The Acadian House in Annapolis Royal

Not only do the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal recreate gardens from the past, they also give us a glimpse into the homelife of the Acadians who lived here before the British arrived.

Acadian HouseThe first occupiers in this part of the world were the French in the 1600’s. Their settlers were innovative farmers who reclaimed salt marshland and transformed it into fertile growing lands. Their relationships with First Nation groups was more harmonious than the British would be. Eventually the British – French wars meant that Acadians were thrown off their lands by the British and shipped to various outposts including Louisiana where ‘Acadian’ became ‘Cajun’.

Many families were hidden by the Mi’kmaq and refused to leave their Nova Scotian homeland. Today there are still small communities of Acadians in Nova Scotia who work hard to keep their language and culture alive.

Here in the gardens, the tiny thatched house with hand-made glass windows is a visual reminder of some of that history.

Acadian House2

La Maison acadienne features the only archeologically authenticated replica of a pre-deportation Acadian dwelling in the Maritime region. The potager is based on original diary notes from the Acadian era, while the orchard and willow hedge are heritage cultivars from the 17th Century. La Maison acadienne is based on a 1671 time period when Port-Royal (later Annapolis Royal) was the centre of Acadie.- from the website of the Historic Gardens.

Last week in the gardens I sat in front of the thatch-roofed cabin and sketched it, later adding watercolour paint at home.

Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014

Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014

Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014

Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014

Japanese Anemone

In the Historic Gardens at Annapolis Royal last week, I spotted a tall Japanese Anemone with a lovely curly branching habit.


The gardens in Annapolis are exquisite…from wild and generous, to deliberate and precise. I walked through the quiet little woods and past the fragrant roses.


I pulled out my sketchbook and a fat marker and stood and drew the Japanese Anemone at eye-level. By the time this sketch was done, I knew I had to find one of these gorgeous flowers for my garden.

Anemone drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

Anemone drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

When I got home, I added watercolour to my drawing. The original blooms were much paler than this, but I wanted a deeper colour.

Anemone drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

Anemone drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

I have tracked down some Japanese Anemones close to home and I’ll be picking them up tomorrow at Bunchberry Nurseries!

Drawing and Painting Zinnias

I love the Victorian Garden in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens with the sunny, happy flowers such as the zinnias. This Shangri-La of a garden doesn’t know that the rest of us have experienced killing frost in our beds.

red zinnia

I can never resist setting up my paints near the salvia and zinnias during Paint the Town in August. At first glance, zinnias look so uncomplicated, but the photos I took yesterday show a tiny garden of lily-looking florets sprouting out of the middle of the flower.


Each bloom is a universe of colour.

I was travelling light today and brought just a sketchbook and a fat marker. I had no chair or support for my sketchbook and stood while drawing. It was a bit awkward, but gave me a good vantage point for eye-level flowers.

Zinnia drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

Zinnia drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

Later, at home, I added watercolour to my drawings.

When I paint or draw a flower, the process helps me to get to know its uniqueness better. I learn more about the shape, the veins in the leaves, the petal details, the way the flower leans.

Zinnia © Flora Doehler, 2014

Zinnia © Flora Doehler, 2014

I enjoy trying to capture the movement and the joy of these outrageously colourful and happy flowers. I painted these Zinnias a month ago during Paint the Town. Imagine, they are still blooming!

gardens zinnia1

Zinnia paintings © Flora Doehler, 2014

Tomorrow  I’ll show you what I found in the perennial bed.

The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens Inspire me

About 30 years ago some clever garden and community development innovators in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia had the brilliant idea to recreate the historical periods of the town with a 17 acre garden.

Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal

This August, like the past 5 summers, I have painted in the Historic Gardens during Paint the Town. This fall I finally bought a membership…only cost me $35 a year…and I’ve been visiting my favorite flowers when I go to Annapolis. It’s a 25 minute scenic drive from my home in Bear River.


The gardens in Annapolis are exquisite…from wild and generous, to deliberate and precise. I love the Victorian Garden with its sunny, happy flowers and it’s outrageously oversized exotic-looking plants that look like they belong in an antique glassed-in greenhouse in England.


Incredibly, all the flowers are annuals and this is what the gardens look like before spring planting.

Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal

What a difference 5 months makes!

IMG_0925In the days ahead, I’ll show you some drawings and paintings I’ve created lately at the Gardens.

I’m working on a series of flower paintings for an upcoming show I’m having with fellow painter Susan Geddes…also in Annapolis Royal, so painting and drawing at the gardens is very inspiring right now and is my homework!

invitationsmallThis little painting of mine was auctioned at Paint the Town this summer.

If Zinnias were Blue © Flora Doehler, 2014

If Zinnias were Blue © Flora Doehler, 2014


Brier Island Visit

Most long weekends in August we camp on Brier Island with Bear River friends.

It’s very low key…shared food, mostly vegetarian, cooked over the campfire or propane stove, sleeping in tents, nature walks, and lots of talks and laughter and bird watching and telling stories and sharing ideas and catching up.

One of my favorite delights is to fall asleep listening to the ocean waves. Or is it waking up to the haunting calls of seals?

Come with me down the path…..



Along the ridge…..


Past the tidal pools……


Along the craggy shoreline…….P1420180

Past the basalt lava flow that reaches all the way to Blomidon.P1420177


Past the rising tide…….P1420120Past the ocean waves……


Follow your nose……


Past the wild Roses…..


We might be under shelter…


…or checking out the new, lone tipi…


..or riding bikes….


…or searching…


…or watching the sun set…


…or at the campfire…


…or walking through fields


…or imagining a new painting….


…or waiting for a ferry to go home.



Time for a Walk Around the Garden

We just finished up 3 days of heavy rain, which was the first since the post-tropical cyclone Arthur 10 days ago. The garden really needed watering and both the plants and weeds ka-boomed!

DSCN3424 So yesterday because it was cooler and the weeds pulled easily, I went out in the light rain, wind, sun, cloud, rain and weeded like crazy and finally mulched everything to keep the moisture in and the weeds down. I have to share these before and after shots.

I have 4 kinds of climbing beans: Blue Lake Runners, Scarlet Runners, Purple climbers, and Cranberry Beans which will produce a dry bean for winter.  I’ll blanche and freeze the others.

before after garden1All my climbing beans are from seeds I saved from last year’s heritage beans. In the case of the Blue Lake Runners, I’ve been saving seeds from every planting for the last 6 years and they were given to me by my friend Pamela who had done the same for the previous 10 years. They are well adapted to this soil and our weather! We will put up some stronger tee-pee supports.

before after garden3It looks like vegetables growing in a lawn ;) and you can find snow peas, a few Chinese cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, tomato plants, broccoli and garlic.
before after garden2

After the weeding, I had enough space to plant a final row of bush beans. They’ll be so welcome as they’ll produce at the very end of the season.

before after garden4

I had some manure piles delivered a while ago so I planted my Winter Luxury Pumpkin seeds from Hope Seeds directly in the pile. Oh, the squash bugs have been prolific and persistent this year, but hopefully, the plants are now able to develop in spite of the bugs. Does anyone know what eats squash bugs? They are so wily…they can fly, drop off the leaf and burrow into the soil. And they are fast movers!

P1410792 This is more garden with zucchini, more bush beans, soy beans and some kale.

These are onions and leeksP1410777

I love common orange day lilies and how they bend and stretch. And those purple hosta flowers are sweet too.P1410804


And while I’ve gardened, Larry’s worked hard in the studio making signs. I love this one that he designed and hand-lettered for our favourite little bistro in Bear River, Magoo’s Bistro.DSCN3391

They are right on the river…you can watch for the friendly river monster too.DSCN3398