Why Tamara Taggart Loves Her Garden

Tamara Taggart on her growing family, both at home and in the garden.

Credit: Terry Guscott | Stylist: Heather Cameron

Despite a busy career and a growing family, Tamara Taggart takes the time to dig into her garden to create a home-based retreat

These days, Tamara Taggart specializes in nurturing: she is expecting a baby in August [Ed’s note: Tamara gave birth to her beautiful daughter Poppy Estelle Caton Genn on August 16, 2010], her son Beckett is not yet three, her daughter Zoë is 20 months old, her Airedale terrier Stanley is barely out of puppyhood – and her garden is also in its infancy. Tamara stewards all this young life with the positivity and enthusiasm that has endeared her to television viewers across B.C. 

Since 2001, Tamara has been the weeknight weathercaster for CTV. This assignment often finds her on location around southern B.C. Despite her demanding schedule, she makes time to welcome grade-four students to the studio and teach them how the weather works. Tamara playfully adds, “I wanted to be a teacher when I was younger, and this is a fun way to spend my Wednesday afternoons.” 

Tamara Taggart and her dog Stanley welcomes GardenWise to her Vancouver home
Welcoming us through the garden gate are Tamara and Stanley. Despite being a terrier, Stanley leaves the garden digging to Tamara.

Host of a recent CTV gardening spot called Way to Grow with Tamara, she is a hands-on gardener at home. Her own backyard provides her and her young family with the perfect retreat. “Beckett and Zoë love being outside – they would much rather be outdoors than in. Gardening is a beautiful way to spend your time, and I hope my kids think so, too.” She jokingly adds, “And I look forward to when I can teach them how to weed!” 

Tamara credits her love of horticulture to her mother, who is “an incredible gardener and still helps me out.” Before moving to her current property, Tamara tended an established garden at her previous home. “I worked hard in that garden for four years. It was a great garden with lots of privacy – and it was also a good selling feature.”

A Stewartia tree at Tamara Taggart's Vancouver homeA Stewartis tree planted for Tamara’s son Beckett anchors a front bed with hydrangeas, forget-me-nots, white astilbe and striking Himalayan blue poppies.

In August 2008 Tamara, her husband Dave, and their son Beckett moved into their current home. “Even though the house looks heritage, it was only built five years ago – so everything works!” The garden was a little rough though: “It was overgrown, with morning glory everywhere.” 

A month after they moved in, Zoë was born. “I spent that winter looking after a newborn and fantasizing about the garden,” recalls Tamara, “I got ideas from books and magazines. Plus, we like to walk in the neighbourhood and look at local gardens. I like order, but not too much. I wanted an English-cottagey look.”

The first step, however, was to clear out the overgrown shrubbery and prepare a clean canvas. “After talking to the folks at the City, we realized the Norway maple in the backyard wasn’t appropriate. It would get to be 80 feet high and wide, so we got permission to replace it. At a nursery in Pitt Meadows, we picked out a hornbeam. In May 2009, the maple was removed with a crane and the hornbeam placed in the same spot. It’s perfect there.”

Tamara Taggart at home with daughter ZoeZoë learns to manage a trowel beside one of several gnomes in Tamara’s collection.

In terms of an overall plan, Tamara concludes, “It was a no-brainer. There were so many plants I loved and wanted. I like the edge that boxwoods make, so the beds were lined with small boxwoods. To make room for perennials, grass was removed completely to the left of the front gate. The Himalayan blue poppy in this bed is a showstopper. Everyone stops to comment on this beauty when it blooms.” 

Beyond the white picket fence along the sidewalk are Tamara’s trademark boxwoods planted in front of a Rosa rugosa hybrid ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’. “This rose is so pretty, hardy, and smells delicious – a great rose.” 

Beyond the white picket fence grow hybrid rugosa roses ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’.

Fragrance is high on Tamara’s list – as demonstrated by some of her other favourites. Edgeworthia chrysantha (“intoxicating winter scent”), sweet box (“another winter fragrance – I’d love to do a hedge of these one day”) and lily-of-the-valley (“beautiful, pretty and the perfume – I want them everywhere!”). 

Even though the front of the house faces south, a birch on the boulevard provides afternoon shade. This allows Tamara to grow hostas and ferns, especially sword ferns (“a garden 
staple of mine”) and maidenhair ferns, which she notes are dainty and sweet compared with the sword fern’s sturdiness. 

Violets are quickly filling in a corner in the backyard.

Along in the move came two trees from their former garden. “We planted the Stewartia when Beckett was born, so of course it came with us. It’s doing well by the front porch. The ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud wasn’t as happy being transplanted.”

In the backyard, a major goal is to create privacy. A fast-growing hedge will provide screening at one side of the property, and a row of trees, including the hornbeam and two magnolias, will gradually fill in on the other. 

Tamara chuckles when asked about her gnomes. “I have two in the garden, two in the house and one at work. Gnomes have been a favourite of mine for a long time – they’re so cute! I owned quite a few before I even had a garden.”

Hornbean tree in Tamara Taggart's gardenThe hornbeam tree punctuates a bed with two magnolias.

A bit nervous about being featured in GardenWise, Tamara admits that her garden “isn’t where I dream it to be yet.” Still, even in its infancy, it’s giving her what she wished for: “I truly believe that a garden makes a home. I wanted to create a private sanctuary that is full of colour and scents for my family to enjoy.” Asked what a day in the garden can feel like for her family, she reflects, “Dave and I love sitting with the kids on the back deck watching the birds fly from yard to yard – it’s pretty exciting when you’re one and two years old.”

Beautifully displayed succulents from Western Independent Greenhouses.

All in all, Tamara reflects that there are few things she would rather do than spend a day in her garden with her fast-blooming family: “I have a busy life but gardening has never been a dreaded ‘chore’. It’s fun, creative and incredibly rewarding. I love how our garden changes daily and always brings a smile to my face.”

And it’s an inspiration for all of us – no matter how busy – to leap in and get gardening. Way to grow, Tamara!

Tamara invites everyone to keep up with her and her growing family at her Modern Mommy blog. 

Succulents courtesy of W.I.G

The following plants are hardy to the zone numbers indicated (turn to page 6 for our zone chart.) Adiantum aleuticum (maidenhair fern) – zone 3 • Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ (dwarf boxwood) – zone 6 • Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ (columnar hornbeam) – zone 4 • Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (eastern redbud) – zone 5 • Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley) – zone 2 • Edgeworthia chrysantha – zone 8 • Meconopsis hybrids (Himalayan blue poppy) – zone 5 • Polystichum munitum (sword fern) – zone 3 • Rosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ (R. rugosa hybrid) – zone 3 • Sarcococca humilis (sweet box) – zone 6 • Stewartia pseudocamellia (tall stewartia) – zone 5