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Glooskap Centre Acadian Food Forest Garden

by Community Forests International on October 17, 2010

A couple weeks ago CFI staff attended a work party at the Glooskap Heritage Centre in Truro Nova Scotia and assisted with the final landscaping and planting stage of the centre's new forest garden, which wraps nearly 360 degrees around the perimeter of the building. For the past four months the centre has been hard at work developing a multi-functional forest garden predominately planted with native species many of which include edible and medicinal plants used by the Mi'kmaq people. The garden will serve both the local Millbrook First National residents as well as visitors to the centre. It is their vision that this garden will offer new learning experiences to centre's visitors including opportunities to learn both the ecological importance, nutritional benefits and spiritual aspects of native forbs, shrubs and trees of Eastern North America.

The garden provides a unique space for relaxation, outdoor learning and story telling due to the integration of meandering paths, a large gazebo with hay bail seating and several wooden sculptures into the design. Ideas such as contouring and mulching  to create an uneven landscape and split rail fencing made of speckled alder and yellow birch branches to hide the buildings utility boxes were integrated in effort to retain the organic synchronisity. In between the paths are patches of food forests, wild medicinals, sacred plants and mixed deciduous acadian woodland totalling more than 100 native species gathered from local meadow and forest edge ecosystems and purchased from nurseries with assistance from a grant from the national charity Evergreen.

Traditional medicinal plants incorporated into the garden include yarrow (Achillea millefolium), dandilion (Taraxacum officinale), sweet flag (Acorus calamus), colts foot (Tussilago farfara), cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) and bog labrador tea (Rhododendron groendlandicum). To emulate mixed deciduous Acadian forest the garden patches were planted with sugar maple (Acer saccharum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), white spruce (Picea glauca), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), witch hazel (Hamemelis sp.), butternut (Juglans cinerea), serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis). Bayberry (Myrica sp.) was mixed in among patches due to the shurbs nitrogen fixing abilities . Other edibles featured in the garden included Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) for fiddleheads, Chokeberry (Aronia), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Blueberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium), Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), river grape (Vitis riparia) and pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).

The garden's designer Jayme Melrose has worked tirelessly all summer to create a truly unique space that will surely enhance visitors knowledge of the beauty and bounty of plants that can be found and grown in Eastern Canadian gardens. When asked what was her favourite aspect or experience associated with this project, Jayme identified that the ethnobotanical stories of people's connections with plants and how they were used to heal, feed or how they were simply enjoyed were the most interesting and enlightening aspect of the project. The traditional knowledge that was shared and will be shared with this garden will surely foster and inspire amateur botanists, ecologists, farmers and gardeners for years to come.

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