Tami and Bernd Becker’s acreage is full of little secrets. You might think that no yard could be more open, because it is on a side hill above the Sturgeon Golf Course, yet the pair designed the entire .8 acres as if it contained a series of private outdoor rooms.
“It was just an open farmer’s field before but now it has paths that meander and wind and bring you to different spaces and different views,” said Tami, who credits Bernd as the main designer of their company, Becker’s Landscaping.
The first surprise comes as you begin to walk around the house towards the back yard because you are forced to look at your feet as you walk down a rock staircase. The rocks are big, perhaps a metre or more across, but they are uneven so that the effect is much like being on a mountain ledge.
“That was purposely done. The uneven natural stone forces you to look down and see the beauty of the rock,” Bernd said.
Bernd was influenced by books he read about Chinese walk gardens, which were designed and enhanced over thousands of years for the emperors. Spaces in the Chinese gardens were planned as reflection areas, where one might think about the balance between nature and man.
Bernd built up the natural hill in places to create division points in the yard. The trees and shrubs also provide privacy screens so every part of the acreage has a different purpose and layout.
Once around the side of the Beckers’ house, the eye is drawn toward the waterfall focal point. The water cascades like a mountain waterfall into a small pool.
“The water feature was where we started the landscaping eight years ago. We started with the rock wall,” said Bernd.
Rocks transported from Valemount, British Columbia were layered up the side hill.
“The largest stone weighs 44 tons,” said Tami.
The edges of this manmade cliff are planted with rhubarb and Ingleman ivy.
“Ingleman ivy is good for an area like this because it doesn’t need support,” said Tami, as Bernd added that he likes the rhubarb because it is beautiful and spreads over the rocks.
“Rhubarb is decorative and functional as well. We share it with the neighbours and it goes into pies,” he said.
Climb up the stairway beside the falls, and you come to a kind of T-intersection. One path heads west for a view overlooking the Sturgeon River Valley. The other, heads east beside a huge perennial flowerbed. Raspberries grow behind the paths and tucked in between the perennials, Tami has a tiny fairy garden. Trees were planted to provide different shapes and colours throughout the seasons.
“The evergreens are nice in winter. The Amur Maakia provides structure and interest. The Silver Cloud maple never turns red but the colour is also interesting. Autumn blaze maples have a nice shape and are the most brilliant orange colour. In spring there are lilacs. The ninebark shrub is purple coloured all season long,” Bernd said.
Another vista can be seen on the edge of Bernd’s manmade cliff above the waterfall. Strangely, when you sit up there, you cannot hear the water falling below, because the rocks and the trees soften the noise.
“We call this Inspiration Point,” said Tami. At night you see the lights of St. Albert.”
Back down below, a flat, grassy area leads to the swimming pool, which, like everything else in this yard, is private. The grass and the pool are in constant use from May to October.
The Beckers work together in this yard with a shared love of nature. As they walk along their zigzag paths between the differently landscaped galleries, they stoop and grab a weed or clear fall debris from the path. Their acreage is stunning with the autumn colours accentuating each of the carefully placed rocks. But for Tami, no one season stands alone in its glory. Her garden unrolls along the pathways like a Chinese scroll.
“You should see it in the spring,” she said. “In the spring the fruit trees are in blossom and so are all the bulb flowers. It is beautiful in the spring!”