30 April 2009

Of Magnolias, Milton, and Margaret Marshall Saunders

The unseasonably warm weather of the past few days has really brought some plants along, especially down on the south shore of the province. In Liverpool and surrounding area, the magnolias have burst into fabulous (and sometimes, fragrant) bloom. Meanwhile, back at home, mine are still snuggled in their sweaters, not ready to blossom just yet. 

I took a drive at lunchtime today, and went out past Pine Grove into Milton. This is a small community adjoining Liverpool, and it's hard to tell when the town ends and the smaller village begins. But this is a definite sign of Milton: the falls in the Mersey River at the one-lane bridge spanning the river. No, they're not Niagara; more like a bit of rapids, and I don't know what the riverbed is like or if this is the result of something having been built there (there have been sawmills and other activity around the falls for years).  

On the other side of the bridge, the water streams out into the widening river. On the other shore, there's a little park. Let's go see what it's all about, shall we? 

There are a LOT of magnolias around this area, as I mentioned earlier, and they're rapidly coming into full bloom. The flowers on this particular stellata variety are sweetly fragrant, but it's a subtle fragrance. Very nice. 

They're subtle in colour too; white with a hint of pink tint. I love magnolias, and can grow Stellatas just fine, although as mentioned above, mine in the Bay are still snoozing and swelling in their buds. 

I don't know which variety this is: magnolias are not my strong suit, but they're something I do love and am learning more about. I'll be learning even more about them next week, as Annapolis Royal kicks off with its Magnolia Festival. Annapolis, another of my favourite places in my province, is home to the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens and Bunchberry Nurseries, and I'll be giving a talk at Bunchberry at 2 pm on May 9. But not about magnolias. I leave that to my cherished friend Dick Steele, the night before at the Gardens. 

I leave you now with a bit of "I didn't know that!" information. Most of us wept our way through reading two classics of literature in our youth: Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, and Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders. Being more of a horse and cat person than a dog person, and more of a modern/contemporary CanLit fan than a Victorian writing enthusiast, I had read the latter years ago and had avoided re-reading it while doing my degrees at Acadia. And I had completely, utterly forgotten that Marshall Saunders had been born in Nova Scotia: in Milton, to be exact. Beautiful Joe was the first Canadian novel to sell more than a million copies, and it's on curriculae at many universities. Marshall Saunders disguised herself as a man and used her middle name as her first name in order to gain acceptance as a writer, (women writers not being that common or acceptable in the Victorian era). I like that she is remembered and honoured with this park by the river, in a lovely part of my province, watched over by magnolias and the ever-talking river. 


  1. Jodi, it sounds like you are so busy again. Love the tour of your surrounds. Take care.

  2. I've been enjoying your blog for awhile now, but this is my first time commenting. I'm finally commenting because I wanted to pass on a blog award to you. See more info here: http://gracefulyoga.blogspot.com/2009/04/great-start-to-day.html

    P.S I went to high school in Canning.

  3. Wouldn't that just be the loveliest place to be remembered? To have your name permanently scribed to a beautiful boulder at the edge of a laughing river. I really must do more exploring on the South Shore -- my forays are usually into Chester, Mahone Bay, and the Western Shore area. There's SO much more on that shore. Thanks for sharing your trip around town with us again -- how much longer do you expect to be in Liverpool? Enjoy the weekend ahead.

  4. Jodi, I've missed visiting you for awhile. It's good to see that spring has finally arrived for you with all the beautiful flowers. I love magnolias, too, though I don't have one at our current house.

    I have to confess that I have never read Beautiful Joe. I'll have to put that on my reading list!

  5. I just love Magnolias, especially the Stellata types. I'm still trying to figure out which one I have. Mine is still in bloom, but past peak. This was actually a very good year for it, no frost damage at all, which is very unusual. I hope yours do as well this year.

  6. What a beautiful park, Jodi! And I have to confess that the pink-that's-almost-white is my favorite bloom color in the world. Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe were two of my childhood faves (any book or movie about animals ranked up there, including Old Yeller and Rascal), but I'd actually forgotten about Beautiful Joe until I read your post. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. beautiful! magnolia planted and failed in my garden twice. think its too wet and windy for them.

  8. Jodi, I love M stellata and their sweet fragrance. If I could I would grow her here, but they do seem to like a garden that has clearly defined boundaries between winter and spring. The blooms often get frosted.

    I don't know Beautiful Joe...but as a child I was lost in mystery stories!

    It would be good to have one's life memorialized with a park...make mine a wildflower haven, please;) gail

  9. hi jodi. I share your enthusiasm for magnolias....so much so that I just planted a magnolia stellata "royal star". its buds are still plumping up and i can hardly stand the wait. it was a total impulse buy...but i've wanted for years and years and years...maybe it wasn't an impulse buy after all (okay who am I kidding, it was). glad to see you're getting some springtime blooms.

  10. I've not heard of Beautiful Joe but Black Beauty was the first "chapter book" I ever read, and yes, I sobbed my way through it. I really should read it again one of these days.

    Thanks for the tour!

  11. jodi, i love magnolias too! my fav tree! thanks for sharing these beauties!

  12. Many thanks for the rushing water and Magnolia stellata, loved the tour. Also a fan of that blush pink.

    And I was pleased at the Beautiful Joe information, it was one of the staples of my childhood, and she really was one of the first crusaders for animal rights. Nice to know more about her, and that she made her mark both as a woman writer and as a Canadian writer (I had no idea that Beautiful Joe had sold so much).

  13. Hi Jodi, I've stopped over here at least 3 times and haven't left a message! Just wanted to say hi, and your photos and posts are always so informative (or just plain gorgeous!). There's always so much to comment on...but that rushing water really hits my senses...I can almost hear it! Love magnolias, too;-)


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

Search Bloomingwriter

Custom Search