Obsessing Over Dahlias in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax Public Gardens

I admit prior to visiting Canada’s eastern provinces I had a very clear yet stereotypical image in my mind of what I would find there. Colorful little fishing villages, a rugged coastline, some weathered lighthouses, and plenty of fishermen with unintelligible accents.

However, when I arrived in Halifax, the capital city of Nova Scotia, I was surprised to find something completely unexpected from what I had imagined.

Halifax for me was all about dahlias, beautiful and complex flowers with a rich history, grown in various shapes, colors, and sizes in the Halifax Public Gardens.

Halifax Public Gardens

I’ve never been much of a gardener. One summer when I was a little girl my parents dug up a small patch of our backyard where they encouraged me to grow some herbs. I was interested in my tiny garden for maybe a week, afterwards it just seemed like another chore. Today, I've got a few potted house plants, but that's really it.

So imagine my surprise when the one thing that stands out to me the most from my time in Halifax, a city full of maritime history, turned out to be a stunning garden full of dahlias.

Halifax Public Gardens

The Halifax Public Gardens are some of the prettiest Victorian gardens I've ever seen. Although it was a rainy day I could tell this was the perfect place to spend a couple of hours away from the buzz of the city. Not only are these Gardens beautiful, but they have a rich history too.

This public green space is part of sixteen acres of land, a portion of which was the original Common chosen for the Gardens in 1841, the year Halifax was incorporated as a city. During that era it was popular to be seen walking through the Gardens enjoying live music supplied by military bands.

Around 1859, the first indoor skating rink in Canada was erected where the pavilion now stands and the first public lawn tennis court in the country was established in the Gardens as well.

Halifax Public Gardens

Near the center of the Halifax Public Gardens you'll find the Dahlia Garden. Rows upon rows of dahlias grow here from spring to fall, with numerous species planted each year.

This garden contains dahlia cultivars developed by several Nova Scotia gardeners and are registered with the American Dahlia Society. I had no idea there was such a thing as a Dahlia Society – did you?

Dahlia Garden

Each summer Halifax holds its annual Dahlia Competition and Celebration, an event which attracts dahlia gardeners and enthusiasts from all over the globe. It’s clear that this city values its dahlias.

Dahlia Garden
Dahlia
Dahlia

As I was walking and admiring the blooming flowers I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a character in Downtown Abbey.

Of course, they would have been dressed impeccably for a stroll in the garden, not like me in my hiking shoes and jeans.

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Dahlia
Dahlia
Dahlia garden
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Dahlia
Dahlia Garden

Each individual dahlia species has its own characteristics, but it’s the creative names that really put them over the top. A few of my favorites: Purple Haze, Spartacus, and Alpen Cherub.

In the garden you’ll find Cactus Dahlias, easy to spot by their common characteristics: the petals are broad at the base and will drop back toward the stem. Some examples (with fabulous names!) include the Weston Spanish Dancer and Paroa Gillian.

Then there are Ball Dahlias, whose blooms are ball shaped with uniform petals that roll forward for most of the length. Some examples of these include Mary’s Jomanda and Snobo Doris.

Dahlia
Dahlia
Dahlia
Dahlia

Originally when I arrived in Halifax I wanted to explore all things Titanic related, the graveyards, museums, and relics, but instead I left the city with visions of dahlias and pretty gardens in my thoughts. 

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have a garden of my own. 

Dahlia