MacDonalds say their gardens
are a labour of love,
and a love of labour

By Liz Dadson

Home & Garden

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Annette and Malcolm MacDonald stand in the favourite spot of their backyard gardens, at their home on the corner of Princes and Lambton Streets in Kincardine

The relaxing backyard at the home of Malcolm and Annette MacDonald, 816 Princes Street, Kincardine

The beautiful front gardens at the MacDonalds home

Malcolm and Annette MacDonald sit on the bench on the boulevard in front of their home at 816 Princes Street, Kincardine

The Knot Garden

A Black Locust Twisty Lady tree sits in the front yard of the MacDonalds' home, on the one patch of grass they continue to tend

Trees, shrubs and flowers around the carriage house in the backyard

Malcolm MacDonald stands beside the pond in the backyard

Another view of the pond in the backyard at the MacDonalds' home at 816 Princes Street, Kincardine

Walk into the home of Malcolm "Mac" and Annette MacDonald on Princes Street, Kincardine, and you are surrounded by heritage and a love of maintaining the historic beauty of their home.

That love extends into their magnificent gardens which feature many marvellous delights and fascinating treasures. 

These gardens are among the eight included on this year's "Through the Garden Gate" tour, sponsored by the Kincardine Horticultural Society.

Annette says that Mac is the gardener, and she is just the helper.

Surveying the beautiful surroundings in the backyard, Mac admits it's a labour of love, but also a love of labour, bringing with it a lot of work.

But he doesn't mind because he enjoys the result of that hard work.

Mac's family originated in Kincardine. His great- grandparents were here in 1858, and he was born and raised on the Southline.

He and Annette lived in California where they had successful careers and were raising their son, Jeff. Then, almost 30 years ago, they decided to return to Kincardine where most of Mac's relatives live.

"This is really home," says Mac. "Half the town is related to me. We decided it wasn't fair for our son to not be around family."

Mac has loved gardening since he was a kid. "My mother had a huge garden. She grew vegetables and flowers and fruit trees. I loved working with her in the gardens."

When they moved to their Princes Street home in 1985, there was nothing in the front or backyard except lawn and a hedge.

Mac started by landscaping the area, and put down flagstone pathways.

Then, all his hard work was almost destroyed in 1991 by the condominium fire across the road.

"We thought we were going to lose the house," says Annette. "The fire destroyed the hedge in the backyard which we replaced with a wall."

"It was a serious fire," adds Mac. "The cinder blocks were huge, and the flames were spreading. There were reports that sails were on fire in the harbour. The fire also destroyed a number of roofs in the area."

Fortunately, the MacDonalds' home suffered little damage. The heritage home was built by John Watson in 1860 and has many distinct heritage features, including the original windows.

There have been some pitfalls along the way, says Mac, including the eruption of a six-foot hole in the backyard which turned out to be an old community well. After consulting with the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, the MacDonalds had the hole filled with cement.

Another morning, Mac went out to the backyard to see that grubs and skunks had destroyed the lawn, so he took up the grass and replaced it with flowers, shrubs and trees.

Seventeen years ago, they put a pond in the backyard. And every year, Mac adds something unique to the gardens.

Walk through them, and you'll find a Bing cherry tree, an apricot tree, a Japanese pear tortuousa tree, a Japanese lilac, a Ginkgo tree and a red maple.

The fire of 1991 destroyed the 100-year-old maples on their property, says Mac, but the carriage house in the backyard was not damaged.

Over the past 15 years, Mac has been adding to the boulevards around their property at the corner of Princes and Lambton Streets.

"I do a lot of consulting and visiting while leaning on that hoe," jokes Mac. "I was one of the first to put flowers on the boulevard, and gradually, the neighbours have started planting theirs. It's nice to have it all spruced up because this is a prominent corner and there is a lot of pedestrian traffic." 

About 250 people per year come through the gardens, says Mac. "We welcome people to come and wander through them."

In addition, Mac developed the gardens at Knox Presbyterian Church where they are members. He continues to maintain those, as well as improve and change his own gardens at home.

He installed an in-ground sprinkler system that runs through the front and backyard and out to the boulevard.

One special find, he says, is a classic rose which is more than 80 years old, growing to the west of their property, which Mac tends regularly. "Last year, it had more than 200 blossoms."

He likes to plant miniature shrubs, especially around the pond, but for colour spots, you can't beat annuals. The gardens also feature a lot of perennials and ferns which don't take as much work.

And on the corner facing Princes and Lambton Streets, is the only patch of grass Mac continues to tend, on which sits a special tree, a Black Locust Twisty Lady.

Mac and Annette MacDonald welcome you to visit their gardens at 816 Princes Street, as part of the "Through the Garden Gate" tour which runs Sunday, July 7, Noon to 4:30 p.m., rain or shine. Tickets are $12 each in advance, or $15 on the day of the tour. They can be purchased at Quinn Florist, Jerome Flowers, Kincardine Curling Club or the day of the tour.

The following homeowners also have their gardens on the tour:

  • Bob & Eileen Hogan, 111 Shevchenko
  • Duncan & Sandy Elston, 112 Shevchenko
  • Pete & Patti Richards, 804 Princes Street
  • David & Sylvia Leigh, Huron Terrace
  • Mary Faubert, 288 Gordon Street
  • Tony & Eva Leonard, 990 Heritage Drive
  • Mike & Denise Tighe, 989 Heritage Drive

A unique plant in the MacDonalds' gardens, an Abies Silberlocke

Lupins in the gardens

Annette and Malcolm MacDonald stand with the classic rose which is growing on a fence behind their property on Princes Street, Kincardine

The gardens on the south side of the MacDonalds' home at 816 Princes Street, Kincardine

A rare Larch Prostrata - the only one in the area

A delightful Praying Hands Hosta

Mac has woven a Clematis in with this beautiful yellow rose on the south wall of their home

A magnificent Dogwood beside the house

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013