A truncated, but enjoyable mystery garden tour

Janice Wells
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You know I’m not back to my normal energetic (ha ha) self when I give up on the Mystery Garden Tour with nine gardens left unexplored. However, my loss was Son-in-Law’s gain and the tour now has another fan and another customer for next year.

Aside from the mystery of not knowing which gardens you are going to see until you buy your passport and map ($25; the passport has information about each garden and the map helps you find them on this self-guided tour), I’d be very surprised if you don’t also see mystery plants that you didn’t know existed.

I certainly did, and I’d rate my basic ornamental plant identification skill as perhaps a seven on a scale of one to 10. Sometimes the gardeners are there to answer questions, but most of these gardens have so many varieties that you’d need hours to identify them all.

In a new garden in Bay Bulls, we saw some lovely evergreens about four feet tall with such dense, long-tip growth that they looked like an unknown species to me. Imagine my surprise (and a touch of embarrassment) when the landscaper told me they were white spruce, just about one of our most common and hardiest conifers.

These were pot grown, and to Daughter’s and my eyes, looked different from anything we’d ever seen before, and certainly different from the mature white spruce on the same property.

Most gardens have a strong foundation of old favourites, but of course, there are so many different kinds of the same plant, and new ones being developed every year, that you’re always sure to see something you haven’t seen before.

And speaking of mysteries, maybe someone out there can help Andrew, who wrote, “I was wondering if you might be able to identify the plant below for me with the rust-coloured leaves and white flowers. I’d like to plant along my back fence.” (See top photo.)

One garden on the tour had more than 70 varieties of ferns and really demonstrated what can be done if you want to garden and you have a lot of trees on your property. This garden, in Kelligrews, was described to me in an email from a long time member of the N.L. Horticultural Society as the best garden she’s ever seen.

Daughter and I had decided that we’d probably have to miss that one because it was the furthest from my house, but when I read that email, we decided to go there first. It meant I didn’t get to as many gardens as I’d expected to, but I’m glad we went.

Even though I only made it to three gardens, I took dozens of pictures and Daughter No. 2 took some in the gardens I missed. I’m also hoping my friend Liz Klose at the Botanical Gardens will have some, as she did last year. I don’t mind admitting that hers were better then mine anyway.

Over the weeks I’ll show lots of them, perhaps apropos of nothing I’m writing about, but just for pleasure and inspiration.

By the way, added to this year’s 12 private gardens as a bonus was a free one day pass to the MUN Botanical Garden.


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca. Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: N.L. Horticultural Society, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Bay Bulls, Kelligrews, Botanical Gardens

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