The Garden in Winter

Is the winter garden the most beautiful garden of all? — Philip Slayton to Lynn Farrell, A Nova Scotia Garden in Winter


The Spectator‘s own gardener — Michelle Smith — is currently enjoying a well-deserved break from the rigors of weekly column writing, giving her more time to deal with the rigors of winter (she spends, from what I can gather, a lot of time on snowshoes).

She will back when the seed packets start arriving in the mail and the snow starts retreating from the fields. In the meantime, though, I thought you might enjoy a visit to another Nova Scotia garden.

Located in Port Medway, this garden is more flower-focused than Michelle’s — which makes sense, given that Michelle’s “garden” is actually a small farm. In fact, the garden in Port Medway is actually a series of gardens, each with its own name and characteristics. The gardeners are Lynn Farrell, a former photo journalist (described as “the main gardener”) and Philip Slayton, whom the Spectator had the pleasure of interviewing in 2017 on the subject of his book, Mayors Gone Bad.

Pollinator garden in Winter. Photo by Lynn Farrell.

“Lynn’s Garden in Winter, a pollinator garden, it is “a sea of milkweed, echinacea, bergamot, veronicastrum, and a variety of grasses.” (Photo by Lynn Farrell via A Nova Scotia Garden in Winter)

Together, they’ve created A Nova Scotia Garden in Winter, a blog that combines Farrell’s photos with their exchanges about the garden. As these take the form of letters, I can accurately describe A Nova Scotia Garden in Winter as an epistolary blog — thus making use of a word I have not been able to work into conversation in years.

(Slayton and Farrell are also fans of uncommon words: Farrell uses “susurration” to describe the sound of the wind in the trees and Slayton compliments her on her word choice. I had to look it up — it means a whispering sound or murmur.)

But there’s really no need for me to write about their blog when I can just sample it. Here’s an excerpt from the “About The Garden” section:

The Nova Scotia garden is on Long Cove Road in Port Medway, a small South Shore village by the sea. It is a series of mostly perennial gardens spread out over several acres. There is also an apple orchard, two wildflower meadows and a point poking out into the sea. The talented and dedicated Lynn Farrell has been the main gardener for many years.

Development of the gardens began in 2000 with the guidance of Captain Dick Steele. Dick commanded a Canadian destroyer in World War Two. When he retired from the navy he became a horticulturist and a famous breeder of rhododendrons at Bayport Farm near Lunenburg. In 2004 Dick was awarded the Order of Canada for his services to horticulture.

We began with the Seaside Garden, largely created by Captain Steele. Its centerpiece was, and remains, a huge bank of rosa rugosa. Ivan Higgins of Cosby’s Garden Centre in nearby Liverpool supervised the placing of massive boulders at the edge of the Seaside Garden and the building of stone steps up to the house. Beyond the boulders is a field of dune grass, a beach, and then the sea. For many years Ivan Higgins helped us develop the gardens with inspired plantings.

Today there is much else in the Seaside Garden – sedum, false indigo, goat’s beard, delphiniums, alium, bergamot , Jerusalem artichoke, Lime Light Hydrangea, globe thistle, Siberian iris, verbascum, spiderwort, astrantia, and Lynn’s beloved Amsonia Hubrechtii. We are still experimenting with this garden, changing things from year to year, but Dick Steele’s rosa rugosa will always be there. Dick did other plantings on the Long Cove property – rhododendrons of course, hydrangeas, holly, a yellow magnolia that is now a magnificent tree some 30 feet high.

There’s much more, but I will let you explore on your own.

I’m off to work the word “susurration” into a conversation…