Niagara Parks-so much more than just Niagara Falls

Sarah Palin once famously said “I can see Russia from my house”, well the residents of Buffalo NY can’t see Russia but they sure can see Canada. I spent about 11 hours in Canada with my GWA, garden communicator friends in August and what an adventure we had!

We set off from the Convention Centre in Buffalo around 11 am and headed over The Peace Bridge, which is a bridge between Canada and the United States at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, about 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) upriver of Niagara Falls.  from the border. Maybe it’s called this because it’s where Americans go to get “peace” and quiet from the continual barrage of news about President No.45, I’m not 100% sure about that. though. While I would not really say that we were “warmly” greeted by the border guards (we were actually told to be silent)! I can understand why-imagine a busload of very excited garden communicators all lined up with passports in hand, in a room the size of a decent sitting room. I was asked if I was carrying a weapon, this was a first for me I must admit. My camera was my only weapon of choice for this day. Anyway, through we went and there were many oohs and ahhs as we arrived and saw the wondrous Niagara Falls for the first time.

The incredible team of young adults from Niagara Parks guided us through our day which included an experience “behind the falls” where we were actually underneath Niagara Falls (nothing can prepare you for the power and magnitude of that water), a trip to The Royal Botanic Gardens, The Butterfly Conservatory, The School of Horticulture and so much more. We were treated like royalty all day.

The public gardens on display were breathtaking, lush and so beautifully maintained.

Downtown area

Imagine studying horticulture here

The Butterfly Conservatory was amazing

What a beautiful place

Canadian hospitality was the highlight of this trip, there were so many passionate young people sharing their part of the world which was heartwarming for the soul. We were captivated by their enthusiasm.

The finale of our long and jam-packed day in Canada was the meal that we shared together at Queen Victoria Place restaurant. This stunning old building with the most stunning views from the expansive wooden deck, was constructed in 1904 and was the former residence of the Commissioners of Niagara Parks, it was here that something very special happened after a delicious meal and wonderful service and a few glasses of very nice Prosecco with my friend Sylvia, Niagara Falls was lit up. The Canadian Falls were in red and white and the American Falls in red, white and blue and in between the two, the full, red harvest moon rose -what a sight, what a night!

Cheers to a brilliant day-it’s Prosecco o’clock

The Canadian falls

The American Falls

The harvest moon rising between the two falls

We all left wishing we could spend more time in this beautiful place, just a hop, skip and a jump from US soil.

Thanks to Team Niagara Parks for sharing your beautiful part of the world with GWA-it was a day that this garden communicator will never forget.

 

My Garden of Friends

 

I have been very blessed in my life with an abundance of wonderful people who I am lucky enough to call and have called my friends. Friends are so important and having a connection with another human being on that level is a joyous thing.

Friends are different from family and add another dimension to one’s whole being. It is true that friends are the family you choose. I am blessed with a large family mostly living in other states of this country and other parts of the world, so my friends are very important to me, whether here or abroad. My Mum is here and she’s a rock, solid piece of living stone that adorns the garden. My children are the pieces of art within the garden, precious treasures.

Some people have been friends for more than thirty years, some even longer, I guess they are the trees in my garden, they have been there for a long time and bend in the wind but for the most part are there, season after season. Some have been fast growing, some slow and some mid-sized and solid. Sometimes, with little contact or need for constant nurture but at the same time provide the bones of the landscape. They provide the basis for life’s garden. Some background, some specimen trees, some offer shade, some offer colour and light, all have their role to play.

My “noble tree” and dearest friend is my husband, is was and always will be.  He’s the one who provides that one true place in the garden. The shade on a hot day. I recently attended a talk by Dr. Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia, who spoke about the importance of the noble tree with great conviction. In an interview, at Penn State Extension with Martha Swiss, when asked what is a noble tree, Dr. Dirr said “It’s anything that outlives us. It’s anything that spans generations, has a long life, supports wildlife, fixes CO2, spits out oxygen, prevents erosion, increases property values, something that’s inherent in our everyday life. We need large trees.” and then Martha Swiss said it very well herself when asked to define the meaning of a noble tree for the Pittsburg Post-Gazette in 2012, “A noble tree is the large sycamore you walk under on a hot summer day, casting welcome shade, or the massive oak you notice in winter for its magnificent silhouette of bare branches, or an old maple from your childhood that held a tire swing. In short, noble trees are those planted to endure for generations, large enough to cast shade and become fixtures in our landscapes and our memories.”

and in my Garden of Friends I’ve had annuals for sure, haven’t we all? Women and men who have come into my life for but a brief moment, in a certain place at a certain time, creating a memory but moving on through, just like any annual, you plant it, nuture it for a short time, enjoy it for it’s blooms or form and then everyone moves on. Sometimes I have put a huge amount of effort into annuals, thinking they were perennials but alas with an element of disappointment there they go, they were only ever meant to be annuals. There’s a joy in annuals for sure and a place in the landscape for them.

There have also been a few weeds who on a positive note, I guess, provide habitat for native bees and butterflies, but probably best removed before they have a chance to bloom again for another season.

I have to say also that I am very grateful for Facebook which has allowed me to reconnect with people who I have known all my life but with whom I had lost contact, for no real reason, life just got in the way. I guess these people are the perennials in my garden, they are there, I planted them, they bloomed and they may be in the shade of the trees, they may be overgrown with annuals or just lying dormant waiting for that essential fertiliser to return them to their former beauty. They are and will always be there. They too form a very special part of the garden.

Connecting with nature has always been so important to me just as connecting with friends, men for sure but women, in particular.  It is part of who I am. I enjoy the company of women, listening to their stories and how they got to where they are at this particular moment in time.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, when you travel with an open heart, you are lucky enough to go out into the nursery of mankind and find some new treasures to plant in your garden and as I so often say to my dear husband “there’s always room for one more plant” (or several) and so it is true that there is always room in one’s life for more friends. Just as a mother finds space in her heart to welcome a new baby into the family it is also true that your heart finds room for new friends while still able to nurture the older ones that exist in the garden.

I have recently had the great joy of spending time with new treasures, they may be trees, perennials or annuals, I’m not quite sure yet, they are all adding to the garden in their own special way. Gorgeous, like-minded garden loving people. I had the very great pleasure of catching up with many of them at the GWA conference in September held in Atlanta, Georgia and I’m feeling ever so grateful. There’s the dear ones from #GWA15 in Pasadena like Denise, Eva, Louise, Susan, Sylvia, Jennifer, Jo-Ellen, Ann, C.L., Kathy J, Pam and Diana, Larry and Kirk and Sara. These folks have made an enormous effort to keep in touch despite geography and are wonderful and cherished additions to my garden of friends.

This year, I have added even more flowers to my garden Jacqueline, Deb, Dee, Marianne, Teresa, Nan, Katie, Maria, Ken and sweet Barbara from England and am so grateful to each and every one of them for coming up to say Hi and having a chat.

I will make mention of one very special friend, AZ Plantlady, who I met last year in Pasadena. This year before the conference she invited me to come visit her in Phoenix, her hometown. She collected me from the airport, handed me a huge home made ‘Welcome to Arizona’ pack filled with treats and lots of information, took me into her home, introduced me to her family, fed me, we laughed and ate at “local” places, we talked non-stop for a week about life, our universe, what’s important to each of us and mostly I feel privileged that she shared with me her joy of gardening in the place where she lives and hopefully I’m firmly planted in her garden of friends too, I’d like to say maybe a young Palo Verde…

“A garden is a friend you can visit anytime” Anon