A Tree for All Seasons – Seven-son Flower


Another very interesting tree in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens is the Heptacodium miconioides or Seven-son Flower, located along the path towards our Rose Garden.  Native to China, it is a rare plant and reportedly may no longer be found in the wild.

As the name indicates, the flower heads tend to be comprised of seven flowers. It blooms in late summer, unlike most other trees, providing a September highlight.

Seven Sons

After the blossoms finish, the autumn colour of  its “afterbloom”, comprised of tiny fruit surrounded by showy rose coloured calyces, is stunning.  The tree is a good source of nectar for butterflies.

And of course the incredible exfoliating bark adds year round interest. Today, we have winter photos to show, as it is indeed winter!



For more information on this unique plant, and other photos, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden plant database. (This is a good resource for information on many plants – you may want to bookmark it!)

Fun fact – While the heptacodium is presumed to be named for the typical number of flowers in a whorl, it features a variety of numbers in its display:

  • 7 flowers
  • 6 petals on each flower
  • 5 calyces on each “afterbloom”

Next time you are in the Historic Gardens, be sure to keep an eye out for this unique garden resident.


A Living Fossil – the Dawn Redwood.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Dawn Redwood

One of the more notable trees in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens is the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). The Dawn Redwood is a unique and magnificent tree, and one with a very interesting history as well.

The Dawn Redwood is a tall tree with fern-like, feathery needles. One of its unusual features is that it is a deciduous conifer – the needles change from green to russet brown in the fall and then drop from the tree. The resulting “winter” look is quite striking, as seen above.

Another interesting feature of the Dawn Redwood is the bark – rough, red and sometimes peels in long strips.

The history of the Dawn Redwood is a very interesting one. It existed on earth more than 50 million years ago, the only sign of existence being fossils found in Asia and North America. That all changed in 1941 when a Chinese botanist discovered an unusual tree in a remote village – samples later confirmed that it was a Dawn Redwood. A few years later a grove of Dawn Redwood was discovered in an isolated valley in China. The Arnold Arboretum was the first North American institution to receive seeds and was instrumental in their distribution to botanical gardens and universities around the world. Now, seven decades later, the Dawn Redwood is commercially available in garden centres and nurseries everywhere. For more in depth reading on the history of the Dawn Redwood, have a look at this publication by the Arnold Arboretum.

If you want one for your own property, plan carefully – it grows very tall, 70-100 feet, and  can reach up to 40 feet in width. But given the space, it is a magnificent tree. Below is a photo taken several winters ago showing the long shadow cast by one of our Dawn Redwoods… in the centre of the shot.


We actually have several Dawn Redwoods in the Gardens, very close to our pond bridge. Have a look next time you are visiting!

Maple Mania

Maple Mania – When we think of maples, most often we think of the iconic Sugar Maple and its beautiful fall foliage. But there are lots of other great maples, and many cool features besides the beautiful maple leaf that is so very Canadian.
The bark of various types of maple in the Historic Gardens add interest all year long. You have to get up close – the beauty is in the details. Here we have the rough bark of the Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), and the pretty designs of two of the striped (or snakebark) maples you will find here – the native Acer pensylvanicum and the Asian Acer rufinerve.
Fun fact – our native striped maple is also referred to as “Goosefoot Maple” for its broad, three-pronged leaves. Check one out next summer!

Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)


Native Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)


An Asian Striped Maple (Acer rufinerve)

Camouflage Bark

We often post photos of colourful blossoms and beautiful landscapes in the Historic Gardens. Today we wanted to change things up a bit. Some of our unsung heroes in the Gardens are also our largest residents – the trees. While they are magnificent, many of their features are overlooked by visitors as the colours of summer take the eye. In the winter one has more opportunity to look more closely at the trees, and notice some of the unique features.
These three photos show the “camouflage” bark that exists on some of our trees – shown are the Kousa Dogwood, Japanese Stewartia, and London Plane trees. Each have other cool features as well, but the mottled bark is worth a second look!
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Donations make it possible for us to continue to delight and astound visitors from around the world. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so in person or online through the Gardens Shop. https://historic-gardens-shop.myshopify.com/


For more information on the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, visit www.historicgardens.com 

2019 Call for Sculptures

A great opportunity to have your work displayed in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens for the 2019 season!


Ten years ago, in partnership with the Annapolis Region Community Arts Council, the Historic Gardens started incorporating sculpture into the Gardens on a seasonal basis. As with everything in the Historic Gardens, the Sculpture Project is growing and blossoming each season. Past seasonal installations have included creations by Nova Scotian artists: Alexis Doiron, Brad Hall, Alexa Jaffurs, Michelle Heron and Jan Hull to name a few. In addition to these installations, the Gardens has several semi-permanent pieces including a “living sculpture” created by Dawn MacNutt using live willow and the magnificent “Dance of the Blue Heron” sculpture by Gerald Jank that now graces our front lawn!


Each piece has been sited perfectly within the 10 acres of gardens, allowing the artwork to both enhance its surroundings and to be enhanced by the gardens around it. The resulting marriage of gardens and sculpture has been met with great enthusiasm from Historic Gardens visitors.

We are now pleased to call for Expressions of Interest from artists for garden sculpture for the 2019 season. Deadline for submissions: Mar 1 2019. Download a PDF below!



Spring Clean-up Week

Historic Gardens Spring Clean-up… the Tradition Continues April 16-20!


Mark April 16-20 (Mon-Fri) on your calendar, and try to find some time to join staff and volunteers at Annapolis Royal’s Historic Gardens for this year’s Spring Clean-up.

Poster Download: Spring Cleanup 2018

A community tradition, the first “Spring Clean-up” at the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens occurred in April 1987. The initial concept arose as an offer from several Board members to volunteer on a Saturday in April to help the horticultural staff with the extensive clean-up that awaited after a long winter. The Board decided that they should publicize this “event” in case there were a few others in the community who might offer assistance. What resulted was beyond all expectations. The Gardens’ Spring Clean-up instantly became a major spring event in the community as volunteers donned their rubber boots and garden gloves, loaded their rakes and wheelbarrows in the car, and headed to the Gardens to help out.

Years later, the Gardens Clean-up has expanded to a week-long event. Volunteers find it a great opportunity to learn from Gardens staff, and the staff very much enjoy working side by side with the many volunteers. As one volunteer stated recently “What a wonderful opportunity it is to volunteer for Spring Clean-Up Week at the Historic Gardens! Not only does it feel great to be able to give back to this most beautiful corner-stone of our community, but it’s a fantastic learning opportunity too.”

Join the 2017 Historic Gardens Spring Cleanup efforts April 16-20 (Mon-Fri) 9am-4pm. Typical shifts are 9-12 or 1-4 each day. Volunteers can work several shifts during the week, or if you only have an hour to give, they’d love to see you regardless!  It makes a great family outing – an opportunity to work outdoors with your kids and teach them the value of volunteering at the same time.

Further information on the Clean-up can be obtained by calling the Gardens office at 532-7018.

Meet the Vendors – Wild Rose Farm with Gilberte Doelle


When you drive out past Digby along highway #1 you eventually arrive at Gilbert’s Cove where Gilberte Doelle lives and works on her Wild Rose Farm. She is quite unique in the way she cultivates her land and grows fresh and delicious greens, vegetables & fruits all year round, that she brings to the winter market at the Historic Gardens and to the Annapolis Royal Market from May to September.

Her two green-houses of 1,200 square feet and the outside land is divided into bio-intensive 5 foot beds in 8 row blocks.  She grows many crops in the same area, broccoli, sweet potato, tomatoes, peppers and many varieties of greens besides lettuce. She moves the produce around, never leaving a bed empty.  Gilberte does not till the soil but works it by hand.  She solarizes the soil to keep out the perennial weeds.  The bottom layer of each bed consists of weeds, then over this fresh manure from their cows, then seaweed and finally a two inch depth of soil.  Worms work the soil. Hay is used to suppress the weeds in order to minimize the work.  She also uses wood chip mulch to keep the weeds down and create a pathway if needed.  50% of the work is preparation of the soil and replanting.

Outside on her 0.68 acres she uses floating row covers (blankets) directly over the plants to keep them warm during the winter.  By law in order to have certification to grow vegetables for sale she has to have a twenty-five foot buffer zone round the outer edge of her land, preventing any contamination such as spraying from other properties.  She tried planting different kinds of trees along the edges of her property. The most successful was the local willow.

Another building on the site is her transplanting shed.  She also has a washing room for the produce (700 pounds per week) which she sells at the market and her outlet shop on site where she has seasonal greens, vegetables, honey and other products for sale.  Gilberte also grows seeds for Hope Seeds, another local business.  The coastal climate around Gilbert’s Cove allows seeds to dry better for packaging.

A few years ago one of her greenhouses (a commercial purchase) blew down in a big wind but the 12 year old one she designed with extra bracing added, is still standing firm and is 10 degrees warmer.

To attract bees and butterflies she provides insectary rows of flowers like milkweed, blue, yellow and white daisies and borage.  To water her plants she uses low volume drip irrigation.  As ladybugs are beneficial to the farmer she releases 4,500 of the insects at the end of June and encourages kids to visit.  In 2013 she won the NS Farm Environmental Stewardship Award.  She is certainly certified Organic and her farm is definitely bio-intensive.