PHOTOGRAPHY: GLENNA PARTRIDGE
“We love the colours,” says homeowner Mark London of the contemporary tropical garden that he and his wife, Gerri, have on their sizeable condominium patio.
Establishing vibrant hues on a sufficiently large scale was essential to converting a staid ground-level area into a tropical oasis. “We needed planters big enough to make the right impact on this 1,600-square-foot terrace,” says the garden’s designer, Glenna Partridge, owner of her eponymously named company, Glenna Partridge Garden Design. “The planters I sourced are large but lightweight fiberglass containers with a copper powder finish that would naturally develop a green patina, but my clients wash and wax them annually to keep them looking brand new.”
The corner location adjacent to the False Creek Seawall provides ample south and east exposures as well as a regular warm sea breeze, ideal for plants that prefer warmer climates than Vancouver’s. “Some annuals survive the winter here,” says Partridge, who regularly updates the garden. “It’s also why tropical plants such as canna lilies grow up to six feet tall here.”
Partridge achieves vertical interest and magnificent splashes of colour from such canna lilies as “Pretoria” with its bright orange flowers and striped foliage. She also contrasts them with the intense red florals and purple foliage of the “Tropicana” cultivar.
“Gerri and I love the angel’s trumpet,” London says of the Brugmansia that Partridge adds to the canna lily mix to showcase their abundance of pendulous blooms and fragrant evening scent.
Partridge also selected a steadily blooming kniphofia for its bright orange spikes. “It’s a perennial that absolutely thrives on seaside air,” she says. “And hummingbirds love it.”
Hummingbirds likewise favour the salvia guaranitica “Black & Blue” with its tiny purple flowers and intense green leaves that contrast nicely at a lower level with the bright lime of sweet potato vines (ipomoea batatas). An intense orange and purple combination of flowering calibrachoa likewise brightens the garden’s base. “There has to be a lot of contrast in both the plant colours and textures to achieve a tropical ambience – especially within the containers to make them eye-catching,” Partridge says.
The garden is certainly not excessively flash. The patio features quiet spaces with silver artemisia and quaint succulents. “What Glenna does so skilfully is combine all the colours so that there’s an overall balance of softness and brightness that you appreciate as a whole,” London says. “There’s no one element that sticks out. It all works together. That’s why I love all of it so much.”
A hedge of yew is trimmed to maintain a clear ocean view while affording privacy from the walkway and bicycle path that run approximately six feet lower outside the property. Partridge integrated the location of the exterior trees within her design to create additional privacy without hindering the water view.
“Sometimes all you need to do to break an outsider’s view into a private area is situate a tree so it appears between two larger ones located off the property,” she says. “Another trick is placing a smaller tree within a large planter, even if it’s going into a flower bed, so it’s instantly two or three feet higher.”
Keeping the boxwood shaped as little globes requires pruning by hand, but it’s worth the effort to maintain the garden’s uniqueness. “We really appreciate how original it looks,” London says. “No one else has anything like it.”
He and his wife contacted Partridge after noticing her work with container plants at a townhouse directly across the street from them. “We liked what she was doing so we asked her to come up with an architectural sketch that would be approved by our condo association,” he says. “We’ve loved working with her ever since because she always comes up with interesting new elements for us.”
The latest addition is a Peanut Butter plant (Melianthus major). “The leaves really smell like peanut butter when your rub them,” London says. •
Glenna Partridge Garden Design
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