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Coquitlam’s Inspiration Garden: The Garden that Lives Up to Its Name

There is a unique public garden at the corner of Guildford Way and Pipeline Road in Coquitlam. I tend to frequent it about 2-3 times a year, usually just before or after I have a landscape design consult in the area. It is not a large space but the plant material is quite diverse and it is laid out in a way to convey meaning, such as integrating edibles, providing pollination plants, and even just inspiring garden designers, such as myself.

I always like to enter by the ramped walkway right at the main corner, mostly because I love to see the everchanging carpet of groundcovers that adorn the slopes on both sides. The constant battle between numerous thymes (T. coccineus, ‘Elfin’, ‘Purple Carpet’) and the equally aggressive Gold Moss Sedum (S. acre ‘Aureum’) changes constantly, making for a different botanical tapestry with every visit.

In times past I have stumbled upon unique combinations of ornamentals and edibles, including Giant Pumpkins, Castor Bean, Purple Fountain Grass, Eggplant, Canna Lily, Banana, and Zinnia-Red Banana-Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus, edible stems), all of which impressed me immensely. There are also well-cared-for espalier and colonnade fruit trees to inspire those gardeners with smaller urban landscapes.

I can remember watching a summer class of children being taught about which plants are important for bees and why, as well as excellent signage to inform the public about which perennials provide pollen and nectar, including hardy geranium, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Campanula and roses. There is also a very ornate Mason Bee lodge perched atop one of the pavilions, providing a much-needed nesting site for the many eggs (and subsequent cocoons) they will lay to overwinter there.

You will also find a constant bustle of volunteers who answer public questions and help to maintain this beautiful landscape. Add to that garden tours every Saturday morning in April, as well as in-house workshops that teach such essentials as garden basics, composting, plant life cycles, pollinators, soil life, and container design. The latter is well-represented with many colour-coordinated planters throughout the garden, not to mention the stunning green wall created out of brilliant foliage and flowering annuals this year.

Getting back to my original purpose for visiting -- a little garden design inspiration -- I found more than a few unique plant combinations. These included Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ billowing over chartreuse Lady’s Mantle, ‘Black Lace’ Elderberry silhouetted over a nest of rich green ferns, Allium seedheads poking out of Oakleaf Hydrangea foliage, a sharp contrast of Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and golden creeping Jenny, a blue-burgundy pairing of Campanula and Berberis, flowering Catmint at the foot of a golden Oriental spruce, stately Rodgersia blooming above cool blue-foliage Hosta and most dramatic of all, a combination of Deutzia x rosea and the coral to salmon ‘Coquitlam Rose’. Needless to say, I went away impressed.

It is refreshing to experience a public garden that seeks to engage all segments of society, from the youngest to the elderly, one that is open every day from dawn to dusk with the sole purpose of inspiring us all. In doing so, Coquitlam’s Inspiration Garden is a credit to its community and more importantly, truly lives up to its name.

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