Back to Nature – the Transformation of our Grounds
Chapter One - Call to Action
We were flabbergasted last spring when we heard from the Ministry of Natural Resources, which runs Algonquin Park, that they wanted all the Park leaseholders to adhere to having only natural plants at our sites.
Arowhon Pines had spent thousands of dollars through the years in product and labour, growing perennials in our gardens, which provided flowers for our dining room tables, and tending to barrels full of cheery flowers that adorned our front foyer and cabins. Yes, we knew there were spots on the grounds full of invasive periwinkle and other creeping ground cover.
We started talking about it amongst ourselves then quickly realized that what was being asked was pretty darn reasonable. We looked again at the periwinkle spreading out into the forests. Perhaps we could turn this into a fun, education project for us and for our guests.
Around the same time, we became aware that one of our long time guests, Judith Adam, was a famous horticulturalist. After a few emails back and forth with Judith, whose enthusiasm was immediately infectious, we were on our way to putting together our gardening project: to gradually get the Arowhon Pine’s grounds back to its natural state.
Chapter Two – Introducing Judith Adam
In her words…
At its best, landscape design recognizes the assets of a site and develops them to fuller expression. That’s a high-toned way of saying something simple – recognize what’s good about your garden and do something to build on that. At Arowhon, the naturalism and pristine beauty of the site are strong indicators of what direction development should follow. Indigenous perennial plants and conifers, stone and wood construction, and natural water features are the elements that are strong, true, and enduring in this northern garden.
I grew up in New York City, an inner city urban environment, with no access to green spaces. However summers were spent on Absecon Island, a barrier island off the coast of New Jersey; and that went a long way to emphasize the value and power of natural landscapes. (Briefly leaving the island by row boat during Hurricane Hazel was one sure way to understand my lowly place in the natural order of things.) My first garden was made in Toronto’s east-end Beach community, as well as on an allotment garden at the lake’s edge of the Leslie Street spit. That’s where I began hands-on training in making vegetables and flowers grow, and that continues to be my best method of learning.
Eventually I studied horticulture at University of Guelph, with my infant son, Arden, in a basket under the table. My area of specialization was woody plants, consequently I’m a great tree planter. I tried to grow every plant covered in my course material, resulting in several jungles that were culled to make room for subsequent course phases. This was excellent learning, but certainly the hard way to do things. My current garden is one third of an acre planted for pollinators. Don’t ask about my affection for docile bees, because I’ll provide way too much information. (But I will say one of my favourites is the leaf cutter bee, and I could go on about that!)
Sharing experience is the natural inclination of gardeners, so I taught some courses and wrote some books, and answered a horticulture hotline operated by the Toronto Master Gardeners. Now I’m helping my friends at Arowhon, finding ways to bring a fuller expression to the natural values of their site. I’ve been coming to Arowhon since 1975. Little has changed in those decades, and each year Arowhon seems more profound, more itself. That is the remarkable power of a timeless landscape. Our efforts at gardening here are hopefully embellishments to an already established beauty. We hope you’ll notice our work and learn along with us.