Joannie and Wilson Winnitoy will welcome people to their Jones Road garden during the 16th annual Ladysmith Rotary Garden Tour

Winnitoys’ garden is full of history and colour

Joannie and Wilson Winnitoy are hosts on the Ladysmith Rotary Garden Tour, Show and Sale for the first time.

As an artist, Joannie Winnitoy loves the bright colours she can play with when she paints with acrylics. And when she takes you on a tour of her garden, her love of colour comes through in every corner of the yard.

Joannie and her husband Wilson live at 5062 Jones Rd., and their property is a  stop on the Ladysmith Rotary Garden Tour, Show and Sale Sunday, May 26.

With azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs, fruit trees and much more, the Winnitoys’ yard is full of colour and beauty, but it’s also steeped in history.

Jones Road was named after Walter Jones, who was one of the first oyster barons on Oyster Harbour, explained Joannie. Jones owned this property and a number of others beside it, and Joannie believes one of the first things he likely did was plant the five cherry trees in her yard, which she thinks are about 100 years old.

“Walter was from Wales, and Walter and his brother ‘Bubba’ moved the Jones Hotel into Ladysmith from Wellington, but they also moved three bunkhouses down by the water so they could run an oyster plant,” said Joannie. “That [bunkhouse] is where Walter’s granddaughter lives now.”

Walter Jones’s granddaughter is Myfanwy Plecas, who was instrumental in the Festival of Lights. Plecas and her husband  John lived in the Winnitoys’ house for about 30 years.

“A lot of the things you see blooming, they planted in the 1970s,” noted Joannie.

The Winnitoys moved to Ladysmith in spring  2010. Before moving here, they spent more than 30 years on an acreage in Bragg Creek, Alta., at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, while working in Calgary. They grew as much as they could, but they’re both thrilled with the gardening they’ve been able to do in this climate.

“I loved the idea of gardening but couldn’t do much,” said Wilson.

“We said we moved to the Island for food and family, and then we added climate,” laughed Joannie, noting they have family in Cobble Hill, and they always wanted to grow their own food. “It’s a gorgeous yard. It was hard not to fall in love with it; we didn’t even try.”

The Winnitoys love the idea of producing their own food, and their garden produces cherries, Bartlett pears, Asian pears, Concord grapes, Haskap berries and strawberries, as well as an assortment of herbs. Since moving onto the property, they have expanded the vegetable garden at least three times the original size, and they grow beans, arugula, beets, potatoes, garlic and much more.

This will be the Winnitoys’ first time being part of the Garden Tour.

“We’ve been on the garden tours every year since we moved here,” said Joannie. “From the very first, I thought I want to be able to share this yard.”

During the Garden Tour, Joannie will display some of her paintings and will open up her studio to the public.

For people who have less of a green thumb, the Winnitoys’ yard features many interesting antiques, and they will be displaying their 1956 Buick antique car, while a friend from Victoria will bring up his live steam-powered model locomotive that he built and will have it running. Wilson’s parents bought the Buck new in 1956 when he was 16 years old and they lived in Regina. In 1983, he and his friend — the same friend who is bringing the steam-powered locomotive model for the Garden Tour — restored the car, and today, he says it looks the same as when his parents bought it off the lot.

Both Joannie and Wilson have always loved gardening, and that stems from a love of being in nature. They also both come from families that enjoyed gardening.

Wilson and Joannie have always had a small vegetable garden, and after visiting Tuscany, they became particularly interested in growing their own food.

“We’ve gone to a little village in Italy where they garden and fell in love with it,” said Joannie. “Tuscany is well known for the food. I think we learned a lot from them. We both love food, we love to cook, we love to cook with fresh food, and we love to work with plants.”

The 16th annual Ladysmith Rotary Garden Tour, Show and Sale takes place Sunday, May 26. The Show and Sale at Aggie Hall is open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the Ladysmith Community Gardens at High Street and Second Avenue is hosting an open house from 1-3 p.m.

Tickets for the self-guided Garden Tour are $15, which includes the garden pass, program and map. All proceeds from tickets sales, the raffle and breakfast support projects by Ladysmith Rotary. Contact Ed Nicholson at 250-924-3402 or kaixin@mac.com for more information.