What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: Embracing the Darkness

What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: Embracing the Darkness
By Melanie Priesnitz, Conservation Horticulturist

The forest is a magical place after dark. Unfortunately, sometimes fear of the unknown can leave us feeling unsafe to walk in natural places at night. This time of year the darkness is creeping in and the natural shift towards curling up indoors after dark has begun. While we sit inside our comfortable homes we sometimes forget that there is a whole world of wonder happening outside each night, no matter what time of year. I am never sorry when I make it a priority to pry myself away from the woodstove and go outside after dark to stare at the night sky or walk in the woods. The cool air is invigorating, and the feeling of adventure and accomplishment is satisfying. Also, the cup of tea once you get back inside tastes that much better after you’ve been active outside!

Each year a group of Acadia students from the community development program design a public event to help people embrace the darkness. This event is planned as part of the students’ community programming class and it provides a great opportunity for hands-on learning. This year’s event, Luminata, will follow in the tradition of past events where the pathways of the Gardens will be lit up with paper luminaries. The students are planning a variety of fun activities to encourage participants young and old to safely explore the Gardens and Woodland Trails at night.

One of the great outdoor wonders that we’ll be discovering during Luminata is the night sky. We’re lucky in Wolfville to have less light pollution than other, more urban, areas so we have an opportunity to see stars, planets, and constellations that others cannot. During the month of November, you may be lucky enough to see the Leonid meteor shower. The peak time for viewing is around the seventeenth or eighteenth of the month. The shower is called Leonid because the point in the sky where the meteors appear lies in the constellation Leo.

Luminata participants will be encouraged to slow down, reflect, and listen. Taking a silent walk in the woods can really open up all of your senses and encourage you to feel, smell, and hear what’s happening around you. If you’re very quiet, you may hear small animals scurrying around, such as nocturnal red foxes and raccoons as well as soaring wings and calls from barred owls. One sound you can relish in for certain is the great sound of autumn leaves crunching underfoot.

We hope that you can join us on Wednesday November 7 at 7pm (rain date November 8) in the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, 32 University Avenue. The event will start around the bonfire on the formal lawn.

If you can’t join us, I encourage you to plan your own outdoor adventure. The best way to have a positive outdoor night experience this time of the year is to follow a few key guidelines:

–Keep walks short and manageable.

–Try walking in the same location during the day first so you feel comfortable in the surroundings and know when to expect stream crossings or other obstacles.

–Use flashlights only minimally, your eyes will better adapt to the dark without them.

–Dress warmly, bring warm drinks in a thermos, and remember to relax, breathe deeply, and remind yourself to stay calm and embrace the darkness.

Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens
Acadia University