Read on for brief but enticing descriptions of the 12 amazing properties on the Denman Island Home & Garden Tour, taking place June 15 – 16 (buy tickets here). This can help you plan your route, or perhaps simply increase the pleasure of anticipation! Your ticket will include a map and further instructions. The following list is set up to take you on a loop starting at Denman’s ‘downtown,’ just up the road from the ferry landing.
1. Denman Island Community School Children’s Garden – 1100NW Road
This garden nurtures growth of all kinds – not just botanical. Denman Island Community School has joined a growing movement in education to teach kids about nutrition and where our food comes from, reflecting the school’s “learn where you live, love where you learn” 21st Century vision.
The garden has been providing ingredients for monthly ‘Feasty Fridays’ when parents and students get together and cook for the whole school, as well as any other community members who care to join in.
A huge amount of enthusiastic community volunteer effort went into creating this garden, and there are intriguing plans for the future, which you can read about on-site, including the creation of an outdoor, open-air classroom. Denman Island Community Education Society is offering a luncheon for tour participants on both days at the Community Hall and all the funds raised will go to support this garden.
2. Ruby Slipper Ranch – Tracy Horovatin and Shayne Barker – 1428 Lacon
This straw-bale farmhouse is truly unique, lovingly built by the owners using wood that has come from within a 100 mile radius and using no drywall or plastic. The natural plaster walls are decorated with Tracy’s hand-sculpted, collaged murals, using bits of tile, mirror, shells and even her mother’s antique tea set! Shayne, a European-trained woodworker, contributes his gorgeous cabinetry and woodworking throughout.
Their home features an inspiring room committed to music and dance whose walls have been sided with old vinyl albums and records in their covers – still accessible to listen to. Another interesting feature is the ‘winter fridge’ set into the thick walls, which allows them to unplug their fridge for half the year. Tracy and Shayne (and their co-farmers) actively implement permaculture design principles on this busy working farm. On display will also be a caravan Shayne is building as a small-scale affordable housing option.
Ruby Slipper Ranch provides a prime example of modern-day back-to-the-landers, combining sustainability with beauty.
3. Dragonfly Knoll – Marc Randall and John Tallerino – 4920B Lacon
This property offers and immersion in the intimate and incredibly rich relationship between art and nature. Park on Lacon Road and take an enchanted .5k walk from the ocean’s edge, through a mature cedar forest, past magical shrines, and over a bamboo bridge to a charming, cozy, hobbit-like home and perennial garden, a prime example of native plant gardening at its most beautiful.
Exploring this property really feels like stepping into a fairy tale. One could spend the better part of a day just browsing through all the art and other whimsical details in this treasure-chest of a home. And don’t miss the art studio – not just for its contents but for its intricatly-painted interior, much like a Faberge egg. If the walk in was not enough for you, this property boasts a lush woodland trail which will continue to surprise you around every bend with more forest shrines and garden art.
4. Maresia – Selinda and Mike White – 6225 Lacon
Maresia means the ‘scent of the ocean’ in Portuguese. You understand the name as soon as you set foot in this garden. It was created and tended for many years by Jo Hepburn, a Master Gardener from Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver. A committed perfectionist, she never felt her garden was “ready” to go on the Tour, but the current owners have agreed to show off this property for the first time.
Growing up in rural Portugal, Selinda has gone back to her roots with an incredible vegetable garden, multiple ponds and an orchard with everything from 60-year-old apple trees, to quince and mulberry, as well as a chicken coop and rabbit hutch built out of left overs from the house.
She has respectfully added to Jo’s beloved flower garden creating stunningly abundant beds which seem to change colour monthly. Mike, an architect by trade, designed the beautiful, timber-framed, light-filled house perched on a ridge overlooking Baynes Sound. It is full of interesting antique pieces and an amazing art collection.
5. Jayne-Ann O’Reilly – 5240 Country
As you pass through the old wooden gate, you will find yourself in one of Denman’s secret gardens. Brimming over with established perennials – peonies, crocosmia, old fashioned roses and much more – this garden has been quietly nurtured by caring hands for many many years. Meander along grass paths and discover home-made garden art and raised vegetable beds.
Situated in the midst of this lush oasis is a charming hand crafted home. Built from locally sourced materials, the interior is bright and inviting with thoughtful decorating touches. From the cottage windows you can catch a glimpse of tranquil Morrison Marsh, home to a number of waterbirds, frogs, swans, river otters and beavers.
6. Leslie Dunsmore – 4791 East Rd.
This cottage by the sea sits above an amazing garden on a hill of bare bedrock. One new bed a year was added, using soil slowly built from compost, manure, hay, newspaper and seaweed. Terraces of wood from the property combat erosion challenges. The resulting lush flower and veggie garden provides beauty and year-round sustenance for the owner and friends. Sit on the deck and breathe in the inviting scent of Leslie’s potted lily collection while enjoying the view of the garden and beyond to Lambert Channel.
This artist’s talent and vision is apparent everywhere — from the owner-crafted home and interior woodwork, to the remarkable original paintings, cement sculptures, and stained glass windows in the house, garden and woodshed. Leslie’s painting studio is open to the public as well, offering a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of this accomplished painter’s work.
7. Kathy and Michael Rapati – 8520 Owl Crescent
The owners who built this home themselves are both artists, both builders, and both possessed of unusual vision, talent and ambition, as is abundantly clear in their house. Built with super-insulating pre-fab panels covered in concrete, this house makes an impression from a distance and from up close, thanks to its unique leaf shape, its flowing curves, and the incredible detail of the interior craftsmanship. All of the timbers in the house were salvaged and the wooden arch-ribs were made in the cellar.
The home has been filled with a diverse collection of art and furnishings which each have a story to tell. The home is still, and may always be a work in progress and the gardens are mostly natural. The grounds include a lovely herb garden and striking sculptures dotting the landscape. Be sure to take a look at their beautiful barn and its friendly residents.
8. Linda and Glenn Pollitt – 1796 Dalziel
This property has a myriad of secret gardens and transitional areas, separated by fanciful gates. Passing by stately old growth trees, note the artistic use of rocks forming an imaginary creek. Walk through the productive raised-bed vegetable garden, then left through the moon gate to a carefully designed garden containing a huge variety of plants that can thrive in ocean front conditions.
Check out the ingenious driftwood roof of the gazebo-boathouse. Stroll onto the wide veranda and peek through the windows to view the interior of this exquisite home – owner-built with antique fixtures, and reminiscent of the 1930s in every detail.
9. David and Joan Scruton – 6951 Denman Rd
Step through the breezeway into the inner courtyard of this beautiful owner-designed home to discover a happy, working farm. The 180’ curved pergola with grapes, clematis, and roses encircles an active outdoor aviary filled with cockatiels. Wander through rich and highly productive vegetable beds and covered berry garden. Stroll into the wonderful refurbished heritage barn and see all the well loved animals, horses (of all shapes and sizes), goats, chickens and dogs.
The fully-tooled furniture workshop is a carpenter’s delight. Look for evidence of this 50-year hobby in the exquisite c.1720-2000 furniture David has made throughout the hand-built house.
10. Sandy & Des Kennedy – 1670 Pickles Road (one way)
As you walk into the clearing surrounded by tall conifers, your eyes are drawn over the rolling grassy landscape to an enchanting hollow brimming with colour and intrigue. The extensive flower and shrub gardens feature hand-crafted arbours, stone pathways, terraces, a cascade and pond.
The garden focus is upon clipped evergreens and stone structures amid sentinels of eremurus and delphiniums, heritage roses, clematis, and ornamental grasses. The 35-year old fairy-tale home was made of recycled, hand-hewn materials. Whimsical flourishes of paint enliven intimate corners. Be sure to visit the amazingly productive organic vegetable garden that supplies food throughout the year.
11. Yoshi and Susan Marie Yoshihara – 3906 Wren Road
As you walk the curved driveway you will come to a serene clearing in a mature, second-growth forest. Here you will find an elegant, comfortable home incorporating Japanese touches with West Coast design (the first floor is available for viewing). The well-established flower garden features perennials, a pond and artfully laid stonework.
The productive and ever expanding organic vegetable garden also has a strong Japanese influence with some unique asian vegetables. Rich in seaweed and compost, it provides year round sustenance. The large pond supplies all of the irrigation needs for the garden throughout the dry summer months. There is a lovely woodland walk which visitors are also welcome to explore.
12. Oyster Beach Farm – Liz and John Johnston – 2621 Northwest Road
This stunning waterfront property, currently a blueberry farm, has a colourful history that is written up in full at the Denman Museum. One of Denman’s earliest farms, it features a 100-year-old metal barn shipped here from Scotland – a fascinating piece of heritage. The current owners have filled the rustic, virginia creeper covered farmhouse with nautical antiques ranging from telescopes to whale bones, reflecting their past as owners of an outdoor adventure and fishing resort.
Sheltered behind the house you will find a whimsical veggie garden which specializes in winter crops. The front garden curves by a pond and terrace, down a stone staircase with rock gardens on either side and spills out onto a rolling lawn to the beach and boat house. From here you will see a breathtaking view of Baynes Sound and the peaks of Vancouver Island.