Gardens - Featured Gardens

Tulips take centre stage in a Halifax garden

Carol Matthews
Photography by
Dan Callis

A bounty of flowering bulbs creates a colourful outdoor space

Garden facts
Size: 11⁄4 acres
Orientation: west- and south-facing slope
Conditions: acidic, rocky
Growing season: March to November
Garden focus: two-month show of bulbs, followed by perennials
Zone: 6 (tempered by proximity to the Atlantic)

tulip-garden-inset1.jpgStewart McInnes has been a respected lawyer, a member of Parliament and a federal cabinet minister, but the activity that most touches his soul is gardening. When Stewart tends his 11⁄4-acre garden in the south end of Halifax overlooking the Atlantic, it puts him in touch with the majesty of life. “Four walls and a roof don’t inspire me,” he says, but the beauty of nature does.

Stewart developed his love for gardening in his grandfather’s garden more than 50 years ago. “My grandfather had a garden the size of half a city block,” he says. Stewart’s father continued the tradition in his own Halifax garden, and his son helped out from the time he was a young teen. “I enjoyed it,” he adds. So much so that he worked as a part-time gardener for his father during his high school and university summers. He has been carrying on the family custom for the past 29 years on his own plot with the help of his family, wife Shirley and their five children: Donald, Ted and Jannie, who now have their own homes; Sarah, who is in university; and Connie, who lives at home.

A garden was already in place when he moved in, but he’s nurtured and expanded upon it. And although it’s beautiful year-round, the two-month spring show is what stops visitors in their tracks. It begins in the front yard, where beds of colourful spring bulbs draw you along the brick walkway past the azaleas and Japanese maples to the path along the side of the house. Here you are gently enticed into the backyard to discover the splendour beyond. The upward slope at the back is dotted with mature trees, spring-flowering shrubs and waterfalls. But the stars in spring are some 12,000 bulbs, including tulips such as Darwin, Fosteriana, Triumph, Rembrandt and Viridiflora Groups, and Tulipa saxatilis, T. tarda and T. clusiana species. There are more than 100 red, yellow, purple and white cultivars, plus beds of jellybean shades mixed together, and clusters of double, fragrant, multi-headed and variegated types. Along with this impressive collection, crown imperial fritillaries, daffodils, irises, and hyacinths make their own bold statements.

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