29 Sep 2012

A Connoisseur Amongst the Conifers: Whistling Gardens – September 28, 2012


Nestled amongst the farm fields of Norfolk County is a most rare and unique treasure known as Whistling Gardens. From its humble beginnings seven years ago where there was but a single poly house amongst the corn fields, to the eighteen acres of gardens, pathways, botanical garden and nursery that exist today is a testament of the passion and dedication of plantsman/owner Darren Heimbecker!

DSC_0037Darren’s attraction to plants and the beauty of nature dates back to his childhood, where he was first exposed to the world of plants in the greenhouses where his Grandparents grew the plants for the town of Paris, Ontario. Years later he would search the neighboring countryside for a farm, a piece of property upon which he would turn an inner vision into three dimensional reality.

DSC_0034Whistling Gardens is home to Canada’s largest selection of conifers, one of the display gardens home to over 2200 species and cultivars! With eighteen acres currently planted, it takes visitors a better part of a day [I arrived shortly before noon hour and left at six thirty, long after fellow visitors had left!] to take in Whistling Gardens full expanse.

DSC_0043   While the gardens are the visions of Darren brought to life, there are certain areas that immediately bring to mind some of the world’s greatest gardens. An inspiring water amphitheatre resonates with the famed Water Gardens of Versailles. Orchestrated to music written and composed by Darren himself, it offers a momentary respite from the near mind boggling collection of plants that surround you! This is but the beginning…… Darren hopes to add 68 more fountain jets, increasing the capacity to 1000 gallons/minute!

DSC_0081DSC_0082Darren graciously accompanied me and my fellow visitors on a personalized tour of the property – something totally unexpected yet wholly refreshing and appreciated. It was much more enigmatic hearing from him where his inspiration was bore from and what his future plans include. Intermingled were the names of hundreds of plants that seemed to reside on the tip of his tongue!

DSC_0066   DSC_0065 Pinus densiflora ‘Red O.D Burke’

Glowing in the distance, I was enamored to discover the unique variegation of its needles when up close and personal. This was but the first of hundreds of conifers that weaseled their way into my heart during my six and a half hour visit! So many wonderful beauties, so little space!

DSC_0046An alee of Taxodium [Bald Cypress] was truly a sight to behold. From a distance they might be mistaken for Metasequoia, but their ubiquitous knobby ‘elbows’ that appear around the base of the trees is bizarrely beautiful to witness!

DSC_0047Unique statuary are featured throughout much of the property, ranging from the smaller, more subtle pieces, to the larger, visually engaging pieces that help to set the tone in the many ‘rooms’ that Darren has created.

DSC_0067I asked Darren why the focus on conifers? He chuckled and said it was after a trip to England, where he visited some of the countries most iconic gardens including Westonbirt Arboretum. He was rapid fire quick to point out that in his estimation Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania represent his own interpretation of ‘heaven on earth!’

DSC_0051Darren, with his love of plants and music is already looking beyond the typical botanical gardens, exploring ventures with holistic practitioners, Art Fairs, musical events as well as educational ventures. The gardens provide the perfect backdrop for such venues. Weddings have already been held on the property, and with ample space in two specifically designated areas, there is little opportunity for the brides to cross paths with one another!

DSC_0073 If you look closely enough, you begin to understand why this display of Picea is entitled ‘The Walk of Man.’ It is refreshing to see an artist’s sense of humour on display in such as unabashed form! A garden is a a wonderful autobiographical tool, one that people should learn to seek out and appreciate!

DSC_0088The Temple Garden is home to four life sized statues that adorn each of its four corners with a wonderful raised dais in the centre adorned with its sublime wrought-iron dome.

DSC_0086 And I’ve only just finished lunch and am eager to investigate the rest of the property! Stay tuned for part two of this exciting venture: Rock Gardens and Fossils!

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