Chilliwack’s Rotary Garden Tour offers peek behind the fence

Gardens big and small all on display at this weekend's Chilliwack Rotary Club Garden and Lifestyles Tour.

Fred and Anne Hails prepare their front yard for the annual Chilliwack Rotary Club Garden & Lifestyles Tour. This year

Fred and Anne Hails prepare their front yard for the annual Chilliwack Rotary Club Garden & Lifestyles Tour. This year

The lavender in Anne and Fred Hails’ garden is busy with bees on a summer afternoon.

The fragrant rosemary grows chest high, and their fruit trees are filling with a small but healthy harvest. In one corner, an old oriental statue of a man seems to be tending the garden. In another, a bench sits in the shade of an arbor.

Separately, each detail is a hallmark of a well-tended, thoughtful garden.

But together, they create an everyday oasis in the heart of the city.

The Hails’ garden encompasses their entire city lot, where there isn’t a patch of grass in sight. In reshaping, replanting, and redecorating their property, the Hails have created what is arguably the smallest garden on the upcoming 13th Annual Chilliwack Rotary Club’s Garden and Lifestyles Tour. But it’s also one of the most compact, packing quite a punch from the moment you step onto their front walkway right through to the backyard’s themed areas.

Just inside the white picket fence, it’s easy to forget that a city street is only steps away. And as you meander around a curling pathway, there are plentiful wonders to enjoy. It could take hours to explore this little plot of land.

The Hails were inspired to re-imagine their space after taking in a Chilliwack Rotary Garden Tour. Many of the featured gardens are beautiful, sprawling acreages. So at first, Anne says, she felt the large acreage gardens weren’t relatable to her. With their small city lot, how could they ever create the same effects?

But with a little ingenuity, a few sketches of basic plans, and plenty of elbow grease, they have managed to build something of a miracle. And it’s paid off in more than just flowers and fruit. After years of living on the street somewhat anonymously, their new garden has resulted in new friendships.

“I didn’t know the neighbours until we started doing this,” Anne says, smiling in her front garden. “To me this felt more like the English garden backyards where people stop in and visit.”

It grew “bit by bit” she says, as time and inspiration allowed.

There are whimsical touches and homages to various facets of life in Chilliwack, including a themed garden for city workers. On the weekend of the garden tour, there may even be a chance to spot some members of the Royal Family.

The Hails’ garden is one of 11 that have been chosen for the tour, and each garden is unique in its own way. They stretch from Little Mountain to Chilliwack Mountain, from downtown to Sardis, and as far out as Greendale. Participants of the tour are given a map to follow, and signs will be placed around town to help navigate from home to home. There is no set order for visiting, and the gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rotarians will be on site at the entrance to each garden, and there will be chances to vote for People’s Choice Award.

Homeowners along the tour have been busily working on the final touches for the tour, ensuring every detail is in place for the big day.

But even if the gardens look perfect for the tour, being held July 11, Rotarian and tour organizer Diane Darke notes that a yard and garden is never truly finished in the eyes of its caretaker.

There’s always one more corner to perfect, one more detail to add

Tickets are available at Little Mountain Garden Centre, Minter Country Garden, Fortins in Vedder, and Tourism Chilliwack. To buy tickets online, visit www.chilliwackrotarygardentour.ca.

All the money collected from ticket sales goes toward Rotarian efforts locally. This year alone, the Rotary has given $32,000 in scholarships, has donated to help update the Chilliwack Great Blue Heron Reserve, and the Vedder River trail. The Rotary also has donated to the Chilliwack General Hospital ($100,000), Chilliwack Cultural Centre ($100,000), and are working to help eradicate polio in third world countries.

Darke reminds participants to bring along their own water for the tour, due to the recent hot weather.