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What makes a garden great?

Nature and location contribute but so can you?

Tim Chapman
CEO of International Peace Garden

Seeing other gardens, arboreta and parks is an imperative when you work in the public or botanical garden world. But when your garden is on the 49th parallel it’s not as simple as taking off in the summer to visit other public gardens. Our season is short and requires hyper-focus and attention during the few warm months we have.

Some of the best conferences are in June, when we are planting as many as 80,000 annuals. Some are in September when we’re racing about to get everything shut down and safe for winter. There simply isn’t enough time to even enjoy other gardens while they are in bloom. (Not that I’m complaining. After all, we need only walk out of the office to see stunning displays.)

At the International Peace Garden, we may be one of the most rurally based major gardens in North America. Gathering ideas and understanding what makes a great garden ensures our staff continues developing professionally. Trends change, but great gardens have a lot in common despite their size and scale.

This year’s staff visits have included Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, which is always a treat, but a bit sweeter this year when some of us took in the Leaf for the first time. In October, a couple of co-workers joined me on a tour through Minnesota, which included stops at St. John’s University’s Abbey Arboretum, the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, and Munsinger and Clemens Gardens.

Each location had something different to offer, but all could consider themselves peace gardens in their own right. We were awed by the serenity these spaces offer even if some are in major metro areas. The Japanese Garden in Minneapolis-St. Paul quickly takes the mind and all senses to a calming place that drowns out the commotion.

At times it was necessary to remind myself to enjoy the sights as the garden-nerd mentality kicks in and ideas are constantly being scribbled. We picked up every brochure and all educational material we could find.

The sun rises through the windows of the new conservatory where staff are working feverishly to get the collection planted in plenty of time for the soft opening in December.

At each stop we also took time to visit with key staff and share our own stories and how much we value our Manitoba and North Dakota visitors and partners. Many of the people we meet have heard of the International Peace Garden but haven’t had a chance to visit. We encourage them to make a road trip and include Winnipeg – even in winter thanks to the new Conservatory at The Leaf.

At the start of November, a couple of staff will be in Victoria at the International Garden Tourism Conference. Rumor has it the International Peace Garden will be recognized as one of Canada’s best. We don’t take that lightly, especially when gathering with professionals from across North America at the home of the stunning Buchart Gardens.

It will be another great opportunity to continue positioning Manitoba and North Dakota as top must-see provinces and states for garden enthusiasts. It’s obvious to those of us who visit places like IPG and Assiniboine Park regularly. But we are a little further from population bases compared to more coastal and Great Lakes metros.

And part of what makes gardens like these great is embracing the remoteness and unique intersection of nature and horticulture in the prairies.

As a reader of Lifestyles 55, you are likely aware of how important gardens are to our publisher and contributors. You don’t have to be a writer and you don’t have to have a history of working at big gardens. Your wisdom and appreciation of residential and public gardens can also help our Manitoba gardens continue to thrive.

Consider reaching out to the International Peace Garden to share your thoughts on what makes a great Garden in the prairie region. I truly believe gardens can be a reflection of the visitors who value them most. In our case, we are proud to be located not only in two countries, but in Manitoba where people are thoughtful, pragmatic and eager to see plants.

Have an idea? Shoot me an email at Sleepy winter may be upon us, but it is the best time to plan and dream.

Tim Chapman is the CEO at the International Peace Garden on the border of Manitoba and North Dakota. The Garden is open year-round and grooming ski trails for the first time this winter. Rent one of our cabins and enjoy a winter weekend that only the forest of the Turtle Mountains can provide.

(Editor's Note: This article was written before the International Garden Tourism Conference)

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