Tribune Staff Writer
Perched on a terrace above the Fraser River, Maureen Byman has created an unlikely lush oasis filled with flowers.
Byman has spent years working on her garden, which has at least five flower beds and many more flowers planted around the yard.
“My intention lay in creating a really pretty yard and landscape,” she says.
Now, 14 years years later, the gardens just keep growing.
“Maureen can’t have anything without flowers around it,” Byman says of herself, pointing out a functioning outhouse on her property decorated with a border of flowers.
When Byman and her husband Everett retired to the Cariboo from Prince George in 1997, they refitted a barn to live in. Since that time they have built a house and started a small haying operation.
Byman started planting flowers in 1999 as something to do.
“I don’t knit and I don’t sew and I can’t hike anymore, so I have to be busy. You can only clean your house so much,” she says, laughing. She added that her house is much cleaner in the winter because she has no flowers to look after.
Although she spends much of her time researching flowers before she plants them — a well thumbed copy of Flora, a book containing descriptions of over 20,000 plants that is often known as the “Gardener’s Bible,” sits by her chair — Byman says her approach to laying out a flower bed is unorthodox.
“I’ve taken some landscaping classes. They like you to take a hose and plan it all out, then lay out your shrubs, etc.,” she says.
“I did it completely backwards. I planted it first and after everything was planted I then thought, I need some shrubs.”
Nevertheless Byman’s flower beds are beautiful, filled with flowers and plants including hardy northern roses, lilies and Heuchera — one of her favourite types of plants.
“Their foliage is just so beautiful,” Byman says.
It takes Byman about five years to get the proper growth in her flower beds.
“It takes plants a couple of years to get their roots down, and if they’re happy they’ll grow really well. If they’re not happy you have to move them and find something else that will work,” she says.
When Byman plants, she also works to make sure her gardens bloom in succession. She starts in April with snow drops and crocuses and the garden stays colourful until October.
Her flower beds also have different colour schemes throughout the year, some starting pink and purple and white in the spring and changing to yellow, orange and royal blue as the seasons change.
“I like it early spring, and then I like it when all the lilies are blooming,” she says showing off a lilly regal that “scents up the whole yard.”
“I don’t think I have a garden without lilies,” she says. “I don’t think I could plant a garden without lilies.”
Despite being located farther south than her previous home in Prince George, Byman says it is more difficult to garden here.
“This climate is actually more challenging,” she says.
In the late fall it gets cold without snow cover to keep the plants warm. Byman does her best to put mulch and other cover over her plants to make sure they survive the winter.
On top of that, the climate is drier and for many years Byman didn’t have a water connection in order to water her flowers.
“Nothing got really well watered,” she says “And water is the key issue for plants.”
Three years ago Byman’s husband put in an electric pump and ever since Byman has been able to water to her “heart’s content.”
“I probably over water now,” she laughs. “The plants just look so happy when they have water.”
In the summer, watering takes up a good portion of Byman’s time, however with the water she says come the weeds. She also works on keeping her garden edged and her flowers deadheaded.
“There is a lot of deadheading,” she says, reaching up to remove some spent flowers in her garden.
Once a plant has finished blooming Byman will often cut it back. “That opens the garden again and you see a different aspect of it,” she says.
Byman’s latest project is making a living wall next to her driveway out of different kinds of drought hardy plants.
“I like the challenge and seeing how things come together.”