Purple spring flowers on a branch

Green Thumbs Up: The Ennismore Secret Garden and More

Ennismore Waterfront Park is a charming place. It has shady trails, a sandy beach on Chemong Lake, and a playground for the kids. This summer, keen-eyed visitors may stumble across its latest attraction—the Ennismore Secret Garden, a lovingly designed green space filled with wildflowers growing inside the foundation of an historic barn.

The new garden almost didn’t happen. When a dilapidated barn on Selwyn Township land became a liability, the initial plan was to demolish the walls and bury the foundation. Ennismore Garden Club member Ian Deslauriers, however, had a more aesthetically appealing plan in mind.

“I needed two things: I needed to convince the township that they should save the stone foundation walls, and I needed to convince the Ennismore Garden Club to put a garden in there, and support that with their volunteer efforts,” says Ian. “I was able to do that, and so the Secret Garden project was hatched.”

Ian credits his wife for planting the idea of a stone wall garden in his mind. Though he’d balked at the amount of work to build one from scratch, having the makings already on a nearby property would save a lot of heavy lifting. Still, the Ennismore community had to put in a lot of time and effort to prepare the area.

“We needed to fill the inside of the barn with about two feet of topsoil so that we could grow plants inside the garden, and outside around the perimeter as well,” Ian recalls, adding that the walls also needed to be shored up for safety. That work was done in 2022, and made possible thanks to a $5000 contribution from the town council, as well as gifts of money, plants, and labour from Garden Club volunteers and others.

With the area prepared, it was time for the fun part: designing a colourful garden to match. “We had a bunch of canna lilies we planted in the inside around the perimeter walls, because canna lilies grow to be five to eight feet high, and they make a great green border. Sure enough, they came up gangbusters,” Ian says. “We’ve got our first full year of growth coming on [in 2023], all kinds of hostas and wildflowers and flowering shrubs and vines as well. We hope to have at least four or five varieties of clematis that climb up walls, beautiful, coloured flowers, so this will be the second year of growth then.”

The unorthodox approach inspired others to pitch in. One Bridgenorth resident donated a lawn sculpture and a cement bird bath; a neighbour contributed some limestone slabs; the Girl Guides have offered to add a wildflower pollinator meadow just south of the garden. “It’s amazing when you tell people you’re building a garden and it’s a secret,” Ian jokes. “Immediately they want to know where it is.”

Fortunately, though Ian vows never to divulge the exact location, it’s not too difficult for a visitor to Ennismore Waterfront Park to find the garden. Walkers along the park’s Green Trail should keep an eye out for a turn towards a driveway near the park’s perimeter. Signs will let you know you’re in the right place once you’ve found it, but the hunt should give kids—and garden enthusiasts in general—a thrill.

Despite the air of mystery, it’s obvious Ian is thrilled to share this community creation with the world. He’s excited to see the garden grow over the coming years, and enthusiastic about what’s been accomplished already: “It’s a stone-walled enclosure, wildflower meadow, waterfront path and rest area, surrounded by forest. Nobody’s got that—this is a rare jewel in a crown of outdoor recreation.”

More Options for Garden Lovers

Northumberland Garden Tour

This self-guided tour will introduce you to some of Northumberland’s most picturesque spots. Stop along the Waterfront Trail and stroll through the Cobourg Ecology Garden; visit the Laveanne Lavender Fields, home to 80 varieties of lavender; experience the sensory feast that is the Warkworth Lilac Festival in spring. Those are just a few of the highlights, so be sure to check out the complete Google Map.

Peterborough & the Kawarthas Garden Route

Need to stock up on some plants and supplies for the season? The Garden Route will take you to some of the region’s finest boutiques, as well as beautiful display gardens. You’ll find a variety of styles, from the unique and quirky Tiny Greens in downtown Peterborough to the two-acre touring gardens of Burley’s Gardens and Suite.

Kawartha Lakes Bee City

Did you know Kawartha Lakes is an official “Bee City”? There’s no single location that earned it that designation—instead, it’s a recognition of the area’s commitment to supporting healthy pollinator populations. Visit the Bee City page to learn more about special projects and community initiatives, as well as tips on how to choose and care for native plants. If you’re inspired to tend your own garden, be sure to check the Kawartha Lakes Native Plant Guide and Local Plant Growers section to find a nursery near you.

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