My husband and I spent the last weekend of June sabbaticalizing in the Niagara region. On one of our adventures, we visited the Niagara Parks’ Botanical Gardens near the Falls. We didn’t visit the Butterfly Conservatory, deciding instead to spend all of our time outdoors, despite it being a rather hot and sunny day.
The gardens were established in 1936, as the “Training School for Apprentice Gardeners” based on a similar program at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. The 100 acres are maintained almost entirely by the staff and students, and is now known as The School of Horticulture. It is open to the public and free to visit between dawn and dusk all year round.
We knew that it would be hard to see the whole property in one afternoon, so took advantage of the horse and carriage ride being offered. A pretty young woman greeted us and, since we were the only passeners, she took her time telling us about the gardens as we journeyed through them. We meandered through the tree collection (arboretum), past the perennial gardens, and on to the horticultural school greenhouses. It was shady and breezy and a rather romantic way to spend an hour or so.
On foot, we walked across to the student vegetable beds. This is apparently a place for students in the Vegetable Culture course to experiment with design and grow vegetables from various seed companies. From what we saw, a few students are getting excellent marks, but some…well, I hope they pass! But I did look longingly at the straw mulch (which I have wanted to use in my own garden) and the care being taken with leeks (they were being grown in trenches that will be gradually filled in as the leeks grow in order to increase the white portion of the leek).
Next we visited the herb garden. It is quite large–about 6000 square feet–and is enclosed by a cedar hedge, making it a warm, sheltered environment for some of the more tender plants. Something about the formal design and stone paths appealed to me, and we stayed quite a long time. There were a huge number of different plants to see, some of which were familiar (Lady’s Mantle/alchemilla) and some I had never seen before (like Giant Hog Weed, a nasty poisonous weed). I especially loved the red poppies. For some reason, I have been completely captivated by them this year. Everywhere I have seen them they have left me wishing that I had some in my own garden, with their fuzzy green buds and brilliant papery flowers.
We spent so much time in those two areas, and were so melted by the heat, that we completely bypassed the lovely rose collection on our way out. I have to confess, however, that I wasn’t terribly disappointed. I was too busy dreaming.
The flat expanse with both the herb and vegetable gardens made me think that someday I would love to have a large piece of property to live on. It would be great fun to have endless space to grow pumpkins and watermelon. I would love to start from scratch and plan tidy, straight-sided beds for lavender and thyme and basil. Of course I would need a greenhouse to start the large number of seedlings that would require. And I would need lots of time to tend it, planting and mulching and watering, too…
I recognize that my dreams may require not only retirement but a sizeable lottery win. But that almost doesn’t matter. Just to think about the possibilities is enjoyable, to imagine in my mind’s eye what I might do given the gifts of time and space. To dream is to live with a sense of hope, being confident that there are good things yet to come. Whether those ‘good things’ are exactly as I picture them now doesn’t really matter. It is enough to rest in the knowledge that my life still holds the promise of creativity and joy. And hopefully a greenhouse.