Janice Safneck’s Charleswood Garden
Not knowing what to grow in shade is often the lament of new gardeners who feel intimidated by the lack of intense sunlight in their garden. Not so for Dr. Janice Safneck. She has taken shade by the arm and welcomed it into her yard with enthusiasm and flare.
Janice also has an eye for sculpture, which is highlighted throughout the garden, some of the pieces being quite spectacular.A well-respected pathologist at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Safneck sees her garden as a haven away from the natural stresses of her career. She, and her partner, Grant Sakiyama, have an eye for layered foliage design, punctuated by colour set out in a dignified manner.
Of particular note is a stylized female figure eating chocolates, called “Chocolate Ecstasy” by artist Rose-Aimée Belanger. This sculpture’s massive rounded bronze figure is the first thing that captures the eye in the garden; its mass provides a solid contrast to the living green foliage that surrounds it.
This is just one of a number of lovely pieces in the garden. Another is a bronze sculpture, called “Close Embrace” by Morley Myers, an artist from Saskatoon who now lives and works on Salt Spring Island.
Janice sees art in structures, too. One piece is a pagoda-shaped finial from the end of a staircase in a building that had been demolished in Chicago. Janice bought that and a couple of tiles rescued from a former theatre from a company called Architectural Artifacts, Inc. In the Windy City.
But her artistic sensibilities are also stimulated by natural materials.
An imposing basalt column stands sentry by the fence on one side of the garden, echoing smaller columns elsewhere. Pots with interesting forms and textures are featured throughout.
When you enter the garden, you feel compelled to follow the limestone pathways that lead through the shade plantation under the oaks. You get lost among the plants, each one more surprising than the last. There are many unusual specimens here, growing happily in the rich soil that has been carefully provided. Among the familiar hostas (many of her varieties are not so familiar), you will find lovely surprises such as the glowing golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’), a golden zone 5 plant that seems perfectly happy in the sheltered garden. Giant rodgersia is also present with its maple-shaped leaves. You can’t help but notice the several varieties of brunnera that light up odd corners with their silvery variegated leaves. One rare beauty is Brunnera macrophylla ‘Variegata’, which has wide white margins on its heart-shaped leaves. This is a collector’s plant that is hard to find, although it is very hardy, even down to zone 2.
The garden is not only about shade. There is also a lovely meadow-like lawn with islands of beds and periphery plantings of sun-friendly annuals and perennials. But it is the shade with its air of mystery that pulls you in.
This is also a haven for birds; feeders interrupt the trees and other wildlife is quite welcome, including the baby skunk that ambled into Manitoba Gardener’s camera view then ambled, quite undisturbed, away again. Janice seemed unfazed, but she is a gardener and the fauna animate the garden almost as much as the flora.
The good doctor also loves water plants, which she cleverly grows in a number of containers on the edge of the back garden patio. They contribute an exotic air to the already exotic garden. And this is further emphasized by design touches reminiscent of the Orient; plain and red bamboo sticks rising from giant pots, an open lattice fence of unpainted wood, a magnificent carved bench on the front patio. Here, a collection of succulents and tropicals are vacationed from their indoor winter home.
This beautiful Charleswood garden is very much in keeping with the character of the area on the river side of Roblin Boulevard. Janice and Grant have captured the charm and soul of this shady place and they have simply added life.