I thought this would be an appropriate time to wander down memory lane and view the Gardens as it was THEN, and as it is NOW. I’ve taken a collection of old photo’s or postcards which were passed on to me by the chief horticulturist of the Gardens. It’s interesting to look at the old photo’s and take note of the changes in the trees, the clothing and the surroundings… the natural evolution of things. It’s remarkable how some things have barely changed at all. That after all, is what the Halifax Public Gardens is all about. It’s one of the finest examples of a Victorian Garden in the Gardenesque style, in North America. We are a national historic site of Canada for that reason. Some things are worth the effort to preserve.
NOW! This year a much-needed major restoration project was undertaken to return the bandstand to its original look. I was delighted by the change! The red roof and primary colours which most of us have come to associate with the bandstand are gone, and in its place we have a beautiful replica of the original.
THEN... 125 years ago a bandstand was commissioned to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Since its construction, it has become the "face" of the Halifax Public Gardens. Like human faces, this symbolic one had grown saggy and tired...
THEN.... A hundred years ago the old wooden bridges were replaced by the pretty ones we see today. It was a shady spot, bordered by elm trees and with a stream which flowed southeast toward South Park St. and Spring Garden Rd.
NOW... The biggest difference one notices today at the upper bridge is the absence of the large elm trees at the corners, thanks to Hurricane Juan. What seemed a tragedy at the time opened up the area to new opportunity by introducing sunlight and much-needed cash and attention. The stream bed was widened and a mixed border was planted along its length, making it one of the most photographed areas of the Gardens today.
THEN.... The old wooden upper bridge in the 1900's, showing a miniature house on the stream, a tradition which we continue to this day...
NOW... The miniature house is a different one and has moved to the shore, a fountain now occupies the little island and of course, the bridge is 100 years new. The stream is edged in a new mixed border and is a delight in the spring when the clumps of Pieris japonica (Japanese andromeda) are in bloom.
THEN... This corner of the Gardens (Northwest) was developed in 1874 when a swamp was drained and fill was added. The Halifax Citadel is visible in the background.
NOW... The shape of the serpentine beds haven't changed in over 100 years, though different annual plants highlight its shape. Citadel Hill is no longer visible as the trees have matured.
THEN... Looking west down the Petit Allée this postcard makes a liar out of me. The plant blooming on the left is an Agave which is represented in our present day Tropical display bed. Our current ones (which are over-wintered in the greenhouse) have never bloomed (because we don't have enough heat and sun said I). 1907 must have been a very good year!
NOW... the trees have grown (though not large enough to hide 'progress'), the statues are a little worse for wear and the clothing of day have become more casual, but the Petite allée continues to draw the promenading crowds.
After the skating rink was demolished in 1889, a new entry to the Gardens was commissioned and designed by Henry Busch (the same architect who designed the bandstand). The main gates which presently sit at the corner of Spring Garden Rd and South Park St. were built for this Arched Pavillion. In 1908, this gatehouse was demolished and the gates were moved to their present location. Why the Arched Pavillion ceased to exist is a mystery to me. What catastrophe befell it? If anyone can shed some light on this I'd love to know.
NOW... A familiar site to all of us. The gates are more visible at the intersection of Spring Garden Rd. and South Park St, though the old gatehouse would have been an impressive sight. The foundry which produced these gates imprinted every project they did with a distinctive diamond-shaped emblem. Please let me know when you find it!
I had meant to post this on January 1, but I was visiting gardens in the southern hemisphere and though I went to great effort to ensure I was ‘connected’, my laptop decided to take a holiday and move at Carioca (citizens of Rio de Janeiro) speed. I have therefore resolved to visit the Mac store and purchase a more reliable companion so that I can maintain my credibility. Happy New Year and I’ll be in touch next month. Cheers, Serena