In two simple words, Evelyn Faulkner describes her surroundings — the backyard of her Brookswood home on a crisp December evening — and it would be difficult for a visitor to find a more perfect way to say it.
Faulkner’s property — a one-acre Japanese garden — is a fairyland of tiny lights, set against an elemental backdrop of stone, water, wood and fire.
“It’s almost like you enter a different world when you go through the gate,” she says, seated on a covered stone bench, warming herself at the small fire burning in the grate at her feet.
“There is peace and quiet and calm. It’s a place to unwind.”
She calls it Thyme on 43rd — a garden Faulkner has been designing and building for the past six years, with the help of Burnaby landscape architect Hayato Ogawa. And it is, as she puts it, “a place where time stands still.”
The garden, while her own private oasis, is very much a testament to Ogawa’s skills, she says, gesturing toward a nearby wooden shelter, constructed entirely without the benefit of nails or metal of any kind, the flat stones expertly and painstakingly fitted together to create a central courtyard, the water cascading over tonnes of stones, imported from Whistler and perfectly balanced atop one another and the living roof that covers the bench where she sits.
There are no cherry trees here, but a 128-year-old maple tree and a weeping katsura (which came from a Japanese temple more than 80 years ago) hold places of honour in the garden.
Every Friday and Saturday night in December Faulkner is inviting visitors to step inside and stroll around for a while, taking in the waterfall and koi pond at its base, wandering the paths and crossing the arching footbridge which leads, eventually, to the courtyard where stones intermix with patches of the thyme for which the property is named.
All of it is lit with tens of thousands of LED bulbs — cool and warm white lights with accents of red reflecting off water and rock.
“I only decided a month ago to do this,” she says.
Then the race was on to decorate.
“We bought out every Home Depot from Vancouver to Abbotsford,” Faulkner laughs.
Here and there you’ll spot a sparkly snowman or a reindeer, but it is the strings of lights that set an elegant tone and show off Ogawa’s workmanship.
“People always ask me if I’ve been to Japan and I say, ‘No, Japan came to me,’” Faulkner smiles.
“It is, I think, a great place. He went out of his way to make it a really beautiful garden.”
If it weren’t for all the Christmas lights and the distinctly Japanese gate leading onto the street, it is unlikely anyone would even notice the garden is here. And that is just how Faulkner, who describes herself as a very private person, likes it.
But for two nights each week, she will open it to the public from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“The reason I decided to do this is that Christmas is a stressful time for a lot of people. It’s an opportunity to come away (from that),” she says.
Each Friday and Saturday evening, she will be at the gate, welcoming visitors and accepting donations for Ronald McDonald House. Faulkner chose the charity, not because she or any of her three children or five grandchildren have ever needed its services, but because it is a home away from home for families when their need is greatest. And that, she says, is what the holiday is all about.
“Anything to do with children is a passion of mine. I love Christmas. It’s an opportunity to be with family — it’s that bright spot in the winter.
“I’ve always thought of it as a season, not a day.”
Thyme on 43rd is located at 21004 43 Ave. It can be accessed off 208 Street from 42 or 44 Avenues. The garden will be open to the public from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 14, 15; Dec. 21, 22 and Dec. 28, 29.
Donations to Ronald McDonald House are appreciated.
For more information, visit thymeon43rd.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The property is also available for private functions and events.