Tree talk.

My favorite element of the Halifax Public Gardens are its trees.
When Richard Power designed the amalgamation of the city block of gardens and fallow land which would become the Halifax Public Gardens, he used more than 2000 trees from the nursery of the Nova Scotia Horticultural Society. He planted them not only within the Gardens,  but in the surrounding areas as well.

A perimeter of trees were planted to delineate this block, then he filled it with a varied collection of trees and shrubs as was fashionable in the Gardenesque tradition of gardening.

Gardenesque dictated that the more shapes, colors, and species the better and if it was ‘exotic’… better still. Trees and shrubs were planted far enough away from each other so that they could  be fully admired  as a specimen.

There are 126 different species surviving today in the Gardens. The real treasure, is that you can stand back and gaze upon a specimen that has attained its full stature.
The variety of leaf shapes and colors, tree shapes, and variations in bark offer a bounty of interest  in all seasons. Untouched by progress, these trees have stood the passage of time and borne witnessed to some amazing transformations in the city that surrounds them.

Like Richard Power, the custodians of the Gardens who have come behind him, continue to add to this collection knowing that they are planting a legacy which will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

Ulmus americana at the Halifax Public GardensThe grand daddy of them all… While this Ulmus americana (American Elm tree) isn’t technically the oldest tree in the Gardens, it towers over the bandstand and has a very impressive girth. Planted around 1875 as part of  the Grande Aleé running down the center of the Gardens, it is one of the few survivors (in the Aleé) of Hurricane Juan.

Weeping European beech tree at the Halifax Public Gardens

The Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’ (Weeping European beech tree) by the Boer War Memorial fountain wins the popularity contest. It is at least 110 years old and has been drawing gasps and providing shelter, to generations of visitors.

Acer saccharinum (Silver maple tree) at the Halifax Public Gardens

Often overlooked because of its location, this huge Acer saccharinum (Silver maple tree) stands on the SW quadrant of the Gardens, beside the huge clump of Rhododendrons (which appears small in this photo) along the Petite Alleé . The deeply notched lobes on the green leaves remind me of a Japanese maple tree, and form quite a sight when it’s silver undersides flutter in the wind. This particular variety also has striking yellow fall foliage.

Siadopitys verticillata (Japanese umbrella pine) at the Halifax Public GardensA stunning and unusual evergreen tree the Japanese Umbrella Pine (Siadopitys verticillata) is one of my favorite trees (I own one). The contrast of the blue-green fleshy needles and the mahogony furrowed bark is gorgeous. As an added bonus, the needles turn a coppery bronze during the winter (check it out this year, now that you can). It is a very slow-growing tree (this one is quite old).

Laburnum (Golden chain tree) at the Halifax Public GardensSome trees shine when they are in bloom and not particularly the rest of the time.

Fagus sylvatica Pendula (Weeping European beech tree) at the Halifax Public GardensSome shine not matter what season.

Betula lutea (Yellow birch tree) at the Halifax Public GardensSome just shine with glossy bark that catches the light…

Tree trunk at the Halifax Public GardensSome just make you want to feel the texture and admire the ridges and swirls formed by the bark.

Pinus strobus 'Pendula' (Weeping white pine) at the Halifax Public Gardens

A lot of the more interesting tree forms also happen to be slow-growing varieties which slowly unfurl  their shape … very slowly. At this age, too slow for me.

Aralia elata (Devil's walking stick tree) at the Halifax Public GardensSome trees look don’t look very promising during their dormant season, then emerge into something unexpected…

Devil's walking stick in mid September at the Halifax Public Gardens

Aesculus x carnea 'Briotti' (Red horse chestnut tree) at the Halifax Public GardensThere are many beautiful tree flowers.

Quercus robur var. concordia (Yellow English oak tree) at the Halifax Public GardensAnd beautiful tree vignettes.

Syringa (Lilac tree) at the Halifax Public GardensTrees are both appreciated, and reviled for their scent.

Tilia x europaea (European linden tree) at the Halifax Public GardensPart of the perimeter plantings from Richard Powers time. Lyndon trees were and are very popular  in Europe, both for their scent and their architectural flexibility.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum Pendula (Weeping Katsura tree) at the Halifax Public GardensThere are many newish trees scattered around the Gardens.
This is a brilliant tree to choose for this part of the Gardens. It is close to the weeping trees surrounding the Soldiers memorial fountain, and it’s weeping branches will hopefully allow us to get up close and personal when this weeping Katura tree releases its heavenly sweet scent in fall.

It is important to always look to the future when managing a space that will remain (virtually) untouched for centuries and beyond (we hope).
The custodians of today determine what the Gardens will look like now and in the future .
Our chief custodian (I like that title) will be introducing true to the Gardenesque traditions,  hardy palms and other hardy exotics into the Gardens next year. Can’t wait to see how they do.

All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer, 2012. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.


1 thought on “Tree talk.

  1. Serena – we love the trees in the Public Gardens too. What a fitting tribute to our Garden!Your photos really show the trees at their best! Thank you so much!!!

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