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Open Garden Tour welcomes public to massive Maitland, Ont. gardens

The Maitland Garden of Hope in Maitland, Ont. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa) The Maitland Garden of Hope in Maitland, Ont. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

Mid-July is optimum garden season, where flowers and plants display their beautiful colours and smells, and on Saturday, two of the largest private gardens will open their doors to the public south of Ottawa.

At the Maitland Garden of Hope, visitors could get lost in the many trails and passageways that wind though it.

"We guess somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500 perennials and flowering shrubs," said David Cybulski. "How many varieties, it's hard to say because you plant everything in threes here, so probably at least 1,000 to 2,000 varieties of plants."

Cybulski, who along with Colleen O'Connell, started this passion project 11 years ago, with a mission statement to aid in the conservation and enjoyment of many native species.

"The plants that we plant compliment both as host plants and nectar plants for pollinators," he noted. "And plants adapt to their environment, so year to year, plants that would thrive in one location, may not thrive the following year so we're continually looking at what's really strong and what needs to change."

O'Connell says it's a year-round project, which encompasses all four seasons. 

"We are ordering in the spring, getting excited, planting in the basement and then of course the spring brings a lot of planting outside," she smiled. "Summer, my favourite season, we see everything blooming. Fall we're cutting down and getting ready for winter and in winter we put our feet up and look at those seed catalogues."

The Van Berlo Gardens in Maitland, Ont. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

On Saturday, the pair will welcome garden enthusiasts to their backyard as part of the Open Garden Tour, along with another large private garden located just minutes down the road.

"Easily I'm out here six hours a day and it's a full time hobby," said Mary Ann Van Berlo of Van Berlo Gardens. "I love it. If it was a chore, it wouldn't be fun but I do enjoy it."

Her gardens sprawl over 1.2 acres, with both a full sun garden in the front, and a shade garden with waterfront views in the back.

"Even if you're not an avid gardener, it's just relaxing to stroll through a garden, see nature, you'll see butterflies and birds flying around," Van Berlo said, who also has lost count of how many plants are showcased. 

"I've never counted but I'd say easily thousands," she laughed. "Daylilies are one of my favourite plants and I've got about 420 registered cultivars in those, and another 100 that are unnamed varieties."

There's so much to see at both gardens that walking tours could take between 60 and 90 minutes at each location.

"More if you're a real plant enthusiast and want to look at each species, but there is lots to see," Van Berlo added. 

A flower on display at the Van Berlo Gardens in Maitland, Ont. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

Both locations are also designated monarch butterfly waystations, providing nectar sources and shelter for a species that was just put on the endangered list

"The milkweed is the only host plant that the butterfly, the monarch will lay their eggs on," added O'Connell. "I had the joy this morning, one particular monarch lay her eggs through the garden."

She says anyone can register a monarch waystation in their garden by planting a list of plants like milkweed and nectar plants. 

The egg she found Friday morning will be put in an enclosure and will be provided with fresh milkweed daily. 

"I'll watch the incredible metamorphosis of this tiny egg until it turns into a beautiful monarch butterfly," O'Connell said. 

The gardens at the Maitland Garden of Hope are divided into different "rooms", with a Woodland Garden, a White Garden, gardens in memory of dear friends who have passed away, and even a hidden gem of a Zen Garden."

"We like people to not know what is around the corner," O'Connell smiled. 

Animals that have visited their yard over the year include deer, wolves, coyotes and many types of birds. 

A lily on display at the Maitland Garden of Hope in Maitland, Ont. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

The Open Garden tour runs between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and is free to attend. On average, 150-200 have visited the gardens on other dates. 

"We picked this date for a reason and that it is the maximum bloom for all of our hundreds of lilies throughout our garden," Cybulski said. 

"We learn as much from people that come through the gardens because that's one of the things gardeners do," O'Connell added. "They share their knowledge, so we'll tell somebody a little bit of information about a particular plant, and they will share something that we didn't know about another plant."

"It's great to have this passion, we would do it anyways, but it's just so much more fun to share with other people because we learn from them and they learn from us," Van Berlo said. 

Both hosts will be on site to answer any questions visitors may have, just don't ask for them to name their favourite.

"Oh boy," Cybulski sighed. 

"We have a funny saying," O'Connell jumped in. "Oh this is my favourite flower, and then we go to the next garden, no no, this is my favourite flower!" 

More information and garden addresses can be found here. Top Stories

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