Happy Canada Day! Hope you celebrated Canada on July 1: how lucky we are to live here! In honor of Canada Day, I did a little research about the gardens at Rideau Hall in Ottawa; let’s have a cup of tea and travel there together right now and I’ll tell you what I learned!
Rideau Hall has been the home of Canada’s Governor-Generals since 1864. The grounds are called “Picturesque”, because at the time when they were being developed, there was a movement in Britain to create landscapes that were “in the manner of a picture, fit to be made into a picture”. Rideau Hall is a national historic site because it has been the home of the Queen’s representatives in Canada for so many years, and beautifully features the picturesque “country estate” qualities.
Picture it: the year is 1838, and industrialist Thomas McKay builds the original home on the site. In 1864, it becomes the home of the Governor General of Canada. Now a home with so many more functions, additions are made over the years. There are dairy buildings and stables. Grassy spots designated for sports. The grand gates are added in 1867, and the fence that mimics the British style is added in the 1920’s.
If we were to tour there right this moment, we would see a variety of landscape features spread over seventy acres. There would be lovely paths to stroll along; vast open green spaces; an elegant formal garden out front; and a wide curving driveway to welcome guests arriving at the house.
We would also see a woodland area, and many mature trees on the grounds. Many of these trees have been planted in special ceremonies with visiting dignitaries. The Queen has planted more than one tree there over the years. In 1961, Jackie Kennedy planted a red oak. In 1981, Ronald Reagan planted a silver maple. And in 1998, a sugar maple was planted there by Nelson Mandela.
There is a totem pole, presented by the Pacific coast people to Governor General Lord Alexander in 1946; there is also an inukshuk representing the Arctic peoples. Strolling along, we would see the Canadian Heritage Gardens, set among fountains and roses, that would tell us many events of Canadian history.
We would also see a lovely herb and vegetable garden, which is used by the Rideau chefs in the many meals prepared for the Governor General’s guests. Wouldn’t you and I enjoy puttering around in that garden? It would be interesting to talk to the gardeners and see how they decide what to plant! I wonder if they plant any of the same varieties of tomatoes that we do? I bet they do!
Ottawa is a beautiful city; we have been lucky enough to go there several times, and I would recommend that all Canadians make a visit there someday. There is a great emphasis on beauty in the public parks and grounds of the city, with manicured lawns and overflowing planters. And to stand in front of the green lawns of the Parliament Buildings, watching the Eternal Flame flicker in front of the Clock Tower, that familiar sight that we have all seen so many times on TV, is truly a moving experience. So much history!
The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society takes this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day! Have a great week!