A dazzling array of colour and form greets the visitor upon entering the parking lot of MUN Botanical Garden. The perennial border runs along the west side of the lot and it very quickly opens the eyes of many residents and visitors alike to the range of plant materials that can be grown here in Newfoundland. From May when lungworts (Pulmonaria) and early globeflowers (Trollius) bloom until late in November when the last of the phloxes and 'Autumn Joy' Sedum succumb, there is always something in flower. Plants are massed in groups, some of which are repeated a number of times along the length of the garden creating a changing mosaic of colour. Spacing is tight indeed and by mid summer little soil can be seen here.
The perennial bed is over 8 meters deep allowing for a variety of heights and forms. Low at the front the species build upwards to towering Filipendula, Ligularia and Cimicifuga towards the rear. A backdrop of Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi) and Amelanchier provides a developing screen from next door.
Other garden components are not available to you until after
your admission is paid. The perennial bed though is free to all who
want to come into the parking lot and spend a short or long while
noting down what they may want for their garden. Come on up every
week or two and bring a pencil for your shopping list.
On leaving the Field Centre the visitor's first garden component is the Medicinal Garden. Nine rather formal raised beds are divided anatomically; that is they are each devoted to medicinal treatments for body parts or system. The blood and circulation bed has of course the foxglove, the bed devoted to respiration has coltsfoot and elecampane that have given us cough medicines. The kidney bed has the diuretic dandelion amongst other, lesser known species.
This garden has been created to show the visitor and student the actual plants from which so many of our medicines and herbal remedies have originated. Most of our tonics and remedies are taken as pills, powders or tinctures. Here we can see Echinacea, St. John's wort, evening primrose and the origin of aspirin (willow) in their natural state. Here too you will see some of the plants used in Asian cultures e.g. ginkgo which is credited with helping the nervous system (particularly the brain and memory) and the sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) the berries and seeds of which have been used by Russian and Chinese people for generations.
The Medicinal Garden does not promote or champion the use of any one medicinal agent over another. No treatments or recipes are to be found here. Moreover, as with most medicines, a little may be efficacious; too much may be deadly poisonous. Purity, correct identification, dosage and possible interaction should all be known and understood before any treatment is prescribed or taken.
The boreal forest that covers much of the Avalon Peninsula including St John's and the MUN Botanical Garden can be a challenge to gardeners. But in the new Shade Garden we have tried to seize the opportunity and to use the shade to exhibit the textures and colours of foliage. Many plants that would be severely damaged by heavy drying winds and intense sunshine are at their best beneath the mixed spruces, fir, dogberries (Sorbus), birches and willows that are found here.
Started in 1998 this area was a shady weed-patch behind an imposing fence. With the fence and the weeds gone, the trees were limbed up to 2-3 meters high. A rich partially composted leaf mold (from leaves donated by Government House) was spread 6-8" deep throughout the site, paths constructed and planting begun.
Plant selection and placement in the shade garden is based on the level of shade present. Beneath the dogberries there is considerable sunshine well into the late spring before the canopy closes for the summer. Here we see species of Primula doing extremely well together with the blue Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema) and Astilbe. In the constant shade of the conifers the genus Hosta is at its best; over 250 plants and 30 varieties are featured here, the biggest of which is 'Sum and Substance', late to show but worth the wait. Variegated forms such as 'Albo marginata' act as a trompe l'oeil introducing the impression of sunshine in the deep shade; such is the value and joy of working with foliage. Lady ferns and Ostrich ferns fill in the centre of the garden together with Soloman's seal, Japanese coltsfoot and Smilacina racemosa.
At the edge of the car park look for lilies, toad lilies (Tricyrtis hirta), hellebores and the pink lady slipper orchid that was transplanted here from the Medicinal Garden site all of which enjoy the morning sun but afternoon shade that the trees provide.
Far from being an uninteresting and difficult place, the Shade Garden has quickly become a favorite with staff and visitors alike.