PHOTOGRAPHY JANIS NICOLAY
A luxuriant and romantic Vancouver garden delights with a heady mix of old-world inspiration and lush blooms.
English gardens and Italian landscapes – that was the vision for my garden,” says designer Francesca Albertazzi, who transformed the yard of her childhood home when she and husband Sandy moved in to be close to her mother. The romance of such settings informed almost every aspect, from a palette replete with lyrical pinks and purples to fragrant cascades of frilly flowers, including riotous roses. “Roses are the focus of the garden,” she says, citing supporting players like dahlias, perennials, annuals and small trees. Together, the lush plantings create not only exuberant layers, but also a verdant spot where Francesca and family can escape for a cup of tea or sip of Prosecco.
A pergola sits at the end of the garden and has wire mesh supports for clematis and Akebia vines. The antique metal table and chairs are more than a place to perch. “Even if no one sits in this area, having the vignette there draws attention, provides a place to wander toward and makes the garden feel bigger,” says Francesca. She replaced grass with pea gravel, which is easier to maintain and reminds her of her trips to the Cotswolds. Rudy supervises.
A metal archway adorned with sweet peas, ‘Jeanne Lajoie’ roses and indigo-hued clematis marks the entrance to the kitchen garden. “We love to have dinner here,” says Francesca, seen setting the table with homegrown garlic scapes and bread baked by her mother. Potted herbs, including marjoram, thyme and tarragon, are a feast for the senses.
Francesca’s husband built the greenhouse with leftover construction materials and added a leaded glass window that once hung in the childhood playhouse that Francesca’s father built for her. The structure is nestled among blooms, including ‘New Dawn’ roses, sweet peas, foxgloves, alliums and wild fennel.
“The garden will never be finished. It will always be an evolution, and that’s the joy.”
Green metal chairs and a garden stool sit on a patio crafted from reclaimed bricks; the fence behind teems with ivy. “This spot offers a view we never had before,” says Francesca. “By moving large rhododendrons that were here farther back into the garden, I gained this ‘instant’ space behind our kitchen garden. It’s shaded by an old chestnut tree and looks out to dahlias, roses and our home beyond.”
“I try to select flowers that are right for the climate and are as pollinator friendly as possible.”
The greenhouse heats up in the summer and is the perfect spot for succulents and pepper plants, such as ‘Bishop’s Crown’. In the winter, Francesca turns on the heater and keeps geraniums, lantanas, agapanthus, lewisias and a Sicilian lemon tree here. “I also store all my dahlia tubers here in straw and cardboard; it works like magic!” she says. “Last year, I didn’t buy a single new geranium, as they all survived – thrived, in fact – over the winter.” Fresh herbs, such as basil, and dahlias, a favourite of Francesca’s, round out the mix.