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Queen Victoria lives on in Halifax

A 16-acre meadow of Eden proudly stands as a classic model of an excellently-nurtured Victorian Garden



Cruising along and leisurely sailing during the fall through America’s New England states and Halifax in Canada, was a spectacle, a wonderful explosion of autumn colors.

Some may even say it is reminiscent of intricate needlepoint hues or a painter’s treasured canvas, all due to the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. We spent precious moments in our cabin balconies gazing at a never-ending tableau.

Gates of the Public Gardens in Halifax. / Photographs courtesy of MARKJT

Imagine our elation upon learning one of the must-see destinations in this port city is an expansive estate
— plainly dubbed as Halifax Public Gardens.

A 16-acre meadow of Eden stands as a classic model of an excellently-nurtured Victorian Garden. This was honored as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.

Nestled in the center of the homestead, it is protected by gigantic gates and
wrought-iron fences. The welcome portal highlighted the Coat of Arms of the province of Nova Scotia, inscribed with E Mari Merces, meaning Wealth from the Sea.

Since smoking, cycling, jogging, pet walking or feeding are prohibited, the ingeniously
well-preserved haven remains a home for nature lovers and friends of the earth.

It is open to the public between the months of May and November.

Owing to our seeming overexposure to the flora on board our ocean liner, we prioritized the installations for a change of view.

A Roman goddess sculpture.

We admired three
life-sized Roman goddess statues — agriculture incarnate Ceres, the floral deity Flora and wildlife patron Diana. Not to be outdone were sculptures of historical giants such as Great Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — the only commoner who stood in the Buckingham Palace balcony with the Royal Family during the Victory in Europe Day celebration; shipping magnate Samuel Cunard, who pioneered VIPs to cross the Atlantic; and composer Robert Burns, creator of the most popular tune to welcome the new year, “Auld Lang Syne.”

The classical Victoria Jubilee fountain. / Photographs by Edu Jarque for the daily tribune

The Boer War Memorial Fountain caught our attention as a testament to the South African War, where countless Canadian soldiers sacrificed their lives, represented by a lone rifleman crowning the structure.

Boer War Monument.

From one to another, how could we have missed the Victoria Jubilee Fountain? We were amazed by its
all-classical style ornate decorations of intricate Corinthian columns and four serpents wrapped around a mythical creature in robes, water pouring from an urn into the basin. A bronze plaque is inscribed with Erected by the Garden Commissions, “In Commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 22 June 1897.”

To appreciate the place and its role in history, we took a welcome break and learned all about the locale’s rich and profound past. This popular square opened in 1867 and remains a mainstay for residents and tourists.

However, it was not all bliss and blessings, sunshine and smiles. In 2003, Hurricane Juan tore through the region, created havoc and caused major damage to the plots. Fortunately, there were concentrated projects to rebuild the destruction and which gave birth to the Horticultural Hall Plaza that boasts a
swan-laden central fountain.

We were curious to witness the greens and blooms — the heart of the gardens. We were thankful for the faithful restoration efforts of horticulturists and green thumbers to the city grounds, a lush depository of over 150 species of flowers, shrubs and trees which grow all season long.

The colorful geometric beds of flowers.

We were overwhelmed by the double whammy of colorful Geometric Beds with rows of petals, a defining feature of Victorian Gardens, contrasted by the painstakingly-maintained Carpet Beds with meticulously-trimmed flowerless dwarf plants and shrubs arranged in a certain pattern.

Let’s not forget the endless rows of huge dahlias in shades as diverse as the Pantone collection, with countless variations and shapes scientifically identified for preservation and education.

On the other hand, verdant trees abound in this fertile woodland. We stumbled upon some hundred endangered American Chestnut trees currently being cultivated for future generations. Nearby were Weeping European Beech and Camperdown Elm trees, all presented by the close-knit family of a heroic soldier who sacrificed his life throughout times of conflict.

To add to this valiant effort, park benches were bequeathed to commemorate recognized individuals and their good deeds, immortalized by simple markers of their backgrounds, where we spent time reading each and every plaque.

Griffin Pond (above) and an old American Elm Tree (below). / PHOTOGRAPHS courtesy of GRMIKE AND MSACT

From the past, we now moved forward to modern creations like the Griffin’s Pond. A man-made wonder, this waterform is a reminder of the
perhaps-wrongful execution of a young Irish gentleman.

As a treat, this reservoir functions as memoriam to the tragic maiden voyage incident of the Titanic, where several Halifax ships were immediately dispatched to rescue the living and recover the dead.

But that’s for another story, another time.