A single-file dirt path ribbons into my favourite kind of garden; not wild, exactly, not tame or manicured either. A riot of knee-high, waist-high, chest-high plants jostle, shove and elbow their neighbours for a good space in the sun. A single leafy tree—maybe a linden—pushes skyward, rising above the Joseph’s coat of blossoms. I recognize yellow iris and those little white flowers might be mock orange, but I have no clue what to call the purple bottle brushes lining the path or the lurid fuchsia shrubs nestled here and there among the jungle of greenery that will blossom in its own turn throughout the summer.
My friend, Kelly, stoops to sniff red flags on slender stems crowded around a spreading pine. I walk ahead so engrossed in colour and scent, birdsong and burbling water music that Skaha Lake startles me when it jumps from behind the screening trees. In the sudden opening gaudy peonies wave their swollen pink heads. I just stop and look.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I marvel at the incredible skill it took to craft this landscape, to create a garden that looks so random, feels so natural. The project actually began as a hobby when Ken Hayter and his wife Margaret started making small changes on the fruit farm that had been in his family for 75 years. In 2000, as the hobby got completely out of hand, the couple decided to take it all the way. Streams and ponds appeared in the dry orchard lands and old fruit trees gave way to decorative new trees, flowers and shrubs. Pathways now wind so cleverly among the screening foliage that the garden seems to go on forever, though it extends over just nine acres.
Frog City Café
The Hayters added a unique atrium-style building lit by clerestory windows with cool tile floors and soaring exposed beams. Greened by an indoor forest, the inviting structure hosts the Frog City Café with seating inside and on the expansive patio near the lily pond. Open daily, the café offers a specialty beverage bar serving cappuccino, espresso and plain brewed coffee, loose leaf teas and Italian sodas. The breakfast and lunch menus feature homemade—homemade bread for toast and sandwiches, homemade soup and fresh salads, even homemade ice cream. In a unique touch, Frog City also lays on picnics. If you’ve got a group of 20, they’ll pack up the fried chicken, salads and strawberry shortcake.
Brides have discovered Linden Gardens, for obvious reasons. Along with grassy alcoves for the ceremony and on-site catering, the photo ops are over the top. I hate to run with a cliché, but this truly is a garden of Eden. Really!
Land developer Jim Ritchie saw dollar signs on these golden hills in 1905. By 1909 plans for subdividing the land and installing irrigation were well in the works, but how could he hope to attract buyers to a town with no name? In a marketing stunt to humble today’s Madison Avenue crowd, he organized a contest with a townsite lot as the prize. On March 24, Rev. Walter Russell of Toronto hit the jackpot. His winning entry combined the Greek word “kalos” (beautiful) with the biblical garden of apple tree fame, Eden: Kaleden.
Ritchie’s visions of grandeur were looking good with the opening of the Kaleden Hotel (unusual for its concrete construction), until the outbreak of war in 1914. The hotel never reopened and was eventually stripped to the ruin now standing near Linden Gardens as a whimsical backdrop for those wedding pics.
Published in Okanagan Life, April/May 2014.