What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: A Seasonal Perspective
By Melanie Priesnitz
This past winter has made it easy to get outside, as we’ve had so little snow. No gear other than warm clothing and a pair of ice grips have been needed for walking on the beach or hiking in the woods. Despite the ‘easier’ season we’ve had, cases of the winter blues were high this year. Increased feelings of malaise may be in part due to the limited days of sunshine we’ve had as well as the amount of time spent indoors staring at screens. I believe it’s also a result of our perception of winter and how we ‘brace ourselves’ for the cold.
In an effort to embrace the cold, the botanical gardens now stay open to the public all year long. We’re pleased to see that the Halifax Public Gardens stayed open this winter as well. A garden in winter can be a stunning thing, it just requires a change in perspective to look for beauty in seedpods, observe the many shades and textures of evergreens, and marvel at the unique structures of lichens.
At home, many of us go through the annual tradition of packing up our backyard lawn furniture, putting away our bicycles, fire pits, and basketball hoops. Some of us even prepare our trees for winter by wrapping up conifers to protect them from sun scorch and harsh winds. We need to question the soundness of this practice of packing our outdoor lives away in the shed for winter. Evergreens are green all winter; let’s not force them to be brown by wrapping them in burlap. I’d much rather see a native evergreen that is adapted to Nova Scotia conditions than an exotic tree wearing a brown sweater for 5 months of the year!
We know that humans experience better mental health when we get outside, and one of the easiest places to do that is close to home, so let’s think about designing our outdoor spaces to make them accessible, attractive, and inviting all year long. I encourage you to take a look at your yard and see what you can do to winterize it in a new way. It may mean some changes this spring, such as making or buying more sturdy outdoor furniture, and planting the right plants in the right places. As the seasons shift, try moving lawn chairs from the shade into the full sun so you can soak up vitamin D while wearing your parka. Leave the barbeque out and eat burgers followed by s’mores and hot chocolate while huddled around a backyard firepit. Without all of the ‘seasonal’ furniture piled in the shed, bicycles will be more accessible so try riding on the days when the roads are clear. We live in a part of the world that has cold winters and slow springs, so let’s celebrate it and adjust our homes and our lifestyles to make it easier and more enjoyable to spend time outside all year long.
To celebrate the great outdoors and a new partnership with Wild Spirits Forest & Nature School we’re holding an early spring picnic around the bonfire at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, Monday April 2 from 12:30 – 1:30pm. Bring your own picnic. We’ll provide roasting sticks. Representatives from Wild Spirits will be around the fire to talk about the children’s programs being launched in the garden and woodland trails this spring.
Photo Credit: Playing with words in the winter woods on Acadia’s Woodland Trails by Erica Ainslie Harris
Melanie Priesnitz, Conservation Horticulturist
Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens