There is a little slice of paradise tucked away on Dahlia Crescent in Glenmerry.
Buena Hughes’ garden is a sensory delight woven together with whimsical ornaments and trash turned architectural treasure.
The Trail resident’s hobby was given proper credit this month when she took home first place for beds and borders and overall best residential garden for this year’s Trail Garden Contest.
Hughes admits she was surprised she won because in a state of panic she discovered her garden lacked blooms and she was adding colour the day before the judges arrived.
“I don’t really want to compete.” she said. “I just want to do my garden, do my own thing, to make my own paradise so my husband (Raymond) and I can enjoy.”
Walking through Hughes’ garden is like entering a fairytale book. Beds busting with colourful flowers are neatly bordered by river rocks, and potted plants line the property that flows from the front yard oasis to backyard sanctuary.
Old dead stumps are given life with hanging ivy, succulents peak out around thorny pink roses, vines intertwine around dilapidated bed posts, the sound of waterfalls send you into a relaxing almost-hypnotic state and the scent of honey suckles mixed with grapes knock you off your feet.
It’s OK, though, because Hughes has several places to sit down and take it all in.
Perhaps the biggest artistic statement can be found in her backyard, where she has created a garden fireplace, mantle and all, in her so called living room. She carries on this outdoor living theme with a garden dining room and den that is warmed by antique lamps that hang overhead.
“In the afternoon I do the weeding and when I get bored, I sit down and my husband will come and give me a cup of tea,” she said, beaming as she sits on her outdoor couch amongst gardening books, candles, and, of course, potted plants.
Hughes has a photographic memory and has drawn inspiration from her adventures abroad working in wealthy households.
Originally from the Philippines, Hughes set off on her first adventure as a nanny for a rich newspaper man in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The family traveled and Hughes, though working, got to see the world.
Her next stint landed her in Egypt where she worked as a cook for the British ambassador.
“Every afternoon after I worked inside the house, I used to look at the gardens and I was really inspired by all these beautiful flowers, that sort of thing stays in my memory,” she said.
She continued to find beauty around her when she picked up and moved to Montreal.
On a trip to Toronto to visit a friend, Hughes met her future husband Raymond and the two relocated to Manitoba before moving to the Philippines, where they invested in a vegetable plantation. Just a few short years later, the pair came back to Canada but this time landing in Vancouver, where Hughes worked in a natural vitamin factory.
“My husband said this is not the life,” she said, recalling the long hours and apartment.
The couple picked up and bought a home in Kelowna “before the area was really booming” and got out when the market was hot, scoring a quaint home in Glenmerry.
Though travel will be reserved mostly in memory, Hughes is looking forward to a trip to Victoria, where she intends to see Butchart Gardens for the first time.
This, however, is not the first time the artistic woman has been acknowledged in the garden contest. She has won various categorizes, including garden architecture and whimsical garden.
To her the contest is a chance to make connections with other resident who have a passion for digging into their yards, to share ideas and appreciate the beauty created.
Annette Gallatin, chair of the Trail Garden Contest, sees the joy and dedication in all participants.
“The gardeners in our city take advantage of the wonderful growing climate in our part of the Kootenays, but it’s their passion, their absolute joy in tending to their growing plants that says so much about them,” she said. “We learn from each other, share tips and knowledge with each other, celebrate each other’s successes.”