His­toric gar­dens beckon vis­i­tors

An­napo­lis Royal pro­vides op­por­tur­nity to step into ‘par­adise’

Cape Breton Post - - DIVERSIONS - ASH­LEY THOMP­SON ash­ley.thomp­son @kingscoun­tynews.ca @KingsNSnew­s

Step away from the out­side world and into a nat­u­ral oa­sis.

Fol­low the sound of trick­ling water to a wooden gar­den bridge be­tween two ponds.

Note the range of colours in the sun-soaked flow­ers flour­ish­ing along the banks — red, or­ange, blue, pur­ple, pink, yel­low and an abun­dance of green.

Com­pare heights with ele­phant grass on a board­walk lead­ing to a replica of an Aca­dian dyke.

Smell the salty air car­ried over the Dyke­walk loop trail by a gen­tle breeze. Scan peace­ful plains for that crow caw­ing nearby.

There’s a rea­son the An­napo­lis Royal His­toric Gar­dens in­spired the tagline “sev­en­teen acres of par­adise.”

Elsie Hep­burn first dis­cov­ered the gar­den par­adise with her hus­band Gor­don af­ter mov­ing to the An­napo­lis Royal area from Al­berta eight years ago.

She vividly re­mem­bers be­ing awestruck — re­peat­edly — by the beauty re­vealed by the sim­ple act of turn­ing a cor­ner.

“Breath­tak­ing — quite lit­er­ally,” she said, de­scrib­ing her first im­pres­sion.

A visit to the gar­dens in­stantly be­came a reg­u­lar part of their Sun­day rou­tine. The sea­son pass hold­ers go right af­ter church and en­joy a stroll and snacks from the café. In the win­ter, when oper­a­tions wind down but the grounds re­main open to the pub­lic, they’ll tra­verse the ter­rain on skis or trudge through the snow.

No two vis­its are ever the same.

“There’s so much va­ri­ety and be­cause it’s planted in so many in­di­vid­ual gar­dens, the bloom is dif­fer­ent in each one,” said Hep­burn, a gar­dener in her own right.

They know when to ex­pect lush rose gar­dens, watch but­ter­flies flut­ter, see how big ap­ples are get­ting or how tall the peren­ni­als have grown as the sea­son pro­gresses.

The cou­ple reg­u­larly vol­un­teers when the non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­at­ing the his­toric gar­dens puts a call out for more help­ing hands. The Granville Ferry res­i­dents can’t get enough of the place.

“You can just feel the peace set­tle over you and it’s marvelous,” said Hep­burn. “So calm and re­pose is what it does for us.”

Vic­to­ria Mag­a­zine, a pub­li­ca­tion based in the United States, re­cently fea­tured the his­toric gar­dens in a mul­ti­page spread de­scrib­ing it as a “Nova Sco­tia par­adise.” Hal­i­fax-based pub­li­ca­tion The Coast high­lighted the gar­dens in a piece about hid­den gems worth check­ing out this sum­mer.

The his­toric gar­dens have re­mained open through­out the COVID-19 pan­demic, of­fer­ing a haven with fresh air and open spa­ces for so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

“In the worst of times — like a pan­demic — the gar­dens are an im­por­tant respite for lo­cals, and an im­por­tant draw and eco­nomic en­gine for the com­mu­nity,” said An­napo­lis Royal His­toric Gar­dens man­ager Tr­ish Fry.

“We are not draw­ing the num­bers we would in a nor­mal year, of course — but we are still draw­ing a lot of peo­ple to the com­mu­nity and to the (An­napo­lis) Val­ley.”

The key at­trac­tion in An­napo­lis Royal typ­i­cally wel­comes an av­er­age of 30,000 vis­i­tors an­nu­ally. Fry es­ti­mates that about 95 per cent of the vis­i­tors this sum­mer are from Nova Sco­tia.

A new COVID-19 ver­sion of the vis­i­tor map show­cases 24 fo­cal points within the gar­dens, guid­ing vis­i­tors through the ex­pan­sive grounds in a counter-clock­wise di­rec­tion to as­sist with so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

First-time vis­i­tors of­ten have sim­i­lar re­ac­tions.

“They’re kind of wowed be­cause I think they just didn’t re­al­ize how much there was to it,” said Fry.

“Peo­ple are usu­ally gob­s­macked at ev­ery­thing that is in here. They’ll leave say­ing, ‘We had no idea.’”

A dedicated gar­den­ing crew tends to the im­mac­u­late grounds fea­tur­ing a rose col­lec­tion boast­ing thou­sands of blos­soms, a re­con­structed pre-de­por­ta­tion Aca­dian House circa 1671, the 18th Cen­tury Gov­er­nor’s Gar­den, the 19th Cen­tury Vic­to­rian Gar­den and an in­no­va­tion gar­den high­light­ing al­ter­na­tive gar­den­ing meth­ods.

The his­toric gar­dens em­ploys 25 peo­ple on a sea­sonal ba­sis in the span of a typ­i­cal tourism sea­son.

“The big­gest thing it takes is a very dedicated gar­den­ing staff whose hearts are ab­so­lutely fully into it and that’s what we have,” said Fry.

Fry ad­mits that there will be chal­lenges ahead as the non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions ex­pe­ri­ences rev­enue losses re­lated to can­celled events or fundrais­ers, fewer tourists com­ing through the gates and a de­cline in gift shop sales.

“We’re hav­ing to pivot and just do things dif­fer­ently,” she said, list­ing the spe­cial At­lantic Bub­ble pricing as an ex­am­ple of a shift made this sea­son. “We’ll get there, we al­ways do.”

Fry en­cour­ages Nova Sco­tians to in­clude a visit to the his­toric gar­dens in plans for up­com­ing stay­ca­tions and day trips. There’s scav­enger hunts for chil­dren and end­less dis­cov­er­ies to be made by young and old alike in the chang­ing sea­sons.

“It’s just a nice place for them to kind of step out of the crazi­ness and just en­joy a lit­tle piece of par­adise for a while,” said Fry. “I think we all need that right now.”


The An­napo­lis Royal His­toric Gar­dens is a 17-acre prop­erty that is home to a wide ar­ray of gar­den col­lec­tions and fea­tures of in­ter­est.


This view from a gar­den bridge tucked be­tween two ponds is noth­ing short of vi­brant on a sunny day.


This re­con­struc­tion of a pre-de­por­ta­tion Aca­dian House beck­ons back to 1671.


There are am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to stop and smell the roses.

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