Gardening with Pete: celebrating public gardens

On my last trip “down home” to Nova Scotia, I spent a few hours visiting one of my favourite places in the world. Every time I return to Nova Scotia, I always have a strong desire to visit the Halifax Public Gardens. It is one of the most peaceful settings I knew as a child and the memories there always bring a smile to my face.

Situated right in the middle of the older part of the city and taking in many acres of “prime real estate”, the huge oak, maple, elm and chestnut trees and the lush lawns and many duck and swan ponds almost make you forget that the crazy pace of the city is only a few meters away!

As children, it was always considered a treat to be taken to “The Gardens” for a picnic or to just wander around and play in nature. Of course there were always the ducks and swans and pigeons to feed and the people sailing their homemade miniature sailboats across the ponds. I remember my first one was a stick with a dry leaf stuck in a hole!

Returning as an adult (sometimes questioned!) I always have a real appreciation for the decision of the city fathers back over a century ago when they set aside this large tract of land along with the North and the South Common adjoining the gardens and Citadel Hill as “common ground” for all citizens to use and enjoy and for all citizens to share in the upkeep (taxes). They had the courage of their convictions and it will pay off for generations to come.

The Citadel is the connection with the past history of the area with the fortress and the museum inside and it gives a feeling of roots to all who live there. The North Commons are large areas (many acres) where team sports such as baseball, soccer, etc can be played. The South Commons are another adjacent large tract of land where there are swings, wading pools, swimming pools and more large open areas for people to picnic and enjoy the outdoors. The Public Gardens are the quiet place with the duck and swan ponds, waterfalls, bandstand for concerts, benches for relaxing and is surrounded by ancient trees and a wrought iron fence to give a feeling of seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the city. The gardens include many beds of flowers and hundreds of flowering shrubs and ornamental trees (all well marked with small brass signs). The last time I visited was in the fall and the gardeners were planting thousands of spring bulbs to brighten up the area at the first sign of spring.

The thankfulness that I felt both for the decision makers of old who chose to give this gift to the citizens of the area and also for the present day politicians who have the sense and foresight to continue supporting this important gift to the community made me see how important it is for small communities to think of the long term before all the good “common land” is used for private development and profit. When it comes to community planning and gardens for the future, it really pays to think in terms of “Seven Generations”. I experience the results every time I visit the Halifax Gardens or Stanley Park or any other area that could have been just any other “development” if not for those with real foresight! Bless them all!

By: Pete Amyoony