The Hamilton Spectator
Exploring and enjoying THE WINTER GARDEN
Niagara Parks Botanical Garden becomes a mystical place in the month of January
It had been gently, but insistently, snowing for most of the day and the garden was once again blanketed in white.
The temperature was surprisingly mild so I packed up my camera and headed to the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden for a walk in the winter garden.
The storm intensified as I drove toward the park, and I nearly turned back when a misty veil of snow enveloped the Parkway along the Niagara gorge, and I seemed to be the only car on the road.
I’d come this far, so I carefully pressed on to my destination. I might have the garden to myself, I thought, and that would mean no footprints in the snow. A friendly wave from the snowplow driver who was clearing the roadway as I arrived, and from there I was on my own.
First on my wish list, was a visit to the Mediterranean parterre garden. The strong geometric patterns of the clipped boxwood parterre look like bakery confections when they are dusted with fresh snow. A copper beech hedge along the back of the garden not only defines the space, but manages to add a welcome shot of warmth to the scene.
The geometric patterns neatly draw your eye to the Hornbeam Allée beyond the copper hedge — strong, majestic, the allée gives the space a sense of permanence and purpose. Needless to say, a walk along this allée is always on my todo list whenever I visit the park.
Next, I headed to the back of the park where a reflecting pond winds its way through a parkland populated with mature trees. This area paints a serene picture, with its icy blue water, that has yet to completely freeze.
Reminiscent of a Currier and Ives etching, the area is dressed in a simple colour palette of white, brown and steel blue, further emphasizing the interesting form and structure of the mature trees. If you go, be aware there are several flooded grass areas, so it’s best to view the trees and pond from a distance.
From the pond, I followed the service road behind the residence, toward the Butterfly Conservatory. This roadway traces a route beside the sleeping woodland garden, and includes a low dry stone wall and towering white pine trees. I took several long, deep breaths as I walked along this section — the gentle scent of pine seemed to be carried on the breeze.
Tucked in behind the Butterfly Conservatory, the Legacy Garden is a wintry treasure trove of gentle colours, light and textures. Admittedly, it’s the sort of space that requires an open heart. The magic slowly opens up when you walk through the garden and let it speak to you: chocolate-brown seed heads, feathery goldenrod and fountain-like golden grasses are among the treasures to be found. This is a place where plants native to several parts of southern Ontario have a chance to prove their worth and artistic merit, if given a chance. You can follow their growth through the seasons, but I particularly enjoy their gentle beauty in the winter, dusted with snow and offering a surprising range of warm tones in the depths of January.
My final stop was just off the main parking lot and another of my favourite views, the Crabtree Allée. It would seem I have a thing for rows of trees that line a long corridor. In the late spring, this allée is resplendent in shades of pink and rose when the crabapple trees are in bloom.
Visitors stop to have their picture taken with this memorable backdrop, it’s always buzzing with activity. But stop by in winter after fresh snowfall, and the view is serene and quiet. Reminiscent of the rows of trees on our local Niagara fruit farms, the trees catch the mist and snow creating a mystical look where their lines seem to meld in the distance.
Some 4,300 steps counted toward my daily goal and a photo card filled with new images, I headed back toward my car. Up ahead, a young couple was tossing snowballs and kidding around on their way to their car. They suddenly stopped and pulled their hoods over their heads to pass me, as if they were ashamed of being caught acting like kids.
I just smiled. I’m not the only one enjoying the snowy garden after all.