Historic Garden in the Capital
the 19th century, there were many fine houses in Ontario - but
few of them were graced by walled gardens, and even fewer have
survived. The walled garden at Maplelawn is not only a rare
example, but it is also exceptionally well preserved.
1989, Maplelawn was designated a national historic site by the
Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada because of : "...the
quality of the house, but more particularly because its gardens
are the best preserved of the few known surviving examples of
early 19th century walled gardens in Canada..." As an ensemble,
the house and remaining walled garden provide a clear record
of the way European architectural and landscape ideas were transplanted
along Richmond Road (opened in 1818), Maplelawn was established
in 1831 by William Thompson, a Scottish immigrant. Maplelawn
was successively owned by three families: the Thompson, the
Cole and the Rochester (related by marriage to the Coles), all
leading families in the community who participated in its political,
agricultural and business life. All three families had a special
interest in the garden and expended considerable effort to keep
it well cultivated and in luxuriant flower.
from the beginning and well into the 1980's, Maplelawn Garden
was the glory of the neighborhood. Buses passing by on Richmond
Road slowed down to allow passengers to look over the wall at
a profusion of flowers, shrubs, vines and trees.
has a four-square plan of the flower beds, with an oval bed
at the center. Late 19th century photographs show that there
were once fruit trees, shrubs and leafy arbors in the garden,
with tender fruits and vegetables placed at the center of the
beds, and peonies, oriental poppies and other ornamentals planted
around the edges.
In 1936, the
Rochesters hired R. Warren Oliver, the horticulturist at the Central
Experimental Farm, to renew the garden. The fruit and vegetable
gardens were turned to lawn, but the general plan of the garden,
with its ornamental borders, was retained.
is a rectangular space of about one acre, enclosed on three sides
by rough-dressed limestone walls.
Within the garden, the
classical symmetry of layout, as well as the spacing, colour orchestration
and varieties of the plants, provide beauty, fragrance repose
the Capital Heritage
was acquired by the Federal District Commission (the forerunner
of the National Capital Commission) in the 1950s to ensure that
this important property was preserved. However, Frances Rochester
continued to live there until 1989.
1993, the garden was receiving only basic maintenance until
a volunteer group, known as Friends of Maplelawn Garden, was
formed. These volunteers entered into an agreement with the
National Capital Commission (NCC) to study, preserve and rehabilitate
the walled garden, making use of the large variety of perennials,
such as the old peonies for which the garden was once famous,
still thriving within its walls.
One of the
few historical documents available to help with the rehabilitation
of the garden is the detailed plan prepared by R. Warren Oliver
in 1936. The three beds adjacent to the north, east and south
walls will be planted to conform with Oliver's suggested layout
list. While the design of the central bed has yet to be determined,
design guidelines provided by the NCC will be applied to
the remaining beds based on Oliver's plan, oral histories and
courtesy of the
National Capital Commission, 1997
Photographs courtesy of the City of Ottawa Archives
and the Rochester family: