By David Hobson
In 1928, a strip of wasteland alongside the eastern approach to Kitchener sprouted nothing but scrub and billboards. Today, it’s Rockway Gardens (shown at right), a seven-acre floral ribbon, created—and still maintained—by the Kitchener Horticultural Society. The gardens now lie within a vastly expanded city, and are a source of civic pride, with the impressive rock garden, designed by English landscape architect W.J. Jarman in 1933, remaining a favourite.
Though it appears natural, this impressive rockery spilling over with flowers, was constructed during the Depression years with almost 2,000 tonnes of limestone. The project provided relief work for the unemployed during difficult times, allowing many to hold onto their homes by contributing labour in lieu of paying property taxes. Every year to this day, volunteers from the horticultural society contribute to the city’s heritage by planting thousands of bulbs and annuals at Rockway. Visit kitchenerhs.ca or call 519-745-4669.
Another garden designed in the early 20th century is Parkwood, in Oshawa. Now a National Historic Site, Parkwood was the home of Sam McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada. His mansion is set amid 12 acres of gardens designed by a lineup of prominent landscape architects of the early 20th century, including W.E. Harries and A.V. Hall, and the Dunington-Grubbs, a husband-and-wife team who were founding members of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and Town Planners.
The last major development at Parkwood took place in the 1930s, when architect John Lyle was commissioned to design a formal garden in the Arte Moderne-style, a branch of art deco. Visit parkwoodestate.com or call 905-433-4311.
By Larry Hodgson
There’s no difficulty in finding historical gardens in Quebec. In fact, several date as far back as the 17th century, and there are representatives of most eras from then until modern times.
The Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge in Quebec City traces its history as an estate back to 1653, but the current layout is more representative of the mid-1800s when, known as Spencer Wood, it was the residence of Henry Atkinson, a prosperous wood merchant. The mansion is no more and all that is left of the greenhouse, which produced the pineapples, oranges and bananas that Mr. Atkinson used to serve during his galas, is the metal structure, covered with vines. However, most of the other elements are still there, including the orchard, the arboretum, a forest of sugar maples where maple syrup is made, and the farm, as well as the restored rose gardens and flowerbeds. It’s now a public park. Visit capitale.gouv.qc.ca or call 418-528-0773.
The Maison St-Gabriel in Montreal is a fieldstone house bought in 1668 by Marguerite Bourgeoys, founder of the Sisters of the Congregation de Notre-Dame, to house the newly arrived “Filles du Roy” (women who were brought over from France under the sponsorship of King Louis XIV to marry the single men of the new colony). The sisters continued to run it for nearly 300 years as a farm until it was declared a national monument and turned into a museum in 1966. The gardens around the property were created in 2001 to reflect a 17th-century jardin de simples (medicinal herb garden) of the type the nuns had maintained when they first founded the congregation. For more information, visit maisonsaint-gabriel.qc.ca or call 514-935-8136.