Helen Sebelius (left) and Carolyn MacKinnon began evaluating gardens for the Trail Garden Contest in Tadanac this week.

Helen Sebelius (left) and Carolyn MacKinnon began evaluating gardens for the Trail Garden Contest in Tadanac this week.

Trail Garden Contest – Discerning judges grading local gardens

Two out-of-town judges will be visiting 65 concealed gardens in Greater Trail over the next 2 days for the 10th Annual Trail Garden Contest

People who don’t have a background in art don’t always understand the components of a unique design, but land art can evoke feelings everybody can enjoy.

Two out-of-town judges will be visiting 65 concealed gardens in Greater Trail over the next two days to select three winners for the 10th annual Trail Garden Contest Tour that takes place on July 28.

After the judges submit their results, the Trail Garden Committee will prepare tour maps of gardens open for public viewings. The tour maps will be available by donation in Ferraro Foods the weekend before the event.

And this year’s entries will be scrutinized on some stringent and aesthetic criteria.

“Understanding the elements of a design is only one aspect of enjoying a garden,” explained Helen Sebelius, a Slocan Valley-based judge. “Another aspect is the sanctuary that a garden can offer people—to relax, meditate, think or read a book. It’s very compelling it a way, it’s like ‘Sit down. Slow down. Relax.’”

As a former art professor, Sebelius couldn’t help but make connections between sculptures and gardening.

“My bias is that I taught art for most of my life so critiquing is one of the most challenging jobs that I’ve ever had in my lifetime because you have to remain objective,” she said. “So the objective of looking at something critically plays a huge role in this. I try to put my personal biases on the side, but they certainly inform how I view things.”

Instead, her evaluations are based on understanding sculptural forms, how plants occupy space, the use of colours, textures, lines, balance, unity and repetition.

At a home in Tadanac, she explained why using a water feature to break up a flat yard was a good use of space. She began describing the soothing sounds of flowing water and the clean lines of stonework surrounding a small pond.

“That’s what I look for mostly—how I feel when I go into that situation,” she said. “Is it a living, breathing arrangement of all of the parts and can I experience relief from the busy, everyday, world. It is a kind of a sanctuary.”

But Carolyn MacKinnon, a Castlegar-based judge, assessed garden design from a slightly more clinical perspective.

“We’re given an adjudication form that covers cleanliness, general arrangement, quality of the materials, variety and period of bloom,” stated MacKinnon.

“But things I like to see are good coordination of colours, variety of the structure and some continuity in the garden. It’s very challenging because we want to give everybody merit—these gardens are all beautiful.”

The winners will be awarded prizes on July 24 at the Colombo Lodge Piazza around 7 p.m. Gardening enthusiasts can attend the event, toast one another and enjoy refreshments during the awards ceremony.

“We’re calling it the Mad Hatter’s Tea and we’re encouraging people to wear hats,” said Lynne Worosz, a member of the garden committee. “If they do, they get a rose and that’s on the same day as the garden tour. It’s sort of like an open house.”