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Aldona at Large: Seaside Serendipity

Once my gallivanting around England was finished, the question “would you like to help judge this year’s Kingsbrae Garden Canadian Sculpture Competition?” was like music to my ears.

You see, Kingsbrae is located in St. Andrews (by the Sea), New Brunswick, and this super garden was recently named Canada’s Garden of the year at the Canadian Garden Tourism Awards.

baptist church

Soon I was on my way to this ridiculously picturesque town of 18,000 inhabitants, just 29 kilometres from the Maine border (and if you’re wondering how much lobster can one woman eat, the answer is “plenty.”) To see a few more images of the town, click on the images below.

the treadwell inn the main drag in St. Andrews sunbury shores arts & nature centre  water view, st. andrews

entering the kingsbrae perennial garden
Entrance to Kingsbrae’s perennial garden in mid-June

I’d been to Kingsbrae Garden some years before, when I was the editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening magazine. Since that visit, the garden has evolved considerably (there was no sculpture garden on my last visit) though even back then, it looked remarkably well established for a garden that had only opened to the public in 1998.

The garden is the brainchild and labour of love of John and Lucinda Flemer, who have lavished it with their energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and support. In fact, Kingsbrae Garden’s 27 acres sit on grounds that have been part of Lucinda Flemer’s life since childhood, and five generations of her family have resided/summered there.

windmill and viburnum

In 1996, the Flemers gave the Kingsbrae land to the Province of New Brunswick along with a generous endowment, and began to create a public garden for everyone’s enjoyment. The garden, however, did have a head start with mature cedar hedges, some plantings and flowerbeds, and old growth Acadian forest, all of which were incorporated into the scheme.

kingbrae water's edge

The Garden of the Year accolade is just the latest in a series of awards for Kingsbrae, among which have included becoming New Brunswick’s first  “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary,” winning of an award for “Best Developed Outdoor site in Canada” in 2001, and being named as one of Canada’s top Ten Public Gardens. Three of the things I like best about it are 1) it’s gardened in an environmentally responsible way; 2) it breaks rules and takes chances, and 3) it’s fun. It caters to children and families, with pint-sized structures and even animals, like alpacas, rabbits, chickens and these fat and happy ducks.

just ducky

To find out more about this remarkable garden and its many charms, go here.

kingsbrae sculpture garden

But I was there to help judge a sculpture competition, and it was a thorough and thoughtful process. My seven distinguished fellow judges and I spent considerable time deliberating the merits of the 14 finalists’ works, which were already in situ in the sculpture garden. Although entries had come from across Canada, the winning piece we chose happened to be created by a local sculptor, Alanna Baird, who lives and works right in St. Andrews.

alanna baird sculpturte competition winner
Alanna Baird, left, accepts the winner’s cheque for $10,000 from competition judge Roy Heenan and Lucinda Flemer.

I can report that there was a gasp of approval from the audience as her name was announced. Here is her winning sculpture, titled Salmon Vortex.

winner, sculpture competition

Gordon Reeve of Ridgway, Ontario won the $7,500 second prize for his piece Le dejeuner sur l’herbe 2013, while the honourable mention nod went to William Shaw of Bedford, Nova Scotia for his sculpture The Blessed Sturgeon Larry. To find out more about the Kingsbrae Sculpture Competition (exceptional sculptors take note), go here.

After the competition, the Flemers, who were the most generous and affable of hosts, invited me to stay on to see a very special Saturday afternoon concert at Kingsbrae by the Sistema Moncton Youth Orchestra, which they also help to support through their Tecolote Foundation.

That morning, there was a very pleasant crafts market on the grounds of the gardens.

local market and fun under the trees

And displays of folk art, such as this bright pink pig.

piggy folk art

There was even a chain saw sculptor from Swamp Bear Chain Art.

swamp bear art chainsaw sculptures

And then it was time for the concert. Oh my, what an uplifting experience. Many of these children, who range in age from six to 12, come from disadvantaged backgrounds and the Sistema program provides them with free instruction and musical instruments. They in turn make a commitment to attend several hours of after-school practice every day. I was blown away by their high standard of musicianship as they tacked complex pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with the sound of booming cannons. Wow.

The El Sistema program was conceived in Venezuela by Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu, who once said: “The huge spiritual world that music produces in itself overcomes material poverty. From the minute a child is taught how to play an instrument, he or she is no longer poor.”

sistema orchestra moncton

Amen. That concert reminded me of how much richness and joy music brought to me throughout my school years, where I belonged to every choir and special musical group you could imagine and was in every school musical as well. It transported the shy, awkward child I was back then into a harmonious and beautiful world where I knew I belonged. To find out more about the Sistema program in New Brunswick, go here.

This plant is NOT your friend!

dog-strangling vine

What a year for the weeds, eh? Several of my writing co-Horts and friends have recently covered noxious invasives in their various columns, blogs, what-have-you, and I’m about to add my two cents.  Sonia Day ( wrote in her Toronto Star column, The Real Dirt, about being afflicted with bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis); Liz Primeau ( covered creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) in her blog and Lorraine Flanigan held forth on goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) in a piece for the Globe and Mail.

As I’ve walked the dogs in my Riverdale neighbourhood, I’ve seen what seems to be every other garden sporting creeping tendrils of the dreaded dog-strangling vine (Cynanchum or Vincetoxicum rossicum).  And, quel horreur, I even found some trying to get a toehold in my own front garden. It’s quite a pleasant-looking plant, really, with shiny, pointy green leaves and pretty little pink or maroonish flowers in early summer. Right now, its narrow, pointy seedpods are just starting to ripen, after which they’ll burst open and scatter their seeds hither and yon. So patrol your property and get rid of it right now—don’t just try to yank it out, dig out every little bit of root. If left alone, this rapacious rambler will take over your garden, smothering your good plants, and then lots of luck getting rid of it. How bad can it get? Do a search on Google images and see for yourself. If you’d like to download the factsheet from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, go here.

Good luck and happy hoicking.

Aldona’s Blog will be on hiatus until October 2013.

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