Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Setting

This is a gardening blog, so the vast majority of the posts have to do with the garden, its plants or its design.

For a change, it might be useful to talk about the location of the garden in order to place it in its context and give you an idea of its surroundings.

The beach and marina in the village of Lion's Head in the Bruce Peninsula

The garden is in a region of Ontario, Canada, know as the Bruce Peninsula. If you look at the following map of the Great Lakes, you see on the right hand side the name "Tobermory" in red. The "Bruce" is the peninsula that stretches south of the village of Tobermory.

It is a long and narrow stretch of land whose climate is influence by the large bodies of water that surround it. On the whole, all this water makes it cooler in spring and warmer in autumn than places that have the same climate, but are situated more inland.

Traditionally an economically depressed area, there has never been much industry and only marginal agriculture, because the soil is very thin. In some spots the limestone bedrock comes to the surface.

Little agriculture and no industry means little or no pollution. Nowadays, the Bruce prides itself on its two Canadian national parks, and its main industry is tourism.

People are attracted not only by the physical beauty of the place but also by its very rich flora and fauna. I have often shown pictures of the numerous wild flowers, and written about the various snakes and other animals that visit the garden. These testify to the rich biodiversity of the Bruce which has been designated by UNESCO as a Wild Biosphere Reserve.

Sandhill cranes in a hay field near Roche Fleurie

The eastern shore of the Bruce Peninsula

You can think of the the whole peninsula as a large piece of flat limestone that is sloping into the water on the west side and sticking out of the water on the east side.

All along the east side is a cliff called the Niagara Escarpment (one end of  this cliff, which crosses all of southern Ontario, is in Michigan and the other one in New York state).

Niagara Falls is the water of the Great Lakes falling off another part of this very same cliff. 

The Niagara Escarpment along Georgian Bay
On the west side, facing Lake Huron,  instead of a cliff you have beaches (rocky or sandy) with a very low gradient. If you walk into Lake Huron from the shore, you will have to go a long distance before water reaches your shoulder.

The west side of the peninsula facing Lake Huron and the state of Michigan
As a place to garden, the area has one big drawback: the soil tends to be poor and very thin
But it has some advantages. The snow cover is very reliable which means that a greater diversity of perennial plants can be grown than in places with much milder climates like the Toronto area.

Most of the houses in the Bruce are summer houses. This is Labour Day, the last long weekend of summer. Most summer residents and tourists go back to the city this weekend. On the rural gravel road pictured below, which is near the garden, instead of having perhaps ten cars go by every hour, it will now be at the very most ten cars a day till next spring!

A green tunnel on a secondary road


  1. What a lovely place to live! Our little village is a bit busier than yours, but not much! The views of the lake are beautiful.

  2. It sounds blissful, although perhaps a little lonely in winter? Personally I would love that, as long as I had a warm and cosy house. The Great Lakes have always intrigued me. An inland sea so big you can't see the other side.

  3. So manygreat memories! Recognized the first picture immediately. It's a fascinating landscape, with lots of unique features that in turn bring unique plants like the orchids it's known for. Good post to provide the context.

  4. We have all that protected land surrounding us, but tourists every season of the year. I watched a young fool with roller blades and ski poles start down one of our steep, windy roads recently. I thought he should have chosen the opposite side of the road, so that he encountered runners face on, rather than trying to compete with bicycles.

  5. It sounds to be a beautiful and peaceful place the live and now I know where the Womble Tobermory gets his name from.
    You leave for some of the winter don't you?

  6. This sounds like a place that's good for more than gardening or tourism. There's lots of peace and quiet for 10 months of the year. Maybe that's why plants do so well as it's very quiet.?

  7. Alain, I liked very much your photos, your garden is situated in such quiet and beautiful place. Especially the photo of The Niagara Escarpment along Georgian Bay is very pretty.

  8. Fascinating to see the backcloth of your insightful posts Alain

  9. Very interesting - I didn't know that about Niagara Falls, but it makes sense! I think it's important to know about the area surrounding a garden. I'm going to put the Bruce Peninsula on our list of places to visit in Canada. It's nice that you can grow more plants because of the reliable snow cover.

  10. Beautiful!! It looks so peaceful :o)

  11. Hello Alain, it looks a very picturesque and almost isolated area which runs at a different pace than that of the "modern" world. The Lakes sound as though they "shunt" the seasons so that spring starts later but it also remains warm for longer so plants grow and flower later than they normally would.


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