October of this year I had an opportunity to take something off my life to do list. Retail, seasonal businesses, sometimes do not allow you certain chances that others may take for granted. A life experience that I have wanted to do for a number of years was see the seasonal fall color of the northeast. One would think that being around trees and shrubs for most of my life would have satisfied that itch years ago. The truth is fall is a great time of year to plant and Halloween sales are a huge part of our business. Suffice to say, my wife convinced me to stop and smell the roses or in this case stop and watch the foliage.
Our cruise line, Royal Caribbean, departed from Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey and headed north up the Atlantic channel towards Sydney, Nova Scotia. And while we were way off the coast and could not see any color in New England, our first port of call more than made up for it. Sydney’s historic background starts in 1785 and was once filled with Steel and Coal Mills as principal parts of industry. First Nations Mi’kmaq people, aboriginal inhabitants of Cape Breton had a picturesque coastline dotted with native maple trees to admire. Strong hues of orange, red and yellow welcomed our cruise ship as it entered port. Easy to identify were the Red and Sugar maples, whose bold markings acted like a beacon early in the morning mist. Other notable trees whose presences could not be overlooked included Hornbeam, Sumac, Dogwood, Hawthorne, Sassafras, Gums, Birch, Witchhazel, Mountain Ash and the occasional Pawpaw. All of these trees benefitted from the strong, rich green background of Cedar, Cypress, Juniper, Yew and White Spruce, almost lifting them from the canvas.
Next stop on our itinerary was Charlottetown Seaport, Prince Edward Island (PEI). Canada’s smallest province is home to, arguably, one of their largest tourist attractions. Green Gables in Cavendish, PEI is home to what inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work Anne of Green Gables novel in 1904. Not knowing the work myself, I now have an appreciation for what she did and whom she has touched. Honestly, however, I was more moved by the gardens which surrounded this magical farmhouse. Prior to entering the actual farmhouse area, off on the hillside is an enormous, two needle, windswept pine who’s character looks like a giant bonsai. Around the farmhouse itself are stunning raised garden beds spilling over with annual color of dahlias and cosmos. Supporting these annuals, adding structural integrity, are Hydrangea, Red Twig Dogwood, Sumac and Virginia Creeper. Most notably was the Virginia creeper whose small forked tendrils gripped the existing gateway showing off its intense deep red to burgundy fall color. Combinations of deciduous ornamentals and annual color were not to be outdone, as the perennial sweeps of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and large, quilted blue-green hosta helped to punctuate the landscape.
Along route to our next destination we hugged the coastline, passed the Dunelands whose coastline of brownish-red soil met seamlessly with the arctic blue waters. PEI’s soil is a sandy, loam mixture, virtually stone free and well drained. And while there is more than their fair share of potato farms on the island, I could not help but reflect on the soils actual color and compare it to that of a rich Burgundy wine, clearly the oenophile in me talking. Our last stop for this day was to the famous Prince Edward Island Preserve Company. Bruce and Shirley McNaughton purchased the building in 1987 and began an incredible adventure. Truly a success, these two people have not only built a world class reputation in the culinary world but have also learned that giving back is the greatest reward. On the premises is their Country Gardens, a 12 acre nature reserve. Their garden acts as a haven giving itself to those less fortunate. Country Gardens Foundation of Hope and Hospice Palliative Care Association of PEI works to support the terminally ill. This scenic property along the River Clyde in New Glasgow is peaceful and chock full of flora, fauna and water gardens. The McNaughton’s are true humanitarians and should inspire us all to be so thoughtful.
The highlight of the trip, at least for me, was traveling down the Saguenay River on our way to Quebec. At the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, where the Tadoussac Bay and Saint Lawrence River meet, stands the famous Hotel Tadoussac, a landmark resort east of Quebec City. It was close to here that whales greeted our ship. Not to be outdone were the two majestic slopes speckled with maples, white spruce and Balsam Fir on either side of our vessel. These brilliant colours seemed to disappear into the rugged, rocky coastline.
While Quebec City was rich in history, home to another famous hotel, Le Chateau Frontenac, and had some of the most inspiring landscapes I have seen, it was the Halifax Public Gardens that caught my attention on our next day’s journey. Begun by the Nova Scotia Horticultural Society in 1836, these are an impressive, formal, Victorian garden. And despite the efforts of Hurricane Juan in 2003, the gardens are still an impressive sight. At the center stands a gazebo built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. There stands an impressive oak tree planted by His Majesty King George VI in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in June of 1939. Complete with serpentine stone paths, geometric beds, many of which are raised with perfect soils, and specimen trees this is one of the few surviving Victorian gardens in Canada. I searched long and hard to find a Ginkgo in Canada and was not disappointed. Towards the back of the garden is a huge, forked Ginkgo standing some 40-50 feet. However it was the Katsura tree that had its great golden colour going on.
There is simply too much to list in one short article. However, this much is true…the people were friendly, the scenery was brilliant and it was nice to see nature blush before she undressed.