In Saint Andrews-by-the-Sea, there is a 27-acre horticultural masterpiece open to the public every day.
“These peonies are the size of my head,” I thought as I walked past rows of my favourite kind of flower bush.
Plush, round, and hued in several shades of pink and white, the many majestic peonies caught my attention almost right away when my husband and I visited the Kingsbrae Garden in Saint Andrews-by-the-Sea about a month ago.
The amount of work that must have gone into creating and maintaining the sprawling 27-acre property is astounding to me.
Yes, I am the same person who killed some potted edible flowers on my balcony in their first week of sprouting this spring, and then proceeded to kill a parsley plant the following week – both through overzealous watering sprees. I’m lucky my aloe vera has continued surviving for several months now.
While I admit I may not be a plant expert despite being plant-based, the good thing is my gardening innocence clearly hasn’t interfered with my appreciation for the green art. You don’t have to take it from me – Kingsbrae Garden has won dozens of awards and is often referred to as one of the top gardens in the country.
The Kingsbrae property celebrates many different forms of garden traditions in its sprawling landscape, including the entry garden, the white garden, the cottage garden, the rose garden, the secret garden, the peace garden and even a labyrinth. Upon entrance, the staff offers a detailed map of the grounds, which you can also see online here when preparing for your trip.
The Kingsbrae Garden operates as a not-for-profit. Beyond the many plants, flowers, trees, ponds, bridges, statues, benches, animals and windmills, the property also includes a lovely café with glorious meals, snacks and beverages available daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In normal times, you can opt to dine inside or outside on a sunny terrace. The café menu is “bistro style” with sandwiches, soups, chowders, pastas and daily features, as well as desserts.
When we visited for lunch, I had a scrumptious sweet tomato torte served with a salad.
There is also an excusive fine-dining restaurant at Kingsbrae Garden, called Savour the Garden, with limited seating indoors. According to the website, however, they are currently booked for Savour the Garden seats straight through August, with only September reservations available at the moment.
There is also an art gallery, a gift shop and artist classroom at the property.
As well, during the summer there are evenings with live local music, special themed cocktails and “gastro-pub inspired bites” for the Kingsbrae Garden “Pump Night” Wednesdays.
Additionally, in other years where social distancing had not been necessary, Kingsbrae Garden typically hosts many local festivals.
But when it comes to visits during the day, like ours earlier this summer, you will find many beautiful things to catch your eye, and for all ages.
For instance, there are a lot of animals on the grounds – ducks, geese, butterflies, peacocks, pygmy goats and even llamas. Of course the water fowl stay mostly near the ponds, and the mammals have pens, but they do come out to play some times.
While we were eating lunch that Sunday, two staff members brought the goats out to the main yard where families and children gathered while the animals grazed out on the open grass. One goat even started eating the leaves off a tree!
Another fun element of Kingsbrae Garden is the amount of clever and creative methods pathways are employed in the over-all design.
There is a very Secret-Garden-like little hollowed entrance trimmed into a large hedge.
There are also some wooden extended archway paths decked out in hanging vines, and some winding paths that curve into tree-covered areas.
You’ll even find some whimsical little window holes cut in to the landscape every now and then, including one right across from a mirrored pyramid decoration which I imagined might do something magical with the sunlight at a certain time of day or year.
The winding pathways lead to gorgeous views no matter which way you turn.
Since John and Lucinda Flemer first opened Kingsbrae Garden to the public in 1998, to preserve and maintain their family’s former estate as well as offer the town of Saint Andrews-by-Sea new employment opportunities and a community gathering spot, it has been a major Canadian tourist attraction.
With unique art and sculptures, a wooded trail through rare old-growth forest, over 2,500 species of perennials and Canada’s first “Jurassic living fossil” Wollemi pine, there is really no wonder why.
After my visit, maybe some of that green thumb luck has rubbed off on me. My balcony aloe vera is doing just fine too.
All photo credits except Photo #5 and #33: Courtney Edgar
Photos #5 and #33 credit: David Marineau Plante