The couple’s 3,000-square-foot home with expansive West Coast yard continues to evolve
Nestled in a forest of tall conifers, knee-high ferns and serpentine pathways clad in gem-like polished glass, this garden resembles a fairytale setting and it’s hard to believe that it’s just steps from a busy thoroughfare in Cordova Bay.
It’s also a short climb from the water and surprisingly free from traffic noise.
The back door of the house opens onto a sea of vibrant greenery and wild nature, while the street side landscape is more formal. The latter features an arbor adorned with roses, honeysuckle, clematis and vines separating two distinct garden areas: one with lawn and the other with raised planters filled with flowers and herbs.
Diane and David Allan have lived in this 3,000-square-foot home and sprawling West Coast garden for nearly 40 years, and explain that the property is constantly evolving, inside and out.
“We’ve done so many repairs and renovations that we’re fixing the repairs now,” David said.
Diana explained there wasn’t much choice on the market when they bought the house, “but this suited them well because they were a blended family with five children, four of whom were teenagers.
The couple appreciated the fact that their three boys could sleep in one suite downstairs, while they and their two daughters could be in three bedrooms upstairs.
The Allans brought in a large picnic table and the family soon discovered that this home had hidden assets, “plenty of areas to go to if you want to be alone.”
The garden also became a haven for the whole family and is now one of Victoria’s hidden gems and is featured on the Victoria Hospice Teeny Tiny Tour. However, it is only seen as a virtual tour as on-street parking is almost non-existent.
Diane and David work well together and have always enjoyed working on projects. At the age of 72, one of his greatest challenges was to take out the former high-pile carpet and lay new wooden floors. He worked his way through the house step by step, one room at a time.
A man with a keen artistic eye and a double degree in art, his career has been in education administration. He was Headmaster until his retirement and soon after returned to his love of art and is now going strong at 86 having created most of the artwork in their home.
Diane, 78. As a hobby interior designer, she also has an artistic sensibility.
“I’ve always been interested in house and home magazines,” she said with a chuckle, and after working in the federal government for 24 years, she ran her own dried flower company called Earthborne Designs. Among other things, she worked as a floral designer for the Aerie Resort.
She then worked as a real estate agent for several years before retiring a second time.
Now, with over 30 years of gardening experience and many courses under her belt, she has taken up writing and recently penned a book of quirky rhymes and poems about her garden environment.
Together, the two have enjoyed developing their landscape, which includes many quirky details including a gazebo, a Corvette mobile, a greenhouse, a variety of sculptures among the ferns, forest trails, and even a small garden for elves – something that The couple’s nine grandchildren have found themselves irresistible over the years.
Of course, the Allans never need to escape to a cottage, having combined both a home in the city and a country getaway into one.
“When we bought the house the front was mostly lawn and a vegetable garden, which we continued to use for some time,” she said, but now it’s become a lush herb and flower garden defined by a long trellis, that David built.
Noting that the trellis has been up for so long that they’ll soon have to replace it, she added that she’s also had to adapt to working with raccoons, rabbits, deer and river otters.
As the property is mostly rock on the water side they almost all grow in pots and what is not in a pot is a ‘volunteer’ that simply grew naturally and was spread by birds or wind.
Inside, they have extensively renovated the kitchen, transforming it from an earlier galley style with a U-shaped counter into a much more usable workspace
They decided to open it up and incorporate a stainless steel countertop—long before it was trendy—and a long wooden table. They eat at the counter and say the stainless steel is a miracle and have never looked back.
Since the ceiling is slanted they couldn’t move cabinets upstairs, but that was a hidden bonus as it left room to hang more of David’s abstract art.
They love the kitchen because they each have their own space thanks to two separate hobs. Diane notes that David is the chef and she is the sous chef preparing. chop and clean up. “David rarely follows a recipe, he improvises and is a great cook.”
Together they had a busy, productive and fun retirement, with creative projects around the house and yard to keep them busy and engaged. And it definitely doesn’t look like a granny flat.
Victoria Hospice Teeny Tiny Garden Tour
When: Sunday 12 June
Where: Five gardens in James Bay, two in Fernwood, two in Vic West and two in the Maplewood area of Saanich
Tickets: $25 at Capital Iron in Victoria and the West Coast; GardenWorks at Blenkinsop, at Oak Bay and Colwood; and heirloom linens in Broadmead Village
A NOTICE: Visit victoriahospice.org for full details