January 16, 2017
Landscape designers tour New Brunswick
Garden tour group.

Landscape designers tour New Brunswick

Photos by Ellen Ruddick, Bob Howard and Cora Swinamer

Each year the Atlantic Association of Landscape Designers organizes a garden tour and field trip. This year we visited gardens and nurseries in southern New Brunswick. 

We started out Sept. 10, with an evening social get together at the home of Peggy Wright who did most of the organizing for the trip.
On Saturday morning, we drove to the historic resort town of St. Andrews By-the-Sea, meeting up with more members and friends. We visited Kingsbrae Gardens, Wrightman Alpines Nursery, and five private gardens, including some large properties with magnificent views of the sea, and some quite small gardens with finely crafted detailing of the stone walks and meticulous pruning.

The first day had beautiful weather, which showed off the gardens at their best. Harvey and Irene Wrightman showed us their impressive specialty nursery. They have done a tremendous amount of work over the last two years since moving their nursery from Ontario. They are establishing demonstration gardens, building greenhouses and becoming more well-known in our region.

From Acanthelimon to Zauchneria, Wrightman Alpines Nursery has perhaps the largest selection of rock garden plants in Canada. Several of us started a personal plant buying spree at the nursery.

In the afternoon we had a guided tour of the Kingsbrae Gardens. This 27-acre public garden opened in 1998 and has a surprisingly mature feel. Built on the grounds of a former estate, large cedar hedges separate the garden spaces. Walking through the large garden “rooms” leads to repeated surprises, for example, from the rose garden into the perennial garden. These gardens emphasize environmental practices and are a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. They include walks through old-growth forest, children’s activity areas (including lots of animals) and a large sculpture garden.

We got a lot of exercise walking through gardens all day, so there were no guilty feelings about eating, drinking and joking around. We had gotten to know each other, and our group is as much a gathering of friends who love landscape and gardens as it is a professional organization.

We had several people join us this year who are friends of the group, not formal association members. We ended the day back in Saint John for a lovely meal with 21 people around the table.

Sunday morning started out overcast and much cooler. We walked from Douglas Avenue via the new Harbour Passage to downtown Saint John. This walking and bike path is a brilliant improvement for getting downtown from the “wrong” side of the highway. The plantings are Oehme- and van Sweden-style grasses and prairie flowers. The signage and the relaxed atmosphere presented a people-friendly, accessible harbour area for Saint John.

Next we drove and took the ferry to the Kingston Peninsula. Here we visited a landscape garden designed by our AALD member host, Peggy Wright. There are big views of the river from decks and terraces, featuring extensive tree plantings, island beds of perennials and annuals and well-crafted stone and masonry work. This property felt very relaxing, and the owner made it clear that relaxing at home and having friends over is her main design goal.

As we headed to the last property of the day, the weather began to feel more threatening. Would it rain on our picnic? Duncan Kelbaugh, one of our long-time members and owner of Brunswick Nurseries, and his wife Betty, were our hosts for the afternoon meal. Things were set up on the patios for all 21 of us.

Their property is extensive, joining the nursery by an on-farm road. The new plantings already fill in with lots of annuals and a good deer fence. Set on a hill overlooking the Kennebecasic River, the garden is meant for outdoor entertaining. But as the clouds got heavier, we quickly retreated, moving all the tables and chairs inside, and enjoyed the big view from the dry side of the windows.

We’ve been very impressed by the large and trouble-free pools and waterfalls that Duncan builds. At his home, there is an extensive water feature with a “floating” step path across the water, that was fun to walk on!

After a delicious home-made lunch we headed out for Bob Osborne’s Cornhill Nursery. Here, the plant lover’s buying spree took off again, with many of us taking home new treasures. We had a nice glass of wine in the Cedar Café at the nursery. It’s fall, but the nursery is still full of plants and activity. We admired a very skinny tall Scotch pine and a good collection of ornamental grasses. Bob showed us his organic apples and the propagation area. Also, he is testing some new, as yet unreleased, Artist Series roses in his fields. The excellent health of the foliage and late-blooming colour range was impressive. These new, very disease-resistant roses will go through several years of testing and evaluation; the best will be released in five years or so.

We learned a lot, traded ideas and enjoyed seeing real world design ideas and installations. Where shall we go next year? 
The Atlantic Association of Landscape Designers invites anyone interested in the group or membership to visit www.aald.ca.