BIRTLE — The town of Birtle is known for many things: 2006 hockeyville finalist, 2013 Manitobaville winner, Communities in Bloom national winner and, of course, its gardens and parks.
Walk down Main Street in the summer and you will find gardens and flowers from one end to the other. Planters brimming with petunias line the street, while individual businesses try to outdo each other with planters in a riot of colour of every description.
On Sunday, Aug. 3, the non-profit company The Classic Garden invites everyone to the "Valley of Gardens," a self-guided tour of some of Birtle-and-area’s finest gardens and greenspaces.
Here are some of the highlights:
The Memory Garden was created in 2000 with roses, lilies and Thunderchild crabapple trees in memory of loved ones. Names continue to be added to the plaque under the old Town Hall bell. On the lower tier of the property is the friendship garden planted with offerings from Birtle residents.
The Pocket Garden was created by Birtle in Bloom in 2002. It is in a microclimate which brings the joy of early growth when we are aching for evidence of spring. A dry stream bed, flowering shrubs, bulbs, perennials and colourful foliage ensures an attractive display all season long.
Walker Park is a heritage park amongst some of the community’s oldest character homes. It was developed at the site of the historic stone stairway that leads down to the river’s edge where a fresh water spring bubbles from the ground. The beds here are planted with heritage perennials and fruiting trees and shrubs valued by early settlers.
Birtle Riverside Park is found at the west end of town. Tommy Copeland, the son of an English gardener, donated this land to the Town of Birtle. He had a vision of what the park could be. He saw the footbridge and traffic bridge installed and the tennis courts established. He instigated the rebuilding of the dam and spent many hours in the 1930s and ’40s beautifying and developing the park. Today we also see the adjacent sand beach and swimming area, nine-hole golf course and the state of the art playground.
Private gardens are also well known in this small town community. Perhaps the best known and the largest is Val’s garden.
Val Thomson began her gardening journey in 1984 with a relatively blank canvas and a vision for an English-style garden.
With nearly 12 acres, there is enough space to encompass many gardens within the whole. Surrounding fields and woodlands offer vistas that are integral to the English garden.
•The sunken rose garden, the original site of the farm garden, is home to hardy shrub, explorer and Morden varieties.
•The fountain in the small round pond at the east end of the wild flower garden provides a lovely splashing sound. The bed around the pond links it to the wild flower garden.
•The "Japanese" garden is a calm reflective counterpoint to the riotous, random flamboyance of the wildflower garden.
•The circle garden of David Austin roses offers heavily scented, voluptuously petalled flowers. This is the only garden that requires additional winter protection.
•View the hot garden’s bright colours and exotic plantings, reminiscent of the Mediterranean, from the shade offered by the grape arbor.
•Find the circular herb garden just east of the hot garden and the edible Potager and Orchard gardens are to the west.
•The peony garden (where, according to the family of Kitty Edmundson for whom the home was originally built, there was a tennis court) blooms early with iris, followed by peonies and finally lilies until frost. The pathway is planted with delicious lemon scented thyme best enjoyed when you scuff your feet just a little.
•About two miles of paths have been cleared through the surrounding woods where we snowshoe in winter and go for relaxing strolls in summer.
•Added in 2013 is the allee leading to the woodland paths. Mancana Ash line the allee which is underplanted with blue and white perennials. The repeating design calms as you walk the length of the grass walkway.
Working in the garden, one becomes of the garden, and for Val, this is the greatest realization of a perfect moment. Any garden needs loving, constant and sometimes ruthless attention. It is Val’s joy and her pleasure to share it with you.
Registration for the Valley of Gardens tour is $10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the Info Building on Main Street. For more information, call 204-773-0670.