Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dahlias in Halifax Public Gardens, Nova Scotia ... and more

This week's post was going to be on a day trip to San Francisco using the Alameda-San Francisco ferry.  Alas, my desktop computer, a 4-year old Gateway 'all-in-one' - the computer with all my recent pictures - kept crashing and then stopped altogether.  I took it for repair and was just told that I need to purchase a new computer (they said it was too old to be worth a repair...)  I checked the pictures I have on my old laptop computer and could not decide which photos to use.  My New York friend Frances, from the blog City Views Country Dreams had a post last week showing beautiful dahlias; so I decided to use the dahlia pictures from a trip we made to each of the Canadian Maritime Provinces some years ago.

When we visited Halifax, Nova Scotia, we spent several hours in the Victorian Public Gardens.  Below are some vintage postcards of the gardens - they have not changed much.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

We visited the gardens in mid-September when the dahlias were in full bloom.

My love of dahlias goes back many years, almost a life time.  Let me explain.  My parents were married in 1936 and lived in an apartment in Paris, near Montmartre.  They had bought a small week-end country house in a little village about 2 hours north of Paris.  I looked in the box of photos my late mother gave me and found photos of this house.  On the back of one of the photos, my mother had written that the house had been bought in 1936, in Silly-Tillard, in the Department of Oise (I just found this out when I saw the photo today.)  Below are old photos of my parents and the house, circa late 1930s.

The small village of Silly-Tillard is about 66 kms (41 miles) from Paris - the closest large town is Beauvais, 17 kms away (10 miles.)  In 1936 there were 295 people living in the village and in 2012 the number went up to 487 - so it is still quite small.  The village is located on the old road to Paris.  It is a picturesque place with houses from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, some of them half-timbered.  There is also an old "lavoir" - outdoor public wash-house.  Trout fishing is famous there.  Here are some pictures of Silly-Tillard, courtesy Villages de France.

After World War II my parents drove during the week-ends to Silly-Tillard in their Renault Celtaquatre automobile.  They usually went with friends and I stayed in Paris with my grand-parents.  I still went to Silly-Tillard with my parents a dozen times.  With no friends to play with, I would walk to the neighbors' garden.  There, hundreds of dahlias were awaiting - it was a gem of a garden.  I remember this garden as one remembers a dream - flowers everywhere, of different shapes, and glorious colors.  I spent happy hours there.  Many dahlia plants were higher than me - at the time I must have been 5 years old or so.  I don't have pictures of the garden but I found on the Daily Mail, UK, pictures of Amy Chesterman, 6 years old, in her father's dahlia garden in Bournemouth, England.  I did not look like her but the dahlias would have been similar around me.

Below is a picture of our country house and my parents Renault Celtaquatre (these cars were manufactured between 1934 and 1938.)

During the war my parents' little house had been requisitioned and occupied by a German officer.  When my mother found out (my father was in hospital because of war injuries) she walked ten miles to the kommandantur (German military headquarters) in Beauvais, near the village, and requested that rent be paid for the house.  Everyone told my mom that she would place herself in danger, but she persisted and they did pay her rent in the end.  But they also made some alterations to the house and my parents sold the house in 1947 or 1948 or so.  I don't remember the house well, but I still remember the serene garden next door with all the dahlias ... most of all the variegated with white and the purples the best.

I am not sure how many dahlias were in our neighbors' garden, but to me it seemed like a field of flowers just as in the vintage postcards below.

When I heard that the Public Gardens in Halifax had a dahlia garden I knew that I had to go there.  The original gardens were created in 1836, then established as a civic garden in 1867, and finally the City of Halifax took responsibility for the gardens in 1874.  Nowadays the Public Gardens still look as they were originally planned in 1875 by the Gardens' Superintendent - as formal High Victorian Pleasure Gardens.  At the entrance, we are greeted by a set of elegant wrought-iron ornamental gates,  installed in 1890 and bearing the original Halifax coat of arms.  The gardens include a bandstand, statues, fountains, ornate bridges, floral displays, 80 species of trees and 200 of shrubes - some exotic and semi-tropical.  One of the trees was planted by King George VI in the 1930s.  In 1984 the Halifax Public Gardens were recognized as a National Historic Site.

 We entered the gardens through the elegant gates, built in Glasgow, Scotland and standing in the gardens since 1890.  We walked on the alley bordered by large trees and then followed a body of water to Griffin's Pond.

We stopped to look at the ducks.

A replica of the RMS Titanic floats on the pond.  It is a reminder that 121 victims of the Titanic were interred at Halifax Fairview Cemetery after the ship sank on 14 April 1912.

We kept walking on the winding paths, stopping to admire the flower displays.

Several historic statues were near traditional Victorian carpet beds: Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring and Diana, the goddess of woodland and wild animals.

As in all fine Victorian Gardens, the Halifax Public Gardens have fountains in addition to the historic statues.  In 1897 the classical sculpted Victoria Jubilee Fountain was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. This fountain sits in the center of the gardens.  In 2012 the fountain was restored in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.  The Boer War Memorial Fountain was built in 1903 to honor the memory of the soldiers from Canada who took part in the war in South Africa.

Next we came by the colorful gingerbread style bandstand.  It was built in 1887 to also commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.  It is an ornate wooden bandstand with a copper roof.  It has been used for concerts and social events for 128 years and was restored in 2011.  Walking around the bandstand I could see the dahlia beds, at last.

The dahlias are tuberous flowers originally from Mexico, Central America and Columbia.  The director of the Madrid Botanical Gardens, Antonio Jose Cavanilles, named this plant in honor of Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist, who died in 1789 - the same year Spain was to receive the dahlia plants from Mexico.  There are more than 57,000 registered cultivars of dahlias.  They come in a great variety of colors, sizes and shapes - anemones, collarette, balls, etc.  Dahlias bloom from late summer until first frost.  It is difficult to choose a favorite.  Below are two anemore forms with yellow centers, and two ball forms - a fuchsia pink and a dark red.

The two cultivars below were new to me - but they have a certain charm.

There were so many exquisite blooms and amazing colors - I kept moving from one to the next in awe.

Aren't these lovely?

How about these, from pale yellow to golden apricot colors?

This big fluffly dahlia below is called a "Big Head" in France and a "Dinner Plate" here.

The collarette dahlia type was first introduced at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris.  The American Dahlia Society listed the collarette as a form in 1905.  The red collarette dahlia below looks almost artificial.  It is a stunning flower, indeed.

The American Dahlia Society was founded in 1915.  This coming week-end (Sept. 19-20, 2015) they will celebrate their 100th anniversary with a show at the Hofstra University, in the village of Hempstead, Long Island, New York.  If I had known about this earlier I, perhaps, could have gone there for a quick trip.  Dahlia photos below courtesy ADS library.

These are gorgeous flowers -  la crème de la crème.

Here are some more

Walking in these mid-19th century idyllic gardens, just half a mile from downtown the modern city of Halifax, was like entering a time capsule - being back in Victorian times.  It was the fashion then to walk in gardens, wearing a lovely outfit, while listening to the military bands in the bandstand gazebos.  I think that these unspoiled gardens, with their rainbow of floral delights, would have enchanted the French ladies Monet painted below - on top "Woman in a Garden" then "Woman with a parasol in a Garden" by Claude Monet, French 1840-1926.

Don't you love these amazing, dramatic flowers?


Pierre BOYER said...



Elephant's Child said...

I also love dahlias and many of these are new to me. Goodness your mother was brave. I am glad her courage was rewarded.

Paris Rendez-vous and Beyond said...

What a beautiful post. And what a wonderful memory you have from your childhood about wandering in the neighbour's 'field of dahlias'!

Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers too...and I took every opportunity to decorate our little apartment with dahlias when I lived in Paris in 2012. They just scream Summer don't you think!! Unfortunately, in Brisbane they're difficult to they require a slightly cooler climate than Brisbane's.

However, I've just had a deep red hippeastrum pop up in my garden....they're beautiful too and shout "Spring"!

Always a pleasure to read your posts dear Vagabonde.



Frances said...

Dear Vagabonde, this post is a gem, and I am quite honored if my recent post had any part in inspiring you to show and tell us all so much about your parents' little country house and its own war story, and then on to many views and stories about lovely dahlias in many, many variations that you've seen in your travels.

Those dahlias really are remarkable flowers. i can see why so many gardeners wish to add to their collections. I am delighted to just add to seeing so many types at the NYC farmers markets and via wonderfully generous posts like yours.

xo to you and Jim.

Pixel Peeper said...

Sorry for you computer troubles, but it gave us the chance to see these beautiful flowers.

I love visiting botanical gardens, just for the reason of being able to stroll leisurely and admire beautiful flowers.

David said...

Vagabonde, I'm on my 3rd computer in about 15 years...painful for sure. We recently got Windows 10 installed on this unit. Way more information and applications then I'll ever want or use! We've been to Nova Scotia and Halifax 3 times. Love the area but we've never been to the gardens. I managed to drive a nail through my tennis shoe on the French speaking island of Arichat off the coast of Cape Breton Island on one trip. Nice French Canadian doctor in an old-fashioned doctor's office fixed me up. Our favorite place in Nova Scotia is Fortress Louisbourgh...a former French stronghold that has been beautifully rebuilt and is staffed with reenactors. FYI...I did participate in the NW University study on us old codgers blogging. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Jojo said...

This post is a wow. I love the way you've shared memories of your past and world history with dahlias and gardens. My childhood was also also filled with gardens and flowers and sometime I enjoy escaping into the memories and the blossoms. Beautiful photos too.

Thérèse said...

Un bien joli billet, si tendre avec les souvenirs...
J'ai également beaucoup de souvenirs avec les dahlias qui étaient une des fleurs préférées de mon papa. Nous en avions un immense rectangle derrière la maison, rentrés l'hiver dans la cave et repiqués au printemps à cause des gelées normandes. Nous (papa) en faisions de magnifiques bouquets et/ou les piquions dans un long bac de sable dans la salle à manger lorsque nous avions des invités. J'en garde bien sur des souvenirs émus.
Merci pour faire remonter ainsi les souvenirs.

DJan said...

As always, your post is a treat to read and view. I understand that problem with computers, too, but as someone else said, it also gave us this post to enjoy! I was also struck by your mother's courage and glad it didn't turn out any worse that what happened to your home. And thank you for all the amazing dahlia pictures. Wow! :-)

Nadezda said...

Vagabonde, lovely post of dahlias. I love them as well : they remind me about September 1st, when we went to school after vacations. Your picture of red collarette dahlia is beautiful!
How pretty is this Halifax gardens, I didn't know that victims of Titanic are on Halifax cemetery.

Arti said...

Thanks for giving us such a beautiful and detailed tour of the Halifax gardens. I'd never been there so this is a real treat. And as a matter of fact, I'll be going to New England later this month, to go on a road trip to see the fall foliage in four different States. Really looking forward to that. ;)

Marie-Anne said...

C'est avec grand plaisir que je lis toujours tes billets, chère Vagabonge!!
J'adore les dahlias, mais il ne réussissent pas toujours dans mon jardin...
Desolée pour ton ordinateur, le mien aussi avait crashé il y a quelques mois, mais un ami de mon fils avait réussi à sauver mes photos en enlevant tout le disque.
Quels souvenirs, les photos des parents! Justement, je suis membre de deux groupes sur facebook qui partage de belles photos du passé et des aieuls, et j'aime tellement!!!
Gros bisous et bonne semaine!!!

Down by the sea said...

I love dahlias too and the Halifax garden was superb. Those memories of being amongst the dahlia's sound wonderful and it was lovely to learn more about your parents too and your early childhood. Sarah x

Reader Wil said...

Vagabonde merci de votre visite et commentaire. Je crois que les jardins publique chez vous sons aussi très beaux. J' aime les dahlias. Merci de ce post. La petite maison de vos parents est très jolie.
Wil, ABCW Team

Mae Travels said...

I guess we readers are the beneficiary of your computer crash, as we are privileged to see your beautiful flower photos and share your fabulous memories. Nevertheless, I hope you are able to retrieve your more recent photos eventually!

Jeanie said...

There is so much to love here, as I catch up on your posts, one by one. The photos, of course, are beautiful. Never having been to Halifax, I was delighted to discover this beautiful garden. My neighbor grows magnificent dahlias and my mother did, long ago, so I love them too.

But what I found most fascinating was the history of your family and their summer home that you shared. What a charming town -- and how wonderful to have these memories. Your mother sounds like a powerfully brave woman. What a legacy of strength to leave behind for her daughter.

Glenda Beall said...

I love this post. The flowers are the most beautiful I've seen and I realize I am missing out by not having Dahlias in my yard. I will have to learn about them, how to grow them, etc.
I enjoyed the family history and I, too, think your mother was extremely brave. I am not surprised. I knew you came from strong stock. Thanks for the lovely post and I'm sorry for your computer problems.

Shammickite said...

Yes, indeed, the dahlias are gorgeous. I remember my mother growing some dahlias in our garden in England, but nothing like these beauties. I have also visited Halifax, but did not visit this garden. Now I wish that I had!!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

They really are amazing flowers ... So many fascinating varieties. Your pictures are wonderful and as well I really enjoyed your memories and the vintage pictures. Lovely share! I'd love to visit those gardens ... At this perfect time of year of course!

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

I love the story behind your love for dahlias.

Carol Crump Bryner said...

In Alaska, the dahlia season comes on the cusp of fall, so the colors are always brilliant and appropriate. I loved reading about your history with this flower, and seeing the little cottage your grandparents had.

Magic Love Crow said...

Yeh, you were in Canada ;o) Great post! Love the flowers (dahlias story)! I have been away from blog land for too long! Hugs ;o)

Pat said...

Good for your Mamam! That was the spirit that won the war.
I love all the many varied forms of dahlias. Something for all tastes.

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