Princeton University’s Grand Trees & Gardens

Every five years, for the past forty years, I’ve accompanied my husband to his class reunion at Princeton University in New Jersey. In the early years, the kids came with us. As they got older, they would promptly escape and run around campus looking for class tents that had better rock bands than ours. As they got a lot older, they stopped coming, but now that we have grandchildren, there’s a chance we’ll look like some of the families who bring babes in strollers to march in the famous “P-rade” on Saturday afternoon, the classes wending through campus in order of age toward the sports field finale.

Princeton-P-rade-child and dad

But one of my own favourite pastimes during my Princeton stays has been strolling the campus (considered one of the top 5 most beautiful in the U.S.) gazing at the trees and gardens. Earlier this month, I visited the beautiful gardens of Prospect House, redesigned in the last decade by Linden Miller and Ronda Brands of New York to focus on perennials and shrubs, rather than the annual bedding plants that had once made up the landscape here. Built in the 1850s in the Italianate style as a private home and deeded to the university in 1878 along with a 35-acre parcel of land, Prospect served as the home of Princeton University’s presidents from 1878 to 1968.  Today it houses the Faculty Club and is used for receptions.

Prospect House Garden1-Princeton-June

The fountain refreshes a tiny Reunions visitor.

Prospect House Garden-Fountain-Princeton

The borders in June are lovely, with peonies, catmint, irises and baptisia….

Prospect Garden2-Princeton-June

…. and the rhododendrons are spectacular.

Prospect House Garden-Rhododendrons-Princeton

I’ve been here in August as well when summer-flowering perennials such as echinacea, swamp hibiscus and Joe Pye weed are in bloom.

Prospect House Garden-Princeton-August (2)

And on the other side of Prospect is a tall, native tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) that’s estimated to be 160 years old.

Liriodendron tulipifera-Tulip Tree-Prospect-Princeton

I loved this drawing of the tulip poplar’s flowers in Princeton’s Little Book of Trees (art by Heather Lovett, text by James Consolloy.  The book is a downloadable .pdf available via a search.)

Liriodendron tulipifera-Little Tree Book-Princeton University

As we roamed campus, we found some of the wonderful new buildings framed by young trees that will in time be as stately as the American elms for which the campus was famous. Here is a much younger tulip poplar framing the entrance to the Frick Chemistry building (Hopkins Architects of London with Payette Associates of Boston, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn, N.Y., landscape architect, May 2005).

Liriodendron tulipifera-Tulip Tree-Frick Chemistry Laboratory-Princeton

Here’s another look at the Frick through silver maple (or possibly the hybrid Freeman maple).

Acer-Maple-Frick Chemistry Laboratory-Princeton

Below is the fabulous new Lewis Science Library (2008), designed by Frank Gehry with his characteristic, curvilinear stainless-steel facade. I gazed up at this soaring wall through native honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), but if I’d known that there was a grove of sassafras under another wall, I’d have been there in a jiffy!

Gleditsia-Honey locust-Lewis Science Library-Frank Gehry Design-Princeton

One of the fun parts about Reunions weekend is the chance to listen to panel discussions on all kinds of topics. For example, we went into the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, which is flanked by an allée of columnar oaks (Quercus sp.)…..

Quercus robur-English oak-Princeton Neuroscience Institute

….. to listen to a fascinating, multifaceted discussion on “The Future of Tech”.

Panel for “The Next Big Thing in Tech”, Princeton Reunions 2017 (left to right): Moderator Ruby Lee, Forrest G. Hamrick Prof. of Electrical Engineering; Julio Gomez ’82, Financial Services Technology Strategist; Joe Kochan ’02, Co-Founder and COO, US Ignite; Marco Matos ’07, Product Manager; Facebook; Julia Macalaster ’12, Head of Strategy, Def Method; Ryan Shea ’12, Co-founder, Blockstack.

Panel for “The Next Big Thing in Tech”, Princeton Reunions 2017 (left to right): Moderator Ruby Lee, Forrest G. Hamrick Prof. of Electrical Engineering; Julio Gomez ’82, Financial Services Technology Strategist; Joe Kochan ’02, Co-Founder and COO, US Ignite; Marco Matos ’07, Product Manager; Facebook; Julia Macalaster ’12, Head of Strategy, Def Method; Ryan Shea ’12, Co-founder, Blockstack.

Another day, I treated myself to a front-row seat at “The Writer’s Craft”.

Panel for “The Writer’s Craft”, Princeton Reunions 2017 (left to right): Moderator Christina Lazaridi ’92, Lecturer in Creative Writing; Ellen Chances ’72, Prof. of Slavic Languages & Literatures; Lisa K. Gornick ’77, Novelist; Alan Deutschman ’87, author; Cate Holahan ’02 author.

Panel for “The Writer’s Craft”, Princeton Reunions 2017 (left to right): Moderator Christina Lazaridi ’92, Lecturer in Creative Writing; Ellen Chances ’72, Prof. of Slavic Languages & Literatures; Lisa K. Gornick ’77, Novelist; Alan Deutschman ’87, author; Cate Holahan ’02 author.

But generally, I prefer to stay outdoors and a tree tour of campus is a perfect way to do that. This year I walked with a large crowd behind Merc Morris ’72, below in white jacket, who has been giving these tours for years now. It’s my second tour with Merc.

Merc Morris-Princeton Tree Tour-2017

He pointed out the towering white ashes (Fraxinus americana) on Cannon Green which are slowly succumbing to emerald ash borer. This one is in front of West College, about to be renamed to honour long-time Princeton Professor Emerita of creative writing, Toni Morrison.

Fraxinus americana-White ash-Toni Morrison College-Princeton

The older magnolias, like this one against Alexander Hall, were planted in the 1920s by Princeton’s consulting landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.  (More on her later).

Magnolia-Alexander Hall-Princeton

We just missed the gorgeous flowers of yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea), growing in front of Murray-Dodge.

Cladrastis kentukea-Yellowwood-Murray Dodge-Princeton

This is a cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus lebani) with the Firestone library in the background.

Cedrus libani-Cedar of Lebanon-Firestone Library-Princeton

Merc points out this huge dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) near Prospect House, planted in 1948. He relates why it is particularly happy in this spot, since the university arranged to divert a segment of its rainwater drainage toward its roots.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides-dawn redwood-Princeton

We head to the front of the university (total 500 acres) and I see the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) in shimmering flower next to Stanhope Hall. This Asian species is a replacement for the native flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) that were once planted on the Ivy League campuses, but mostly succumbed to anthracnose.

Cornus kousa-Dogwood-Stanhope Hall-Princeton

Speaking of Ivy League, here’s the wall of East Pyne, one of the older dormitory buildings. That vine clinging tenaciously to the stone is Boston ivy, (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and many people associate it with the origins of the term “Ivy League”.

Hedera helix-English Ivy-East Pyne Hall-Princeton

Finally, we’re standing near Princeton’s main drag, Nassau Street, looking back at Nassau Hall. Already preparing for next week’s graduation, it was built in 1756 and at the time it was the largest academic building in the American Colonies.  During the Revolutionary War, it was occupied by both British and American forces and suffered damage during 1777’s Battle of Princeton. For a few months in 1783, Princeton served as the capital of the new United States and Nassau Hall hosted its government. But we’re here in the original campus yard to look at the tall American elms (Ulmus americana), survivors of the cataclysmic Dutch elm disease that ravaged the tall native trees in the mid-20th century.

Ulmus americana-American elms-Nassau Hall

As we prepare to head next door to Maclean House, Merc gives us a little introduction to the historic trees we’ll see there.

Here is beautiful Maclean House (1756) and the oldest trees on Princeton’s campus, the “buttonwood” or American sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) planted in 1766. Though they often lose their first leaves to anthracnose, as in this photo, they put out a second crop of leaves in summer. The sycamores are also called the Stamp Act trees, because their planting coincided with the repeal of the Stamp Act, which had been instituted by Britain in 1765 and required a tax on every piece of printed paper used by American colonists.

Platanus occidentalis-American sycamore-Maclean House-Princeton

And here’s the page on the sycamores in the Little Trees book.

Platanus occidentalis-Stamp Act Sycamores-Little Tree Book-Princeton

On Saturday afternoon, we gather for one of the long traditions for reunions weekend, the annual P-rade.  Keeping in mind that some 25,000 people arrive on campus for the weekend, it’s a very long procession, beginning with the oldest alum from the 1940s, now driven in golf carts, to the youngest.  And yes, that is my husband doing the back and forth ‘locomotive’ cheer, which he loves. He played hockey more than 55 years ago for Princeton (while getting his Economics degree). I hear they had skates then…..

After the P-rade winds up on the athletic field, we walk towards Nassau Street heading back to our digs for a nap before dinner.  Look at this chestnut (Castanea sp.) in front of the spectacular Lewis-Sigler Institute (and Carl Icahn Lab) for Integrative Genomics (architect Rafael Viñoly).

Castanea-Chestnut-Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics-

I see an elegant katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) against the Moffett Lab.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum-Katusra-Moffett Lab-Princeton (2)

And I’ve been sampling ripe serviceberries (Amelanchier sp.) all weekend outside our own reunion tent, so I test a few from this big shrub growing in front of the Frist Campus Center.

Amelanchier-Serviceberry-Frist Campus Center-Princeton

And another little taste of Reunions are the spectacular Saturday night fireworks. This is what I saw from the Boathouse on Lake Carnegie – my video being the 4 minute condensation of what was at least a 15-minute show.

On our final morning in Princeton, our kind hostess (and my husband’s lovely cousin) Rachel Gray Studebaker drives me to the Princeton Graduate College, with its enclosed garden designed in 1913-14 by Beatrix Farrand.  I was determined to try to get here before our flight home after reading the cover story on Farrand in her Princeton magazine.

Beatrix-Farrand-Princeton Magazine

And I am not disappointed. It is stunning….

Princeton Graduate College-Beatrix Farrand (1)

…and blessedly empty after the reunion celebrants have departed.  Though the plants have been updated since her 30-year tenure here as Consulting Landscape Architect from 1915 to the mid-1940s, the sense of formal sanctuary is still very much hers.  (Here’s a reprint of an article she wrote for the Princeton Alumni Weekly.)

Princeton Graduate College-Beatrix Farrand (2)

We return to Rachel’s house via Mercer Street past the home at #112 that Albert Einstein lived in from 1935-55, while he was at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies. Now owned by the institute, it is not open to the public (since it houses various academics employed by the Institute) but it is on the Historic Register of Princeton.

Einstein's House-Princeton NJ

While preparing to pack and head back to Toronto, I pass the ‘Lucerna’ begonia in Rachel’s kitchen that is fondly referred to as “Einstein’s begonia”. Cuttings of it have been passed from hand to hand in Princeton since he grew it himself in the house on Mercer Street and our cousin, who worked as assistant to the Director of the Institute for Advanced Study for many years, is the proud recipient of this one.

Einstein's begonia-Princeton

And another lovely Princeton reunion, replete with trees, gardens and famous begonias, comes to an end.

Siri Luckow: The Garden as Wildlife Sanctuary

Siri Luckow’s  garden won first place in the Environmental category in a city-wide garden contest, and on her street in the northern part of Toronto it stands out as a beacon of hope in a desert of lawns.  Look at this, in late spring.  It’s hardly a sacrifice in the name of the environment, is it?

Siri Luckow-Front garden

She proudly proclaims her intention with this beautiful garden right out front, where passersby can be inspired.

Backyard habitat sign-Siri Luckow

I visited Siri’s garden first in 2015 with a group of garden bloggers, and she was a delightful host.

Siri Luckow-Toronto

I then asked to return the following year to absorb a little more of what can be done on a small property, like the drainage made possible by a dry stream bed.

Dry stream-Siri Luckow

In her front yard, Siri mixes lots of natives, like the dwarf chinkapin oak (Quercus prinoides)….

Siri Luckow-Quercus prinoides-dwarf chinkapin oak

….with old-fashioned non-native favourites like tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa).

Paeonia-Siri Luckow

But it’s not all ‘native this’ and ‘non-native’ that. Siri’s garden contains loads of edibles as well, front and back. In her front garden, she mixes shrubs like gooseberries….


….and blueberries with the ornamentals….

Blueberries-Siri Luckow

…. and she includes leafy crops in her containers, too. Here’s kale with pansies.

Kale & Pansies-Siri Luckow

Moving around to the back, you’re greeted with a lovely flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) underplanted with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum).

Cornus florida-Flowering dogwood

Nearby in a sunny spot is the vegetable garden.

Vegetables-Siri Luckow

In her shade garden, Siri grows ostrich ferns and white bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Albus’)….

Shady garden-Siri Luckow

…. and spring natives like (Geranium maculatum)….

Geranium maculatum-wild geranium

…. and this uncommon white form of Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica f. alba).

Mertensia virginica f. alba-White Virginia bluebells

There are beautiful painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), paired here with the foliage of early-flowering native bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

Japanese painted fern & bloodroot

Siri’s garden art tends to be organic and ecological, like this rotting tree section melting into cranesbills (Geranium sp.)….

Geranium & tree trunk-Siri Luckow

…. and this vine sphere…..

Vine sculpture-Siri Luckow

…. and this dead branch cradling a smooth rock.

Stone sculpture-Siri Luckow

There’s a bit of lawn in the sunny part, and behind it a wonderful mini-woodland that acts as ‘edge’ habitat, bringing many birds.

Back garden-Siri Luckow

Chickadees nest in a house Siri set up here…

Chickadee nesting box-Siri Luckow

….and birds are able to secure nesting material in the wool holder or nesting ball that hangs in the garden.

Bird-nesting wool-Siri Luckow

There are always birds feeding here. Here’s a male northern cardinal eating from a simple plastic plant pot feeder,

Cardinal male-flowerpot birdfeeder-Siri Luckow

…and the female eating a sunflower seed, too.

Cardinal female

Hidden away in the trees is a brush pile for birds and other wildlife – the value of which too few gardeners understand.

Brush pile habitat

It’s easy to plant some pussytoes (Antennaria sp.)……

Antennaria flowers

…. and wait for the painted lady butterfly to lay its eggs on the leaves, which then become the larval caterpillar’s diet.

Painted Lady Caterpillar on Antennaria

Siri’s sunny woodland front features native shrubs like Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)…

Calycanthus floridus-Carolina allspice

…. and native trees like the paw paw (Asimina triloba), with its dusky maroon flowers…..

Asimina triloba-Paw paw flower

…. and native perennials like prairie smoke (Geum triflorum).

Geum triflorum-Prairie smoke

But she’s a plant collector, too – so there are a few rarities like Syringa afghanica.

Syringa afghanica-Siri Luckow

During the Garden Bloggers’ Fling in 2015, we were invited to climb the ladder to look at the Luckows’ Green Roof. Here’s Toronto garden designer Sara Katz taking a photo under tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipfera)….

Green roof-Siri Luckow-Sara Katz photographing

… and here’s my photograph of the top of the roof.

Green roof-Siri Luckow

Thank you Siri (belatedly) for opening up your garden to gardeners – and to the rest of the wild creatures you welcome daily.

June Whites

I was reminded today, as I drove through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, then home again, that this particular time in June is resplendently white in blossom.  Seriously, there are white flowers everywhere!  Let’s start in the cemetery with this rather rare shrub, Oriental photinia (P. villosa). A member of the Rosaceae family, it has lovely yellow leaves in autumn.

Photinia villosa-Oriental photinia

The fountain-like Van Houtte spireas (Spiraea x vanhouttei) were almost finished, but I managed to find one little branch that hadn’t yet browned.

Spiraea x vanhouttei

Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) were looking paricurly lovely with their creamy-white bracts.

Cornus kousa-dogwood

Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) was beautiful, too.

Viburnum plicatum-Japanese snowball

There were peonies in my favourite memorial garden at the cemetery, including this lovely single white.

Paeonia-white peony

Deutzias grace the cemetery, and I was interested that although there were matching Lemoine deutzias (D. x lemoinei) on either side of a grand tombstone, just one of the pair was attracting bees, lots of them. Only the bees know why the other shrub wasn’t attractive.

Deutzia x lemoinei with bee

The lovely dwarf Deutzia gracilis cascaded over a granite stone.

Deutzia gracilis

And the black locusts (Robinia pseudoacacia) were dangling their pendant flowers from the tall branches like tree-borne wisteria. Tonight, those flowers will perfume the air around them with their honey fragrance.

Robinia pseudoacacia-black locust-flower

When I pulled into my driveway at home, I was greeted by a little regiment of tall, double-white camassias (C. leichtlinii ‘Semi Plena’). I don’t normally plant double flowers, preferring to nurture the bees with single blossoms, but they were in a mislabelled package a few years back, and I do enjoy that they come into flower after the single blue Leichtlin’s camassia.

Camassia leichtlinii 'Semi Plena'

And as I looked out my kitchen window to the far corner of the garden, I admired one of my very favourite spring shrubs, the big pagoda or alternate-leafed dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) wtih its layered branches. It was doing a lovely pas de deux with my neighbour Claudette’s pale-pink beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis).

Cornus alternifolia-Pagoda dogwood-with Kolkwitzia-Janet Davis garden

Here’s a closer look at those abundant flower clusters.  I do love this native shrub.

Cornus alternifolia-Alternate-leaf dogwood

And those are my June whites for today. Now all we need is a bride!


I’ve blogged before about Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Here’s one with an autumnal flavour, and another about the magnificent trees in winter.

Toronto’s ‘Through the Garden Gate’ Celebrates 30 Years!

There will be some beautiful gardens for Torontonians to visit when the Toronto Botanical Garden rolls out the welcome mat for its 30th annual Through the Garden Gate garden tour. It’s being held on the weekend of Saturday June 10 and Sunday June 11th in the neighbourhoods of North Rosedale and Moore Park.  In celebration of the 30 years, organizers have selected 30 diverse gardens. Some are lovely formal jewels like this Moore Park garden.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Formal Garden

Some back onto wooded ravines.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Ravine garden

There’s one of the prettiest green roofs I’ve seen – and on a nice angle to allow visitors a good view.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Green Roof

And beautiful ideas for furnishing a leafy city sanctuary, like this….

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017- Furnishings (2)

…. and this.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017- Furnishings(1)

And wonderful plant design, of course, like this exquisite pairing of sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) and Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)….

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Painted fern & Sweet woodruff

…and this. Don’t you love Japanese forest grass? This is Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and ‘All Gold’.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Hakonechloa macra

If the weather stays cool, there will still be lush June irises and peonies.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Tree peony

There will be water features, of course, including handsome formal pools….

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Raised pool

…tiered fountains…

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Water Fountain

….and tiny, secret oases under lush textural foliage.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Small water feature (2)

You’ll be able to get some creative ideas for accessories….

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Iron Art

…. and art…

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Art

….and arbours and obelisks.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Obelisk & Arch

….and gates and path materials.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-door & path

And there will be loads of pots and planters, including some with herbs….

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Herb planter

…. and others with tropical climbing vines like mandevilla.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Mandevilla vine

You’ll see what clever gardeners have done to turn little sheds into outdoor cocktail bars…

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Garden Shed Bar

…. and see how easy it is to bring home-cooked pizza to your own back garden!

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-Wood oven

This year, the TBG has arranged for Toronto’s Augie’s Ice Pops to have two stands on the route so you can buy their frosty organic treats, in flavours like strawberry-basil, grapefruit-ginger – or whatever is farm-fresh and seasonal on the second weekend in June!

Augies Ice Pops-Toronto-Through the Garden Gate Tour

Through the Garden Gate is your opportunity to support the Toronto Botanical Garden and its work, while enjoying a rare opportunity to explore some of the city’s finest private gardens.

Toronto Botanical Garden-Through the Garden Gate-2017-promo

Tickets may be purchased through the TBG’s website here. Prices are as follows, and note that it will be difficult to see all 30 gardens in one day, so a two-day pass is your best bet – and allows flexibility for weather (since single-day wristbands are expressly for Saturday or Sunday and cannot be interchanged).

One-Day Pass: Public $45 / TBG Members $40
Two-Day Pass: Public $65 / TBG Members $60
Students $25 (With ID, One-Day Pass Only)
Tax included. Tickets are limited, advance purchase recommended.

And if you’re not a member of the TBG already, what are you waiting for? Become a member and get that discount on your ticket price, plus all kinds of lovely extras:  a magazine, lots of courses, lectures, a wonderful library – and inclusion in a jewel of a garden that’s about to expand and become one of the most exciting greenspaces in Toronto. If you haven’t been, be sure to have a look at my own seasonal photo galleries on the TBG’s website.

Celebrating Canada’s 150th at Ottawa’s Tulip Festival

On July 1, 2017, Canada celebrates a big birthday – we turn 150! The Dominion of Canada was signed into being in 1867; we were only four provinces then: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. A century-and-a-half later, we are 10 provinces and 3 territories. Our nationhood is acknowledged on the Centennial Flame that has burned in front of the parliament buildings in Ottawa since our centennial in 1967.

Canada Flame-Ottawa

I was in Ottawa last week to visit friends and catch a little of the Canadian Tulip Festival. Though there weren’t many tulips at the Parliament Buildings, I did the requisite “lie flat on the grass and attempt to get both tulips & Peace Tower in the shot”.

Parliament Buildings-Ottawa-Tulip Festival

And since a lovely flame-like tulip called ‘Canada 150’ was introduced this year to commemorate our birthday, I decided to put all the flames together and try to ignite a bonfire!

Canada Flame & 'Canada 150' tulip-montage-Tulip Festival

The weather was perfect and cool when we were there, though the normally dry trail below the Parliament Buildings flanking the Ottawa River was still under water from this spring’s historic flooding of the area.

Flooding-Ottawa River-Parliamenet Buildings-May 2017

We began our tulip quest at lovely Commissioners Park adjacent to Dow’s Lake, where the tulips were splendidly arrayed between the lake….

Commissioner's Park-Tulip Festival-Ottawa

…. and a residential neighbourhood.

Commissioner's Park-houses-Tulip Festival-Ottawa

Everyone was trying their hand at photography…..

Photographer-Ottawa Tulip Festival-Commissioners Park1

….including the serious shutterbugs….


….and those who still seem to have good knees!

Photographer-Ottawa Tulip Festival-Commissiners Park2

Some were mastering the tulip selfie. Smile!

Selfies-Tulip Festival-Commissioners Park-Ottawa

Double-flowered ‘Miranda’ was a big hit (if you like red tulips on steroids….)

Tulipa 'Miranda'-Commissioners Park-Ottawa-Tulip Festival

‘Pretty Princess’ is a sport of old ‘Princes Irene’.

Tulipa 'Pretty Princess'-Commissioners Park-Ottawa-Tulip Festival

I liked this citrus-flavoured tulip mix.

Tulips-Commissioners Park-Dow Lake-Ottawa-Tulip Festival2

‘Ottawa’ is just one of a number of tulips named for Canadian cities.

Tulipa 'Ottawa'-Commissioners Park-Ottawa-Tulip Festival

‘Calgary’ is a pure white Triumph tulip.

Tulipa 'Calgary'-Commissioners Park-Ottawa-Tulip Festsival

And I’m sure there’s a joke somewhere in ‘Double Toronto’, especially if you come from elsewhere in Canada.  As in: “Q. Why are Toronto tulips double? A. Because they think they’re twice as good as the other cities.”

Tulipa 'Double Toronto'-Commissioners Park-Tulip Festsival-Ottawa

Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of massive blocks of tulips in one colour, whether it’s at the Keukenhof in the Netherlands or Ottawa. I do understand they attract crowds to public places, especially in a city that features winter for half the year. And as a stock photographer, I do love finding well-grown, labelled plants to shoot. However, as a tulip-lover, I’m partial to naturalistic designs incorporating them with perennials, as I illustrate in this video of my own front garden yesterday. But if I had to name a favourite planting at Commissioner’s, this would be the one – a big, happy circus of tulips.

Tulips-Commissioners Park-Dow Lake-Ottawa-Tulip Festival

There were more than just tulips in the park, like these lovely late daffodils….

Commissioner's Park-daffodils-Tulip Festival 2017

….. and this spectacular mix of ‘Rembrandt’ hyacinths and ‘Blue Magic‘ grape hyacinths (Muscari).

Muscari 'Blue Magic' & Hyacinth 'Rembrandt'-Tulip Festival-Commissioners Park-Ottawa

There is also a row of interpretive signs at Commissioners Park describing the origins of the Tulip Festival, the first 100,000 bulbs a gift from Princess Juliana and the Netherlands in dual gratitude to Canada for providing a safe haven for her during the 2nd World War and also for liberating the country in spring 1945. The Netherlands royal family and Dutch bulb growers continue to send 10,000 bulbs to Canada each year.

Tulip Festival-interpretive sign-Netherlands Gift.

On our second full day of three in Ottawa, we visited Major’s Hill Park, across from the beautiful, Moshe Safdie-designed National Gallery.


I loved this view of the Gallery’s atrium through elderberry flowers (Sambucus pubens).

Sambucus pubens-Elderberry-National Gallery-Ottawa

This is the National Gallery entrance, from a previous visit.

National Gallery of Canada-entrance-Ottawa

And since we’re here, this is ‘Maman’ by the late French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), in tribute to her mother. At the time, in 2005, its $3.2 million price tag made it the most expensive artwork acquired by the gallery.

Maman-National Gallery of Canada-Louise Bourgeois-Ottawa

Behind ‘Maman’ is the Notre Dame Cathedral, with its twin spires that peek out over this cloud of serviceberry flowers (Amelanchier) from the park.

Amelanchier-serviceberry & Notre Dame Cathedral spires-Ottawa

There were lots of tulip-lovers at this centrally-located site, which has a spectacular view of the Parliament Buildings and the Ottawa River….

Parliament Buildings & Ottawa River

…. and the Douglas Cardinal-designed Canadian Museum of History across the river in Gatineau, Quebec. Both the National Gallery landscape and the landscape of the Museum were designed by Vancouver’s renowned Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

Canadian Museum of History-Douglas Cardinal design-Ottawa

Little children ran around the brilliant tulips.

Major's Hill Park-Tulip Festival-Ottawa

I have a special place in my heart for tulips that perform this brave task on behalf of misfits everywhere.

Single red tulip-Tulip Festival-Ottawa

It was in Major’s Hill Park that I photographed the ‘Canada 150’ tulip…..

Tulipa 'Canada 150'-Ottawa Tulip Festival

….with its white-edged leaves.

Tulipa 'Canada 150'-Ottawa

At the top of a rise, there’s a pretty tulip bed leading to the monument honouring Lieutenant-Colonel John By.

Tulips-Colonel By Monument-Ottawa-Tulip Festival

His statue looks out over the Ottawa River, which leads to the downtown locks and the Rideau Canal, his great engineering achievement on behalf of the British in the 1830s (and a fabulous winter skating rink for the people of Ottawa).  His name is also memorialized in the nearby and fashionable Byward Market.

Lieutenant Colonel John By-Statue-Ottawa

As the engineer in charge of this grand engineering project, By lived in a home on this site with a wonderful view of the river, Chaudières Falls and the Gatineau Hills.  “Colonel By lived with his wife and two daughters in an ornate, cottage-style home. Visitors were charmed by the residence with its English gardens and surrounding pastures.” In 1848, long after he’d returned to England and the house was occupied by other officers, it was destroyed by fire, leaving the foundation cornerstones as part of a living museum here.

Lieutenant-Colonel John By House Foundation-Ottawa

As my patriotic effort for this, our Sesquicentennial year I made a video of our Tulip Festival sojourn, complete with stirring national anthem soundtrack, followed by a lovely bit of music by an English composer named T.R.G. Banks, who generously makes his music available as public domain. Happy birthday, Canada. And many happy returns!