Halifax's Lovely Public Gardens: Times Change, But the Pleasure Goes on
Aug 19, 2009
In the cool of the evening on Sunday after a very hot day, I spent a pleasant hour in the Public Gardens of Halifax, Nova Scotia. We’d walked through them in the spring of 2003, back when I was beginning work on Green City, and I had pleasant memories of formal beds full of tulips and daffodils just about to burst into bloom. Since then the Gardens, founded in 1867, have been gone through devastation—Hurricane Juan hit the summer following our visit—and been reborn.
The picture here was taken sometime in the Victorian Age, but obviously people today enjoy it just as much as people did then. Sunday evening strollers admired the fountains and little streams, the band stand, the green lawns, the many tall trees that had survived the hurricane. Others sat on the benches, reading or chatting or simply enjoying the twilight.
There is a difference between then and now, which says a lot about our times, however. Mixed in with the couples of all ages wearing shorts and sandals, the teenagers with bleached and spiked hair, the pretty girls in strappy little sundresses and high heels, and the elderly proceeding from bench to bench with the aid of cane or walker--in short a cross section of mainstream Haligonians--I spied several families visibly rather recently arrived in Canada, with women wearing hidjab or salwar kameez. Even in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so strongly identified with Celtic tradition, the public has changed as Canada has opened its doors.
Beside this fact should be placed another: the young woman (police officer or park guard, I wasn’t sure) who was charged with making sure the gardens closed at night fall. She made a pass through in an electrified cart shortly after sunset, checking under bushes and in a shady glade. Then just before it was well and truly dark, she drove through again, calling out “We’re closing in five minutes.” At the gates when I left, male park employees were wishing people a pleasant evening as they departed, but, significantly, she was the person in authority.
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Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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The Halifax Public Gardens are Victorian era public gardens formally established in 1867, the year that Canada became an independent nation. The gardens are located in the Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia on the Halifax Peninsula near the popular shopping district of Spring Garden Road. The gardens are a national historic site.
The Public Gardens are bounded by Spring Garden Road, South Park Street, Summer Street and Sackville Street. They are open annually from approximately May 1 until November 1. The landscaping style is Victorian formal and provides a popular setting for wedding and prom photos. The gardens also feature a bandstand that is used for free public concerts on Sunday afternoons during the summer.
The trees and flowers are beautiful, and, although it is prohibited, many people enjoy feeding the ducks, who make the gardens their home.
The Public Gardens were badly damaged by Hurricane Juan in 2003. Many trees were destroyed, necessitating the early closure of the gardens and some redesign. The gardens reopened on Canada Day, 2004 after a restoration aided in part by $1 million which was raised during a radio telethon.