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Halifax Grows a Grand Garden

For the week of Monday August 26, 2013

On August 31, 1836, the Nova Scotia Horticultural Society (NSHS) presented a report aimed at convincing the government and the people of Halifax (Haligonians) that a public garden was needed. At the time, there was no place in Nova Scotia that was dedicated to the growing of rare plants and flowers.

Aerial view of the Halifax Public Gardens
© The Friends of the Public Gardens, Halifax Public Gardens
In the report, the NSHS listed three reasons for the project. Firstly, a garden would boost the good health of the population by providing an open space for families to enjoy. Secondly, the captivating arrangements of flowers would increase the beauty of the town and be an interesting topic of discussion among residents. Finally, a beautiful garden would promote the worth of the country and instil a sense of pride and patriotism, since other regions would envy Halifax’s beautiful new oasis.

The NSHS was provided with a 2.2 hectare (5.5 acre) lot in downtown Halifax where it created the NSHS Gardens.

In 1866, the city established a second smaller public garden right next to the NSHS gardens. A year later, the two were combined to form the Halifax Public Gardens. Over time, the Gardens have been expanded to their current 6.5 hectare (16 acre) size.

Victorian landscape of Halifax Public Gardens
© Parks Canada / 1992

Landscape gardener Richard Power designed the Halifax Public Gardens with serpentine, scroll and carpet flower beds. In true Victorian fashion, the Gardens boasts several ornate fountains, a bandstand, ornamental urns, several statues, two decorative concrete bridges, and an elaborate wrought-iron fence, all of which were in place by the end of the 19th century. By the end of the 1870s, there were more than 100 different species of trees and plants in the gardens.

Located in the heart of Halifax, the Gardens are a rare surviving example of a Victorian garden in Canada. For its beauty and rarity, the Halifax Public Gardens was designated a national historic site in 1983.

To read more about Canada’s gardens, visit the This Week in History archives: Elsie Reford's Paradise, The Montreal Botanical Garden, Victoria’s Mosaic of Landscapes! and Stanley Park.

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