05 August 2007

A couple of local Garden Jewels

It's time for a bit of a rant, this time about appreciating what we have close to home. I often grumble that I don't understand people, and that includes people in my own beloved province, many of whom think that fool in Ottawa and the other one in Halifax/Mabou are effective and good leaders. But without going off on a political tangent, let me focus my exasperation on those of us who fail to see the treasures that exist right under our noses.

Gasoline, as anyone can tell you, is well over 5 dollars a gallon in Nova Scotia now, thanks to that fiddlin’ fool and his merry band of clowns that supposedly run the province, and had the braindead idea to bring in regulation. Hello, more big tax grabs by the provincial and federal governments; hello, more bazillions for the hogs at Big Oil; goodbye, traveling too far afield for many people during summer vacations.

Well, okay, so let’s make our own fun closer to home. That’s not difficult to do. Someone said to me the other day, when we were discussing tourism in the province, that there aren’t enough free attractions for families or even couples who are traveling. I got to thinking about that, and decided that wasn’t correct. Take garden pleasures,, for example. There are several really fine places to visit, several of which do not charge admission, and that I highly recommend to anyone either visiting our area, or heck, even living here!

The first one is the jewel of Acadia University, Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, part of the KC Irving Environmental Science Centre. This is surely one of the most unique and lovely botanical gardens around, and so many of the locals don’t even realize it’s there or what a treasure it is. More than six acres of unique plantings, and the whole place looks like it’s been there for many years, when in fact it’s been open less than five years to the public.

Now, if you’re looking for formalized carpet beddings of annuals, or exotic perennials, this isn’t the place to go. This is a garden celebrating the flora of Nova Scotia, and some of the unique ecosystems that flourish all around us. Do you know what sorts of plants live in a bog? In a calcareous woodland? There are nine distinct ecosystems set up at the Gardens, each with their distinct shrubs and perennial plants and trees.

Walk through the sand barrens and you’ll feel the heat shimmering from the ground, and see sweetfern, lowbush blueberry and and chokeberry growing; in the decidous woodland, linger under sugar maples and yellow birch while you look for bunchberries, ferns, wood sorrel and other delicate plants; in the freshwater marsh, you’ll see cattails, sedges, arrowhead, and a host of plants that will grow submerged or partially submerged. There are excellent interpretive displays and maps, specialized gardens such as a medicinal plant bed, walking trails and water features, a unique bed of native perennial flowering plants.

Besides all this, there’s a raft of activities taking place at the gardens yearround, from seminars to camps to workshops.

More people need to visit this jewel, and learn more about the world around us that we so often take for granted. It’s one of my favourite places in the county, if not in the province. Go visit for yourself; the gardens are open to the public from dusk to dawn; the conservatory part of the gardens is open from 8 am to 10 pm. AND there are free guided tours of the gardens throughout the summer months.

I don't get to the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal nearly as often as I would like. But for a nice review of what it's like this year, go visit I Wet My Plants, a blogger out of Ontario who was in our province just a couple of weeks ago. Kathy was also in Scotts Bay, and took photos of my neighbour's wonderful rock garden. (Much of our garden isn't visible from the road, thanks to some maples, spruces, and other shrubs and trees in the front part of the property, if you were wondering.) She visited several of our fine nurseries too, and found more treasures for her gardens back home, and we're glad she had a great visit to Nova Scotia.

Back in Wolfville, another favourite spot is part of a very popular and thriving Wolfville business, The Blomidon Inn The Inn is a lovingly restored sea captain’s house, turned into a highly rated Inn some years ago and operated by the Laceby family for approaching 20 years. Along with the 29 uniquely and distinctly decorated rooms, each named after a community or character of the Valley the Inn has a number of delightful features, including their restaurant, and the completely eclectic and unique House of Gifts, a perfect place to dispose of a little disposable income. It has a collection of carefully sourced gift items, from kitchenware to jewelry to cats of all sorts to a garden room of earthly delights, and is open from 1 May to December 23. (The Inn, however, is open yearround).

But one of the best parts about the Blomidon Inn is their gorgeous gardens, which features more than three acres of plantings in the recreation of a Victorian style of garden. The Lacebys invite and welcome people to come and visit their gardens, which feature three ponds, a rose square with a gazebo, a splendid horseshoe shaped perennial bed and terrific plantings in rock garden areas with five totally different types of rocks (all from within the province, however). Behind the Lacebys' home (up back of the Inn), there’s the vegetable garden and highbush blueberry patch that supplies much of the fresh produce and herbs that chef Shaun Laceby uses in his culinary creations.

Now there’s a great map of the gardens on the Inn’s website, so you can see for yourself all there is to enjoy. For us gardeners, it’s a wonderful place to go—it’s nice to just visit the gardens but I personally like to do the whole thing once in a while, treat myself to lunch at the Inn and then go visit Donna and the House of Gifts.

After all, everyone deserves a bit of pampering, especially those of us who grub in the dirt, right? And when there are terrific places to enjoy right in our own backyard, why go further afield?

Just my two cents on a serene sultry Sunday.


  1. You've got the neatest things to do and see where you live, Jodi! I don't know why, but I've always thought of Nova Scotia as somewhere located sort of 'out there' with not much except the natural landscape. You're proving to me it's otherwise!

  2. We often don't appreciate that which is in our own backyard ... which is why I enjoy my adventures by car. My son and I come across the coolest things in our day or evening trips around here.

    You are fortunate to live in Nova Scotia. It is a beautiful place ... I'd love to see those gardens.

  3. Jodi: How nice to come home to more travels via your blog! I love that you posted about the Bed & Breakfast so that there is a place to stay whilst visiting those great gardens!


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