On our second day in Ottawa, Angie and I headed out to the Canadian Heritage Garden at Rideau Hall, an easy drive from our hotel and located not far from Parliament Hill. Rideau Hall is the Canadian governor-general’s official residence and is surrounded by bucolic grounds – trees, meandering paths, rolling lawns and the Canadian Heritage Rose Garden – all open to the public.
This rose garden was inaugurated in June, 2000 and implemented Alvin Regehr’s bold design “that uses roses to symbolize Canadian ancestral groups and historical events.” Claire Laberge, our friend from the Montréal Botanical Garden, due to her growing national reputation, had been invited to select the rose varieties for this national garden. Her challenge was to select as many native Canadian varieties as possible as well as roses that illustrated the many immigrant contributions that flavor Canadian society.
The morning was cool and cloudy and we found a free parking space on the street in front of the entrance gate and considered ourselves lucky. As we walked toward the gate, it started to rain. Lucky us.
We were warmly greeted at the entrance by a cheerful guide undaunted by the weather dressed in a bright red blazer and standing her post under a large blue umbrella. The rose garden was just down the path, can’t miss it, she said, and off we went with our cameras tucked under our jackets to keep them dry.
The garden, mostly shrub and old garden roses, had peaked two weeks prior to our visit, around June 15, and clearly had gone-by when we arrived. This is the same time our rose gardens had peaked over 450 miles south and east in much warmer USDA zone 6b. I saw no obvious micro-climate reason to justify this. I will ponder this seeming anomaly.
Regardless, the footprint and hardscape were impressive. Wrought iron arbors and obelisks gave the garden the vertical element necessary to every successful rose garden. The paths were pea stone gravel which I liked very much – the soft crunch of each step adding pleasing audio to the visual.
Interestingly, the beds were sunken, not raised, and were lined with granite blocks. In lieu of traditional plant markers, the names of every variety were engraved in the granite blocks, literally carved in stone. I wondered how they will change anything. Three young gardeners were busy primping and grooming the garden presumably for the visit of William and Kate two days hence.
By now the rain was pouring and we hustled back to the main gate and gift shop. The steadfast guide was helping a bus-load of visitors, slipping easily from English to French and back again. (We see this fluent bi-lingualism everywhere we’ve gone in eastern Canada both in French Quebec and English Ontario. I envy this.) I chatted with the guide, quizzing her on Canadian history and found myself out-gunned. She was ready for any questions I had … a capable and delightful young woman.
We decided that a rainy day was a lousy time to walk through gardens but a great time to walk through a museum. We headed over to the National Gallery of Canada, a short distance away, to catch the Caravaggio exhibit.
Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, O’Keefe and Pollock – a very decent way to spend a rainy afternoon.