A Gar­den to Re­mem­ber

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Bald­win Mills

Over the last twenty years, Coat­i­cook’s Mar­tial Martineau, who may be bet­ter known for his many years as Di­rec­tor of the Har­monie de Coat­i­cook, has cre­ated one of the most ex­quis­ite and im­pres­sive rock gar­dens I have ever seen at his lake­side prop­erty in Bald­win

Mills. Cov­er­ing most of his huge lot, the gar­den fea­tures about 280 va­ri­eties of hostas, sev­eral dozen types of ferns, in­clud­ing many rare va­ri­eties, mosses, astilbes and other shade­lov­ing plants.

Un­der a canopy of hard­woods, the gar­den re­sem­bles a beau­ti­ful, en­chanted for­est, ac­cented with nat­u­rally sculpted rocks and pieces of drift­wood, sou­venirs from hikes taken in moun­tain forests all around Que­bec and New Eng­land.

“I’ve tried to re­pro­duce what I see in na­ture,” said the ‘fit as a fid­dle’ oc­to­ge­nar­ian who likes to hike an aver­age of about 7 or 8 kilo­me­ters a day. As we toured the gar­den, I learnt much from this self-taught, am­a­teur botanist who is, not sur­pris­ingly, re­lated to Brother Marie-Vic­torin, the founder of the Mon­treal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. “I only wa­ter my plants when I trans­plant them, be­cause when we wa­ter, the plant of­ten makes roots at the sur­face of the soil. If you don’t wa­ter, the plant will send its roots deep into the soil,” ex­plained Mr. Martineau.

Mar­tial’s hostas range in size from just a few inches across, like his Pan­dora’s Box hosta hid­ing un­der a fern, to his mam­moth-sized Jade Cas­cade hosta, eas­ily five feet across and five feet tall. Ev­ery hosta had a lit­tle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion plate, pro­vided for the many vis­i­tors who tour his gar­den. The beau­ti­ful plants had some un­usual names like “Moon­light”, “King Tut”, “Pineap­ple Up­side-down Cake” and “Jimmy Crack Corn”.

As much as he loves his hostas, Mr. Martineau is re­ally keen about ferns. “This is a lovely fern that I bought from a lab­o­ra­tory,” he said as he pointed out a del­i­cate, tiny fern about three inches across. “It is As­ple­nium tri­chonames – a real jewel of na­ture.” When we came to his Os­trich ferns, Mr. Martineau showed me how to iden­tify th­ese ferns which pro­vide tasty, ed­i­ble fid­dle­heads. “It’s not al­ways easy to iden­tify ferns; some­times you have to look at the spores with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass. Ferns are strange. Some grow right on rocks and oth­ers, like the Vir­ginia Fern, grow in holes in spe­cial rocks.”

Mar­tial’s pas­sion for grow­ing rare ferns has ‘taken him to new heights’, so to speak. “Some ferns like to grow in serpentine rock, so I gath­ered some at around 3,900 feet in the Chic-Choc Moun­tains to crush,” said the moun­taineer who has climbed around 100 moun­tains. Mr. Martineau stressed that, al­though he gath­ers rocks some­times as he hikes, he doesn’t “touch” moun­tain plants. “All along the new trail in Coat­i­cook peo­ple have been pick­ing rare plants; it’s deplorable! Here in Bald­win, we’re lucky. I’ve found many dis­ap­pear­ing plants, like or­chids, in the for­est here.”

He’s most thrilled with his rarest fern, Phyl­li­tis scolopen­drium, with its strangely solid leaves. This fern, which grows nat­u­rally on rocks along the Ni­a­gara River, ac­tu­ally re­pro­duced in his gar­den. “Th­ese ferns are grown in lab­o­ra­to­ries. That it re­pro­duced nat­u­rally here means that I chose the per­fect spot for it!”

Of course, a ‘for­est’ rock gar­den also needs moss and Mar­tial has trans­planted many va­ri­eties among his hostas and ferns.” It’s so beau­ti­ful when you get close to look at it. As we grow up, some­times we can lose that sense to stop and ob­serve na­ture, that sense of ad­mi­ra­tion; chil­dren have it. But when you study na­ture, you see how it’s all con­nected. Th­ese mosses pro­duce an acid that de­com­poses the rock. An orchid can’t flower with­out a cer­tain kind of fun­gus. This lichen,” he says as he shows me some grow­ing on a rock, “is made when al­gae and fun­gus come to­gether. Ev­ery­thing has a role.”

Tons and tons of rock have gone into Mar­tial’s gar­den. “I get rocks from neigh­bours, and I find great rocks in rivers. Like my plants, al­most all my rocks have sto­ries about where they came from.” Stand­ing in front of what looked like a nat­u­ral out­crop­ping of huge, gran­ite boul­ders, he said: “One neigh­bor brought this pile of rocks over with his trac­tor and dumped it there. He wanted to then ‘place’ them with the trac­tor but I said ‘No. Don’t touch them.’ If you ‘place’ them, they don’t look nat­u­ral!”

Along Mar­tial’s shore­line, his gar­den is also spec­tac­u­lar, ‘nat­u­rally’. “When I hike I ob­serve what nat­u­rally grows be­side lakes. Th­ese plants stop stuff from go­ing into the lake.” Among those plants were irises six feet tall and clumps of el­e­gant, tall grasses. “Th­ese grasses turn red, yel­low and or­ange in the fall, and they’re even nice in win­ter when they be­come cov­ered with frost.”

“Lake Lys­ter is a ‘head’ lake. The wa­ter is very pure be­cause none of its rivers run through farm­land and all the homes around the lake are hooked onto a sewer sys­tem. But the big­gest rea­son why the lake is so good is the Bald­win Fam­ily. They pro­tected the lake, es­pe­cially not al­low­ing any con­struc­tion on the moun­tain. We could have ended up like the lake at Water­loo: that wa­ter is as green as this leaf. We owe the Bald­win Fam­ily a lot.”

Not only is Mr. Martineau’s gar­den, with its myr­iad hues of green, a won­der­fully calm­ing en­vi­ron­ment, it’s also ap­pre­ci­ated by the an­i­mals. Al­though he’s not happy that the deer have nib­bled some of his hostas, he is happy to give up his blueberry bush to a fam­ily of robins. “I watched a mother robin pick the blue­ber­ries one by one and feed them to her baby bird. I’d rather see that and then go and buy my blue­ber­ries at the store!”

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Jour­nal

p. 12

Mar­tial Martineau stands be­side the gi­ant ‘Jade Cas­cade’ Hosta at the foot of his beau­ti­ful, forested rock gar­den in Bald­win Mills.

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