28 June 2008

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens

When I was in Annapolis Royal a couple of weeks ago, I took some time to go to the Historic Gardens for a visit and research for an article I'm working on. If you've never been to Annapolis Royal, it's worth a visit at any time of the year because it's steeped in history. Samuel de Champlain overwintered in the area back in 1605 and established a colony there before moving further into North America and establishing further posts.

Certainly the jewel of the town is the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, now in their 27th season of operation and a beloved destination for visitors as well as locals. The Gardens are unique in that they are a series of theme gardens, including a number that reflect periods in Nova Scotia's history. There are also collections, including the vast and glorious Rose garden, the rhododendron collection, and a fine collection of ornamental grasses that is partially responsible for my own growing love for these plants.

Although it was still early June when I was there, plenty of things were blooming (some of which are STILL or JUST starting in my Bay garden). The courtyard directly welcoming visitors from the admissions area/gift shop is cleverly planted with a sea of iris wedged between the stone pavers.

One of the most beloved spots for photos (especially of proms and weddings) is at the Laburnum arch. It also boasts several massive and wonderful rhododendrons near it for further colour.

This is the Governor's Garden, because from 1710 to 1749 Annapolis was actual the capital of Nova Scotia. The formal geometric plantings aren't my cup of tea, but they work very well for the setting and that's how they would have been planted back in the day.

This magnificent fountain is made of a variety of rocks quarried here in the province. It's one of my favourite parts of the garden.

The Knot Garden features interlaced patterned plantings of lavender, dwarf box and other low-growing plants. It's at its best when the lavender blooms, of course, and I was a few weeks early for that event. (Which is a perfect excuse to go back again soon!)

One of the wonderful things about the Gardens is how the site is on a sloping property, with gentle meanders here and there from the courtyard down to the Dyke walk. At one boundary of the Gardens is the Rock garden, built on a hillside and featuring alpines, dwarf shrubs and a few very fine Japanese maples.

There are several pond features throughout the Gardens. This one boasts a number of daylilies and hostas as well as beautiful flowering shrubs and mature trees.

The rhododendron and azalea collection includes a number of varieties developed at the Kentville Research station by Dr. Craig, as well as plants bred and tested by my beloved friend Captain Dick Steele, plantsman extraordinaire.

Minas Gold is a gorgeous cultivar bred in Kentville.

While I didn't get the cultivar names of all the rhodies and azaleas, they are bred to be cold-hardy as well as sporting magnificent colours. I become more and more enamoured of rhododendrons and azaleas with every passing year, and am preparing to add a few here this summer. (No, haven't done it yet. Not enough time. I need High-speed LIFE, not just highspeed Internet!)

At the base of the gardens is a walk out onto the dykelands that hold back the Annapolis Basin from covering some highly fertile and arable land in salt water. The dykes were originally built by les Acadiens pre-expulsion (1755) and include remarkable aboiteaux, or sluiceways, which they constructed using hollowed-out logs with one-way gates in them. There's an Acadien cottage featuring a potager garden in the Gardens, but I was in a hurry the day I was there and didn't get to that area. Yet another reason to go back soon.

And this is a remarkable barberry, the species or variety of which I don't know. The shrub was about twelve-fifteen feet tall and quite glorious. Anyone know what it is? I could ask the horticulturists at the Gardens, but thought it might make a good puzzle for readers, too.

If you're in Nova Scotia this summer--if the price of gas as set by our greedy asinine governments (federal, provincial and elsewhere) doesn't traumatize you into staying home...Annapolis Royal is always well worth the visit. Bring lots of film or a big memory card, because these are just a few of the photos I took--and as observed, the rose garden and other gardens weren't yet in full colour. The Gardens director also does a regular bloom report throughout the season, which I believe you can sign up for via the website.


  1. Jodi, this looks like a marvelous place to visit. Of the pictures you showed us I like the fountain best. Rocks are good.

  2. Luckily you've given us a lovely tour, so we can save our pennies and stay at home Jodie :)

    (Thought I'd hop on over and say Hi, how are ya instead of lurking - it's difficult keeping up with everything when there's so much to do outside isn't it?)

  3. Jodi
    I envy you. The nearest true botanic gardens are 300-400 miles away. I particularly am envious of the beautiful azaleas. The spectrum of yellows and oranges with large flowers are quite different from down here in Zone 8-9. Our hybrids don't get to that color range. though our native azaleas do but the flowers are smaller with thinner petals making them far less showy.

    On the other hand, breeding in recent years has extended the blooming season from the first hints of Spring (even late January) until June. I will have to write a series of pieces about all these. I do have two different hybrid types in the Zen book p44-45 and 112-113 though beautiful these are very common in the Deep South. Anyone who has seen the Master's golf tournament on TV has seen them in all their glory.

  4. jodi,
    darn those photos make me wish i had a crew of gardeners to make my garden look so pristine! nice photos!

  5. Thank you for the wonderful visit to the Gardens. I'll never actually get to see them, but your virtual tour gives me inspiration.

  6. I agree, the fountain is a great feature! Thanks for sharing your visit and teasing us with these pictures. It will be 'on the list' of places to see!

  7. This looks like a great place to visit! I love to visit public gardens when I travel, although Nova Scotia would have to be a major trip for me. Thanks for giving us this virtual tour.

    I've "met" several of your cats, but do you really have a Toby Soprano?

  8. Too bad my trip to Nova Scotia last month was so short. We didn't have time to see this gorgeous garden. The Laburnum arch is stunning!

    Thanks for giving me another reason to return!

  9. Visiting Nova Scotia has always been on my Things To Do list. These gardens are gorgeous! Thank you for the virtual tour, Jodi.

  10. That is a beautiful garden - thanks for giving us a tour.

  11. I will put the Annapolis Royal gardens on my wish list of gardens to visit some day.

  12. I visited the gardens in late September 2006 and the roses were all still beautiful and intoxicating. I didn't have a lot of time (we were there in the evening when admission was free, and they were closing shortly). I loved it all, but I was bowled over with the formal Victorian beds and borders near the house. They were fantastic, a visual feast and I've never seen the Victorian fascination with exotic annuals carried out so completely. It was a riot of colour, and true-to-history, too, which naturally makes me a big fan.


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