28 February 2011

The Very Historic Gardens...A Nova Scotia Must-see

While western and southerly parts of North America are beginning to relax into their anticipation of spring's arrival, SOME of us are still getting bludgeoned with winter weather. As we shoulder yet another winter storm of snow-rain-sleet-snail-whatever out of the sky, I thought we could use an escape from it all. So let's go to one of the most beautiful places in Nova Scotia: Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.

The Gardens were established 30 years ago on a 17 acre parcel of land overlooking the tidal Annapolis River, adjoining an area first settled in 1605 by the French explorer Sieur de Mons and cartographer Samuel de Champlain. The community originally named Port Royal was variously occupied by the French and the British for over a century until the latter finally took it for the last time and renamed the settlement Annapolis Royal in honour of then-monarch Queen Anne. 

In the centuries since the area was first settled, gardening styles have changed tremendously as well. The potagers, or kitchen gardens, of Acadian settlers gave way to the more formal layout of the Governor's Garden, and the even more formal Victorian planting filled with colourful annuals.
Themed plantings such as this rocky hillside showcase special collections, including alpines, dwarf shrubs and trees, grasses, and daylilies.
The magnificent fountain is created from a variety of stone types native to Nova Scotia., including columnar basalt. Looking at this photo, taken on a hot summer's day several years ago, the currently-raging winter storm doesn't seem quite so unending!
In mid June, the laburnum arch (above and first photo) is a popular backdrop for wedding and prom photos, as is the rose garden a little bit later in the season.
One of my favourite spots is the three garden ponds, where one can pause and admire various bird species, frogs resting on lily pads, and a host of native and introduced plants.
There is a remarkable ericaceous collection not far from the ponds, where brilliant rhododendrons, azaleas, kalmias and more dazzle visitors with their fantastic flowers.
Some of these rhododendron and azalea cultivars, such as this 'Minas Gold', were developed here in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley by ericaceous enthusiasts both professional and amateur. These cold-hardy rhodos and azaleas are well suited for our climate, but are nothing like the azaleas that very soon will be popping into bloom in the US south!
The Gardens administration building also houses a wonderful gift shop that features many locally made works of art as well as a rich collection of garden-themed gift items. These photos only show a fraction of the plantings and attractions at the Gardens--you'll have to visit them for yourself to see how fantastic this place really is.  But don't take just my word for it! Recently, the Historic Gardens was given a shout out by Trip Advisor, as it's currently rated #1 of 158 things to do and see in Nova Scotia. That's a great accomplishment, and a well-deserved one. You can sign up for the regular Bloom Report, which photographer and administrator Trish Fry looks after even in the winter, to keep up with the ever-changing faces of the Gardens.  Right now, there are farmer/craft markets taking place every Saturday morning at the Gardens Gift Shop, while the gardens themselves sleep in preparation for spring.

There, doesn't that make us feel a little bit warmer? I hope you'll plan a visit to the Historic Gardens very soon!


  1. I so appreciate this stroll through the garden on a sunnday. Because it is cold, windy and miserable here today. That sunshine even in photos feels good. Thanks for the tour.

  2. What a nice picture you paint of the Gardens Jodi! Thanks so much for this wonderful piece of PR!

  3. Thanks for the tour, though most countries have their winter or spring now, we are approaching our dry season. Dry means full sun with high relative humidity.

  4. What a beautiful place, Jodi! Do they encourage/allow "loitering?" ;-) I'd want to take my lunch and wander all day!

  5. Btw: I've just read TWO glowing reports about your book - so I've just ordered!!!

  6. That garden is beautiful. What a nice place to visit!

  7. The gardens look lovely. I haven't been to Nova Scotia - it sure looks like a beautiful part of this Country! Thanks for the tour.

  8. Ah yes, a beautiful bone warming post, dear Jodi. I especially love the rock garden and fountain. Happy March :)

  9. Looks like there is something here for all of the senses. Just beautiful with every turn.

  10. So wonderful to see as winter fades here in the Annapolis Valley. I have spent many a glorious day "loitering" in the Historic Gardens. Spring, summer or fall it never fails! One of my faves is the large pseudocamellia stewartia; a grossly unvalued ornamental tree for the zone.

  11. It DOES make me feel better after a long hard winter and a rainy spring. Great post, Jodi. I feel like I'm right there.

  12. wonderful post, Jodi. I'm there. It makes me feel very upbeat and hopeful. I do love the historic gardens


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