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!



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.




Meet the Vendors – Michael & Sally Knight of Strattons Farm

Meet the Vendors – Michael & Sally Knight of Strattons Farm

Part of a series about the Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market, written by Valerie Davies.


In April 2017 Michael and Sally Knight moved their farm equipment in a 40ft sea container and trailered their goats from Ontario to Granville Centre.  They had spent the last eight years running a thriving Market Garden and pasture raised meat farm in Ontario. However, after the drought in 2016, they downsized their livestock production allowing them to follow their dream of farming and living in Nova Scotia.

Their market garden in Granville Centre is 2 acres of cultivated land, including a greenhouse, and hoop houses, producing a wide variety of vegetables.  They sell directly to the consumers at the Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market and the Annapolis Royal Farmers and Traders Market through the summer.

They will be building a greenhouse in 2018 that will be used for extending the growing season and will also be where they will start their seeds next year as currently they are using their sun porch to start all their seedings.  They do not produce their own seeds, as there are already great local seed producers.  All the seeds they use are certified organic, sustainably grown or sourced from companies that are part of the ‘NON-GMO project verified seeds.

Their farm in Ontario was certified Organic and in late 2017 they submitted the paper work for their present market garden with EcoCert, so their farm is currently going through the transition process to become certified organic.  Therefore anything that is used on their farm has to be approved for certified organic use. They do not spray any chemicals on their crops and choose to hand pick or squidge bugs or use insect netting and floating row covers to protect them. None of their neighbours spray as their farm is surrounded by the North Mountain, marshland and horse paddocks.

The Knights produce honey, with the bees doing all the hard work! The hives are located on the farm as they also help to pollinate the market garden.  The Knights also grow a variety of forage for bees and other wild pollinators. Honey is for sale for as long as supplies last and they are hoping to expand the apiary in 2018. They also raise and breed registered Nigerian Dwarf Goats, which are a small, friendly, adaptable dairy goat and because of their size uniquely suited to small farms.

They cultivate the land with a walk behind tractor and lots of hand tools, as it is just the two of them working and caring for their farm.  They store their root vegetables and in the coming years will be expanding the range of root crops available over the winter months.

Strattons Farm is located in Granville Centre, at 5777 Highway #1. They do not have a farm stand but if customers are unable to make it to the farmers market in the main season they can pre-order (by phone or e-mail) a basket of mixed seasonal vegetables with pre-arranged pick up from the farm on either a Tuesday or Friday evening. (Phone: 902-526-4440 or e-mail: strattonscsa@gmail.com).