These are a few of my favourite things…

Here is a collection of gardens that speak of home to me. Literally and figuratively.
These are places that move me, and places that bring me equal measure of wonder and respite.
Two are located in my present home, and the others are found near my home away from home, a former home and my first home.

Some of these enchanting gardens I am very familiar with while others though not intimate, I know enough to love. All are worth a visit.

Cherry (Prunus) petals form a beautiful carpet.My literal home. A garden 17 years in the making.

A wisteria in full bloom.My biggest challenge now is renewing plants. This year I tackled my 19 year old Wisteria. Alas no blooms next year.

Flag (Iris) hedge by the ocean in Bedford NS.An Iris hedge which I started from a piece given by a friend. The flowers from the original decorated my wedding cake 33 years ago.

Ligularia dentata and ClematisI’ve spent over a decade hiding a retaining wall by creating  an early ‘living wall’.

Sítio Burle Marx, Rio de Janeiro.This garden that was true love at first sight. Burle Marxs garden is found near my first home, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A party 'room' at Sítio Burle Marx, Rio de Janeiro.The ‘sítio’ contains an incredible tapestry of plants and artwork, encompassing all styles and mediums but almost all, native to the region.

A water garden at Sítio Burle Marx, Rio de Janeiro.A man who considered himself an artist first and botanist second, Mr. Marx painted with foliage plants.

Jubilee Gates, Regents park LondonFrom a sunny and humid climate to a cool and damp one, Regents park London. My home away from home for decades. London was often my route during my days as a flight attendant and I visited some part of Regents park whenever I was there.

Spring planting in Regents park LondonA wealth of bulbs is an understatement. The British do gardening at an Uber level.

Regents park LondonThere are Mediterranean gardens, rose gardens containing 12000 roses, water gardens and secret gardens. From Victorian to contemporary, Regents park in North West London is 395 acres huge.

The Avenue Gardens at Regents park LondonThis is but of small section of one of the many gardens scattered around Regents park. Some are hidden treasures that reward the visitor with delightful discoveries and intimate spaces so keep looking.

Allan Gardens ConservatoryMy first home in Canada, Toronto. I discovered Allan Gardens Conservatory in the heart of downtown Toronto, with my mother. Ever since we visit annually before the holidays, just when their Christmas flower show is about to start.

Allan Gardens conservatory getting ready for the Holiday SeasonI LOVE being inside a conservatory or greenhouse when the weather outside is frightful. You can stroll  inside where it is warm and bright and filled with colour. I’d give it a minimum ½ hour.

One of the greenhouses at Allan Gardens ConservatoryThe late afternoon sun is equally beautiful inside as out, though it is far more comfortable to linger in its rays inside.

A path inside Allan Gardens Conservatory in Toronto

There is a succulent house, an orchideum (?), turtles and bananas and super enriched oxygen. Benches are scattered around occupied by people sitting with a book and enjoying their surroundings.

Parterre in Château de Villandry, FranceThis part of the world was ‘home’ to me for a short time, a mere six weeks, but it deepened my love of gardening and nature, maturing it into a lifestyle rather than a hobby. Château de Villandry in the Loire valley of France.

Château de Villandry, FranceVillandry where food is grown in parterres in a sunken garden. A very elegant potager.

Château de Villandry, FranceViewed from a floral parterre several levels up.

Main gates at the Halifax Public Gardens 2013Last but by no means least … the Halifax Public Gardens.
It has enriched my life immeasurable and has led me down a path I would never have anticipated.
The story of this garden is a work in progress and the focus of

We hope to see you (well maybe not all 414 of you 🙂 this coming Thursday, December 11 at Horticulture Halll between 5-7PM. Come celebrate the holiday season with The Friends of the Public Gardens.
(FYI: we only take cash or cheque for calendar and other PG themed purchases. A cash bar will be available).

If we don’t cross paths…

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays. Be safe and enjoy spending time with people you care about.

May all your challenges in 2015 be an opportunity to grow.
Happy New Year, Bonne Aneé, Feliz ano novo y  Feliz año nuevo.

All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer, 2014. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.


Of communis, vulgaris and other exotics…

Communis and vulgaris are species names of many genera of plants. When so named, they usually refer to a type of plant which is quite common, ordinary or commonplace, not to the type of people who grow them 🙂
We often consider these plants to be nothing special and we’d sooner have something less ordinary in our gardens. The thing about common plants is that they tend to grow well in their native (or similar) regions. That’s why they’re so popular.

I’ve just spent the late summer and fall in the Balearic Islands of Spain and the  Pyrenees in France.
I drooled over the exotic species which surrounded me. Jacaranda trees, Oleander, Bougainvillea, Cacti…
Many of these exotics are available in good nurseries around Nova Scotia but they don’t come cheap. Some of them are featured in our Tropical Display bed at the Gardens.
In their preferred habitat they were so plentiful! So cheap! And oh so… common. The locals were perplexed by my enthusiasm for these ordinary plants. However what is common to some folk are exotic to others.

Bougainvillea and Podranea ricasoliana (Pink trumpet vine) in Ibiza

Is there anything more charming than coming upon a narrow stone lane with Bougainvillea spilling over a wall?
I’ve seen some atrocities committed against this rambling vine, pruning it to within an inch of its life to contain its natural exuberant tendencies.
Like a new love interest… forget about changing them. Love them for what they are or move on.

Podranea ricasoliana (Pink trumpet vine)

The Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) vine is as vigorous and commonly used as the Bougainvillea. It is the pale pink vine growing alongside the fuchsia Bougainvillea in the last photo.

Nerium oleanders in Palma de MallorcaThe Nerium oleander (Oleander) was named because of its resemblance to the Olea (the olive tree, another VERY common plant in these parts. In fact it’s one of the main crops in the area).
In Mallorca the Oleander is as common as our Rugosa roses (Rosa rugosa) and is used in the same manner… as a hedge to screen busy roads. The difference being that rose hips are a beneficial supplement while all parts of the Oleander are poisonous.

Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) at Es Baluard in Palma de MallorcaPalm trees are a common site in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately so is the red palm weevil which arrived in Spain in 1994 from Egypt and has since spread into France and Portugal. It now affects 50% of date palm growing countries in the world.

Palm tree attacked by the red palm weevil.The red palm weevil has turned this palm tree into a dove perch. The weevils bore holes in the trunk affecting it’s vascular system and causing the canopy to die back, starting at the crown and moving onto the lower leaves.

Balcony garden in Perpignan, FranceWhere space is at a premium.
Container gardening on balconies is often the only type of garden one can have. Drought resistant plants are the perfect solution in low water, high heat environments and the Med has many ‘common’ plants to fit the bill. Some results are less common than others.

Balcony garden in IbizaBalcony gardens come in many forms. This one is very simple (plant wise) and very striking.
(Note the Oleander hedge separating this apartment building from the road).

(Chamaerops humilis) Fan palm in Alfabia gardens, MallorcaChamaerops humilis (Fan palms) are the only palm trees native to Mallorca. They grow all over the island, particularly in the rocky slopes of the Tramuntana mountain range, though those are a shorter variety than this one.

Ceiba speciosa (Silk floss tree) in Palma de MallorcaI was first drawn to the Ceiba speciosa (Silk floss tree) because of its bulbous spiny trunk. The spines are water storing vessels.
Then I came upon these gorgeous orchid like flowers and when I looked beyond them, I realized they festooned the spiny trunk I was so mesmerized by.
I had been photographing them all over the island during the winter when they were leafless.

Opuntia (Prickly pear cactus) near Perpignan, France.Who needs flowers when you have glorious orange glochids emerging from the smooth blue/green leaves of this Opuntia (prickly pear cactus). I’m not sure what variety this is but I’d like one.

Ceiba (Silk flower tree) ,Chamaerops (Fan pam tree), and exfoliating Eucalyptus trunks at Alfabia garden in MallorcaCeiba ,Chamaerops, and Eucalyptus trunks create interest in the gardens of Alfaiba even in the winter.

Stalagmite formation in the garden of Alfabia, MallorcaI thought this was a root but it turns out it’s a stalagmite formed by dripping water. This formation occurred outside, not in a cave. The water in Mallorca has a very high level of calcium carbonate and isn’t fit to drink untreated.

Courtyard garden in a municipal building in Perpignan, France.Behind some pretty plain facades are some beautiful courtyard gardens in Mallorca and Perpignan.
While this courtyard in an old historic building (now a Municipal government office) didn’t have any particularly interesting plants, it had some gorgeous hardscape features, including these painted tiles.
It also had the added feature of not being open to the public (unless you happen to be a friend of the person with the keys to the city… literally 🙂

The common Bougainvillea makes a big statement in the Jardin de Bisbe in Palma de Mallorca.I may have seen literally thousands of Bougainvilleas during my visit to Spain and France but there were times that they literally took my breath away.

A weeping Olea europaea (Olive tree) in the gardens of the Fontsanta HotelA weeping Olea europaea (Olive tree) makes a simple but beautiful display, mimicking the spouting water.
A great garden, like a great meal, is more about what you create with the basic ingredients than the ingredients themselves.

 The Public Gardens close their gates early this year. Sunday, November 16 in the early evening. If you get a chance, go in for a last walkabout.

The Friends will be hosting their annual Holiday Celebration on Thursday, December 11 from 5-7Pm at Horticultural Hall. Invites will be emailed later in the week but we wanted you to pencil us in.

We will have Public Gardens calendars for sale at the event and online. I will post on Facebook page and on our website when they go on sale

In the meantime, stay warm. Hasta pronto!

All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer, 2014. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.