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This article was published 26/6/2017 (1063 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The gardens of Assiniboine Park have been recognized for their deep cultural roots.
The Canadian Garden Council selected the Herb Society of Manitoba’s annual HerbFest and garden and Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s expansive collection of plots as two of the top 150 garden experiences in the country.
According to the Canadian Garden Council, the selection recognizes gardens that highlight and celebrate how garden experiences have played a role in the development and growth of Canada, and demonstrate how garden experiences can contribute to community well being and connect people to "historical roots."
Carol Hibbert, a volunteer who has been involved with the Herb Society since its inception in 1997, said the plot of land adjacent to the Conservatory represents a small slice of Manitoba’s tradition of homesteading and the diversity of herbs used across the country.
The garden has five segments representing different types of herbs and their uses, including parsley, sage, dill, perilla, Vietnamese coriander, yarrow, lavender, and eucalyptus, to name a few.
The colloquial names for many of the plants tell an interesting story of how the herbs were used in years past, Hibbert said.
Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), with leaves as soft as felt, was once used to cover wounds, she explained, and costmary — also known as Bible leaf — was often placed between the pages of one of the most widely read books.
"It gets its name because it was used as a bookmark in your prayer book and when you were falling asleep during that sermon that was going on and on, you could rub your fingers and take a whiff of that scent to wake you up again," Hibbert said.
"Herbs for the most part, unless they’re poisonous, have been used for teas, medicines, and culinary purposes," she added. "A lot of the plants we have have historical significance, and people who were pioneers, you can find remnants of the plants they put into their farmyards like tansy. You can also find remnants of the costmary, and horseradish of course."
Dawn Hicks, president of the Herb Society, said 2017 has been a banner year for the group. In addition to the top garden experience designation, the society’s HerbFest, held in early June, attracted a record number of visitors and the group celebrated its 20th anniversary.
"I think it’s pretty cool that they feel that we have a connection to Confederation and they wanted to highlight us," Hicks said.
Across the park in the English Garden, Craig Gillespie has been preparing one of the site’s most popular destinations for the thousands of visitors it will see on Canada Day.
In recognition of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Gillespie, the crew lead in the English Garden, has traded in the traditional orange and yellow plants for a palette of red and white, and has planted a bed of Canadian roses, expected to be full bloom for July 1.
"This year we’ve kind of changed it up," he explained. "In the past we’ve gone with showier roses, English garden roses, but they aren’t as hardy. You can’t count on them to come back."
Gillespie said the rose gardens are incredibly popular with visitors to Assiniboine Park and this year the emphasis is on Canadian-bred strains, including the Canadian Shield rose (the first of Vineland Research and Innovation Centre’s 49th Parallel series), the Felix LeClerc rose, campfire rose, and the "Never Alone" rose.
"Those are all Canadian-bred, from Canadian series, and developed in Canada," Gillespie said.
"I’m actually quite pleased with how this turned out. I’m in the process of putting a walkway in because whenever we have roses, people want to walk up to them. So when they come through, everything here is a Canadian rose."
Kaaren Pearce, director of horticulture with Assiniboine Park Conservancy, said to be selected among the best gardens in Canada is also a celebration of horticulture on the prairies.
"It’s an honour to be a destination and have the gardens recognized as a destination," she said.
The gardens have a long tradition of bringing nature and culture together, Pearce said, and as the conservancy looks toward the future with the development of Canada’s Diversity Gardens, it’s also cognizant of its past.
"The gardens are about connecting: connecting with plants, connecting with a bird, or connecting with somebody."
"It’s such an honour to be a steward of such a special place."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.