana.
Around the back is a series of brick pathways between lush plantings of hostas, yes, but every kind of plant that will grow on PEI, and surely some that usually won’t grow here. Trees and shrubs give a dappled shade that provides a sunny spot for a daylily and a yellow hosta here, a shady spot for a brunnera and blue hosta there. You can imagine garden parties happening in this area long ago, before so much ground was given up to vegetation. Today it is a plant enthusiast’s wonderland.