The Rhododendron Forest Dream


This has been a winter most fair. I knew I was signing a contract for winter misery when I moved here. I knew winter driving would be a nightmare, I knew I could become isolated. But it’s the now  march. With only a tiny memory of snow smeared in the darkest patches of the turning circle. Our property is otherwise completely snow-free. I believe we only had about 4-5 serious snow storms, only one of which I actually felt fear while driving. We came out lucky compared to last year. So it looks like I have a head start on my garden planning by a whole month!

This month is a major month for work, and with a lot of plans made over the winter, I’ve got a LOT of work to do! On one of my fairest days of February, I rolled up my sleeves and started throwing stumps around into a pattern that solidified the flow of a visitor’s promenade through the Rhododendron Forest. Yes, this was one of my earliest fantasies, back when I was still nail-biting and trying to sell my last house so we could sneak in and grab this one before it sold.

So, let’s go for a stroll together through my forest, and I’ll tell you all about it.  You won’t see a damn thing but my majestic stumps laying around, but planning and sharing my vision is just one step in the process of Ginkgo Grove’s transformation!

Before I begin the tour, I will share with you the original history of this forest. It is entirely planted of white pine (Pinus strobus) and it was planted by the previous owners. The woman who lived here said she was pregnant when she planted all the saplings. They planted them as a wind break..a barrier.. just something interesting. There is something magical and risky about a monoculture, but that is why I am going to contribute to history by planting a beautiful place filled with color and diversity. I’m so fortunate to live in a zone where rhododendrons seem to thrive (heck, if you ever find yourself in annapolis valley in late may, I urge you to go to to the rhododendron gardens at the Kentville Research Station.

I wonder what’s in there…

I wanted to siphon visitors into the entrance of the forest so they wouldn’t overlook it, so here, I laid a few piles of wood to demonstrate the need for some sort of gateway, or opening. The forest does not have a set flow, and there could potentially be an entrance everywhere. The only openings have been made from pines that fell or have been deemed a safety risk and have been cut down.

Art w/stumps

The path guides you through a short walk, until you veer slightly to the left and you will find my piece of art. Yes, my piece of art is a gorgeous pile of stumps. Someday, I will place a pagoda.. or something of interest that might tie it all together. I made this area an opening so there is room to wander, take a break and take it in.





Continuing on, you will find another opening at the back of the path, marked by a pair of stumps. This is our snowshoeing gateway. Beyond here, there is a vast potato field (oh thank you bounty of rejected potatoes!) but in the winter it becomes an open space where snowshoers, cross-country skiiers, and snowmobilers go to get their winter exercise. So we will leave this open.



And now you have hit the climax of the short walk. Or so, I am assuring you one day, it will be. As you can see, I’ve placed a bench—don’t sit on it! It’s only rotted wood and stumps, probably some nails in there, or at the very least, earwigs. From here, I am painting you an imaginative picture of what you will see. There is plenty of color here—Pieris, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Hellebores, Serviceberry, Hydrangeas, Fothergilla, Witch Hazel, Heaths and Heathers… okay, that’s enough. You get the idea.


20160304_133249.jpgAnd finally, once you’ve taken it all in, you may exit by continuing onward. It’s not a very eventful exit, but to your left, you will hopefully one day see a mighty Staghorn cedar (Thujopsis dolobrata), and my actual, true tropical greenhouse, which right now, is just a little structure of steel ribs. I’m gonna do it right, and that means a lot of planning first. Maybe in 2-3 years time. Maybe it will be your exit through my tropical gift shop.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. I know right now I am envisioning a rather anticlimactic group of tourists looking at me with an unimpressed expression. But this is part of the process of my blog. My blog is telling you a story from start to finish. The concept, the pre-work tour, and the finished project, and of course, the evolution of the garden. Sometimes I draw on paper. Sometimes I draw with stumps!

Next post will cover the zone 5 agenda for the 2nd half of March. Have a beautiful week!


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