Archive for the ‘Gardens to Visit’ Category


Garden to visit: Nitobe Memorial Garden

Yesterday my boyfriend Ben and I went to Nitobe Memorial Garden at UBC to check out a matcha festival.

Considered to be one of the top traditional Japanese gardens in North America, Nitobe Memorial Garden honours the Japanese scholar, educator and diplomat Dr. Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933).

Nitobe is meticulously designed and maintained, down to each pebble; every leaf and stone. And everything is infused with meaning.

There is tranquil harmony here, in the careful balance of masculine and feminine forces traditionally attributed to natural elements: waterfalls, rivers, forests, islands and seas. Grab a pamphet on your way in – it directs you on a self-guided tour.

A number of stone lanterns, strategically placed, grace the two-acre oasis. Stone lanterns appeard in Japan during the Asuka period and were used to light the front of Buddhist temples. Their decorative use in gardens began with the rise of the tea ceremony and the need to illuminate the roji path to the tea house. This Nitobe family crest lantern (shizen doro) was not in garden designer Dr. Mori’s original design but was added later as a gift from the city of Morioka. The stone is local to Morioka district and it bears the crescent moon and stars of the Nitobe family crest.

Stones, which have many symbolic meanings in Japanese gardens (female, male, child; alarm, sensory awareness, etc.), anchor and provide the “bones” of the garden.

I love the serenity inherent here. I really want to create a Japanese-style garden when we move to our new place, but I’ve never been good at self-restraint. Maybe it will serve as an exercise in that.

Heavy Petal is on holiday until August 9. This article was originally posted September 18, 2005.

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Gardens to visit: Terra Nova

Terra Nova entrance

My family and I visited the Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond today. Despite having being told about the awesomeness of Terra Nova over a year ago, today was our first visit.

Spelt in the Daily Bread section of Terra Nova

Spelt growing in the Daily Bread section of the Schoolyard Society garden mixes wonderfully with other edibles. The original ornamental grass!

In addition to a thriving community garden, the Terra Nova lands are used by organizations for the benefit of the community. The Tzu Chi Foundation Sharing Farm and the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project (Terra Nova Sharing Farm) grow food for the Richmond Food Bank.

Buckwheat and nasturtium

Then there’s the Terra Nova Schoolyard Society garden – a non-profit, community-based garden project that connects elementary and high school students with the earth. Students grow, monitor, harvest, and eat from the garden. For example, last year, they planted wheat, harvested and threshed it – then baked bread using the flour. The project, run by chef Ian Lai, integrates the complete food cycle – from seed to table, and from table to soil (in the form of composting).

I loved the way so many light, airy grains were integrated into the Schoolyard Society garden. Did you have any idea that buckwheat (above) was so pretty?

Terra Nova, community garden section

Terra Nova hosts a hugely-popular event called Chefs to the Field, coming up August 8. You should go.

Sign in the community garden

The community garden section of the park is divided into individual plots, which form a colourful patchwork of edibles and ornamentals. Gardeners were busy harvesting and tending their beds – but not too busy to tell me about what they were growing.

Sunflower

If you go: Terra Nova Rural Park is at 2631 Westminster Hwy, Richmond – about 30 minutes drive from Vancouver. Entrance and parking is free. The Richmond Food Secure blog lists upcoming workshops and events (such as “Beescaping” and “What can I plant now?”) held at the park. Combine with lunch on the wharves at Steveston (only a few minutes away) and you’ve got yourself a fabulous summer daytrip.

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Sooke Harbour House gardens: a real live edible landscape

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A couple weekends ago, we visited friends of ours in Sooke, a small community on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Sooke is known for a couple of things. For families and outdoorsy types, it’s all about the beaches and swimming at the Potholes, while the Sooke Harbour House is a must for the luxury travel set. Just guess which crowd I belong to.

Our friends, now married with a new baby, met years ago when they were both working at the Harbour House (he was the sommelier, she was a 14-year old bus girl – imagine!) so they were quite familiar with the luxury inn and its world-renowned restaurant. When they offered to take us there for a garden tour, we jumped at the chance.

Sooke Harbour House raised beds

Head gardener Byron Cook led us on a tour of the gardens, which overlook the ocean. The gardens completely surround the inn, providing a tranquil foreground to the backdrop of the Pacific. But the garden isn’t just there to admire from your private hot tub. It’s a working garden, supplying the restaurant, which focused on local food waaaay before it was hip (1979, to be precise).

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The garden emphasizes herbs, salad greens, and edible flowers. Over 200 species of edible plants are grown on the grounds. One hundred percent of the gardens’ plants are edible, although not all of them are used regularly. (Take our native camas, for example. As Byron says, “it’s a survival food.”)

borage flowers

Although there are several raised beds, mainly devoted to the cultivation of salad greens, the majority of the garden is a mingling of herbs and flowers – a true edible landscape. Some of the flowers, such as borage or nasturtium, are quite familiar as edibles. Others, such as daylilies, were a surprise to me.

“Edible landscaping” has become quite the buzzword (buzz term?) over the last couple of years, but for all the talk, you never really see it done. Sooke Harbour House not only does it, but does it with style.

Waves of fennel

Sooke Harbour House: 1528 Whiffen Spit Rd, Sooke , BC, V9Z0T4, Tel: 250-642-3421, Toll Free: 800-889-9688. Garden tours daily at 10:30am.

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Loire affair
Andrea Bellamy |

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Poppy fields, Loire Valley.

Perhaps I inflicted permanent injury to my patience during the first half of my Great European Backpacking Trip of ’96-’97. It’s the only way I can explain what must have happened to my travel ethic.

I started out on that trip every bit the Girl Guide (“Be Prepared”). Oh-so-diligent. I saw all the cathedrals and art galleries and sights I had flagged in my guidebook. I took it all in, kept notes and journals, and read up the night before each day’s activities. After a few months of this, I was cranky.

So I stopped for a while. Got a job. Then, ready to move on, slowly meandered through Greece and Turkey. Soaked it up, not thinking further ahead than dinner.

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The labyrinthe at Chateau de Chenonceau.

Now when I travel, I try not to let myself get caught up in the “must-sees.” I remind myself that there are only so many churches or oil paintings you can absorb at one time, and that you can’t see it all — and even if you could, wouldn’t you rather just sit here in the shade with a picnic and a bottle of chilled Vouvray?

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Monet’s garden at Giverny
Andrea Bellamy |

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There’s something exhilarating about seeing a famous garden in person. I also find, and, maybe it’s just me, that I am usually slightly underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because often there are hordes of tourists, or I feel like I have to take everything in and end up hurrying through, snapping photos, without really enjoying it.

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I tried not to build up Giverny in my mind so much, to avoid disappointment. I don’t really think I needed to though.

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It was the perfect time to be there. Everything seemed to be in full bloom: irises, roses, peonies, violas.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find seemingly-wild colour combinations (although I’m sure they were carefully orchestrated). I guess I’d expected the whole garden to look kind of like a My Monet weigela; muted pinks, whites, mauves. Indeed, pastels rule at Giverny, but so do reds, oranges and blacks.

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I took my time wandering through the gardens. Yes, I took hundreds of photos. But I also crossed my eyes and imagined what Monet would have seen with this failing eyesight. I smelled the roses. I saved fallen petals between the pages of my journal.

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And it was good.

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Paris, Part Two

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I guess it’s not all that surprising that a Parisian arts and culture centre with a giant golden flowerpot at its main entrance would lead me to discover a modern garden pot company.

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Teracrea was at the Pompidou Centre as a temporary exhibit at the Printemps Design studio. I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the studio, so snapped this one from across the foyer. Hehe.

Anyway, Teracrea is a company “creating products designed to introduce greenery into internal architecture and offer new solutions to traditional pots for outdoor plants.” Exploring the concept of “greenery as a means of organising the space around it using different and alternative materials than terracotta,” Teracrea has introduced some fabulous new products.

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Their Airplant is going to be a big seller, since tillandsias are so hot right now.

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I also really like TV, above.

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And since I am That Kind of Traveller (that is, disorganized, random, open) I literally stumbled into the Musee de Quai Branley and Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden. I’d thought this living wall was to be found at the Pompidou Centre, but wasn’t too upset when I found that it wasn’t. “I’ll run into it later,” I thought. And I did, later that rainy day.

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How much do I love this living wall? I’d love to put one in my garden. Or maybe my bathroom. Love it. Love it. Love it.

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Tomorrow: Giverny, and Monet’s garden.

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Paris, Part One

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I’m home. We had a wonderful time in France, and already miss it. Well, parts of it. Miss: the fresh, fresh, gorgeously-decadent food; the mind-blowing wines for under $10; the accessibility of great art, architecture and design; my sister. Don’t miss: the smoking; the humidity; how easy it is to overindulge.

Now it’s time to get caught up. I apologize for the lack of posts while I was away. I thought I’d do more blogging, but it’s really hard to devote time to it when there are bottles of wine to be enjoyed, new neighbourhoods to discover and catching up with my sister to do. Can you blame me? Didn’t think so.

I thought I’d break down the two weeks we were away into digestible chunks. Today I bring you Paris, Part One (or should that be Un?). The one week spent in Paris was much less floriferous than our time in the country, obviously, but perhaps because they don’t have easy access to backyards or farmland, Parisians really do try to integrate greenery into their lives. Their window boxes, for example, are incredible. At home people are always claiming they don’t have the space to garden. You people: please see the above photo.

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Then there are the flower markets. My favourite, simply for it’s overwhelming size and accompanying perfume, is the much-photographed Marche aux Fleurs at Place Louis Lepine, which turns into a bird market on Sundays.

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The parks in Paris proper are rather formal affairs; symmetrical and geometrical, with lawns that are meant for looking at, not picnicking on. Still, they are splendid when viewed from above, like this, the Parc du Champ de Mars (taken from the Eiffel Tower, natch!).

Tomorrow: discovery at the Pompidou Centre and that famous vertical garden.

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France update
Andrea Bellamy |

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I’m writing now from La Ferme de Rouffignac, a foie gras farm near Bellac in Limosin. Of all the farms and chambres d’hotes (B&Bs) we’ve stayed at so far, it is my least favourite – too commercial and lacking in character for my taste – but it has wifi (or as the French say, “wee-fee”). we have had some lovely stays, including one in an 11th century former poorhouse, and another in a 16th century farmhouse with an ancient carousel horse in our room. Tonight we are staying near Sarlat-la-Caneda on a farm along the footpath of Saint Jacques de Compostelle.

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Now about the gardens. We’ve been to many, but my husband is standing over me, urging me to get going, so I’ll have to write about them later. For now, I’ve posted a couple of sample shots to whet your pallette. A bientot!

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Manger tout a Paris

I mentioned a while back that I was going to France, but in the frenzied lead up to our flight, I ran out of time to do the actual “Okay, I’m leaving” post. So voila – I’m doing it now – albeit a bit late. Posts may be infrequent for the next two weeks, and I may not be able to respond to comments. But I will be reading them! And as usual I love to get your comments.

I’m writing from my sister’s apartment in Oberkampf, a funky neighbourhood in the 11th arrondisement. My husband is asleep on her couch, tired from a day of walking the Bastille market; a sunny picnic (which the French pronounce “peek-neek”) of our market treasures (the best cheeses ever, saucissoun, baguette, olives, and a really decent 2 Euro bottle of Bordeaux, followed by nougat and macaron) by the Seine; and finally a walk through the Marais, the old Jewish quarter – capped off by the best falalel ever. As you can see, we are travelling on our stomachs.

I do plan to see quite a few gardens while in France and will write about them as soon as possible. You can also expect photos of garden shops and florists, and general floral prettiness. A bientot!

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And the air smelt like creme brulee
Andrea Bellamy |

Ben and I went to Seattle for the Thanksgiving long weekend (Columbus Day weekend in the US) and had a great time poking around in shops, eating out, and visiting the Bloedel Reserve on nearby Bainbridge Island.

Highlights from the trip include:

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Seeing knitta-style knit graffiti

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Seeing the drag/burlesque show at The Pink Door

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Eating yummy chowder from Pike Place Market

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And of course, our visit to the Bloedel Reserve, former estate of the Bloedel lumber family, on Bainbridge Island. Come along on our walk through the Reserve – after the jump.

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