The Garden By Section 2001  

In 1993, the garden was a colourful riot of enthusiastic flowers - sweet rocket and heliopsis, in season, particularly. It made a lovely picture, but was quite out of control. The paths were barely visible in some locations. The south path no longer existed, and grass grew up to the south wall, except for a few patches of defiant peonies. The National Capital Commission mowed the grass and kept the area safe (although it was not officially open to the public), but had no resources for more specialised attention.

The Friends of the Maplelawn Garden set out to rehabilitate the garden, negotiating an understanding with the NCC. They would aim to recreate the only existing plan, which was from the late 1930s. The reinstallation of the south path was a major step in bringing back the original symmetry of the garden, and a massive clearing job at the east wall removed overgrown cedars and revealed paved areas.

Meanwhile, the NCC undertook vital, and costly, restoration work on the old wall. No plan or description has ever been found for the original (mid -1830s) garden, although it must have been exceptionally fine for its time and place.

When the property was bought by the Cole family, there is a mention that it was "somewhat run down" - an understatement, no doubt, in view of the years of financial troubles undergone by Thomsons - but again no plan exists, although from the late 19th century a number of excellent photographs document its appearance.

When the house and garden passed into ownership of the Rochester family in the mid-1930s, both the house and garden were extensively modernised, and all traces of a "kitchen" garden were removed from within the walled area.

A horticultural expert from the Central Experimental Farm was engaged, in a private capacity, to do the work, and his planting plans for the beds along the walls are the main documents on which current rehabilitation work is based. No plans for the inner beds ever surfaced, (it is possible that none were drawn, and that existing border perennials stayed pretty much in place to border the new grassy areas, where they previously bordered food crops) so a working plan, complementary to that for the wall beds, was prepared in 1997.

Overview01.jpg - 50798 Bytes
Photo: Paul Richer
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Photo: Wayne Rutherford

The historical value of the walled garden owes much to the fact that throughout the Cole and Rochester ownership, the basic original layout was unaltered.

In organising the volunteer group, a decision was made to allocate the rehabilitaion of each section to a leader. These people were jokingly called Avantegardeners, but somehow the name stuck and they have always been the AGs. Newcomers work with an AG , then a very flexible process allows them the choice of continuing to work at the AG's direction, or to take over one part of the section, or to move on and try another location or another gardening partner. The "ownership" of an area seems to keep people committed to the project.

The Garden Sections
West 1
& West 2
West Sections
Section A Section A
South 1
& South 2
Section B Section B
Undivided in 2001
East Sections
Section C SectionC
North 1
& North 2
Section D SectionD
Center Section





< Click on Section Images to launch each slide show

 Photos in this feature were taken by the late Lloyd Brown, Paul Richer & Wayne Rutherford.
Garden Sections