While wandering through Fernie in my search for an Edwardian or cottage garden I came across a public garden which, wittingly or not, has been fundamentally inspired by ideas from the Edwardian and cottage garden. Anyone who goes to the post office in Fernie gets to have the pleasure of walking past this garden; it is of course, the Fernie Heritage Library Garden.
On your next walk in downtown Fernie take a moment to stroll into this garden and definitely take a seat at the big bench and table and admire the work of the gardeners who look after the Library garden. The garden is very typical of the Edwardian idea that a garden should, in a sense, be an extension of the house. According to this idea each area of the garden is divided into what might be considered a room, and each room is dedicated to a different function in the garden. Among the many functions considered for each of these rooms were spaces dedicated to a particular type of colour scheme, or a particular kind of plant or group of plants, or season. Often a room was dedicated to a beautiful piece of garden ornament like a fountain or a sculpture. One area in most gardens included a room for a kitchen garden, and very often for a cut flower garden. In some gardens these rooms were divided by high walls made of brick or stone or even yew and other plants, sometimes a walkway or a hedge would create the division. In Fernie very often Cedars and Lilac bushes were and are still used. The rooms usually flowed from a terrace or porch so that they were congruous with the house. An idea I found particularly appealing was the room that constituted the “secret garden” – a space not readily found or seen in the garden where those in the know could escape from prying eyes for a tryst or perhaps just an undisturbed hour to read a book.
In the case of the Heritage Library garden there are two entrances one from the parking lot, which works very much like a back door of a house leading you either into the building or into the garden. The other entrance is on Third Avenue opposite the Post Office and is very much like a front door. When you enter by the front door you find you are immediately in a corridor which is created by a wonderful pergola hung with Virginia Creeper. As you go through the corridor you will see a room to the left and to the right – the room to your right is a quiet cool little space with a small picnic bench, ideal for escaping the sun. The room to your left might be considered a viewing gallery for the building. But both rooms are wonderful reading rooms and I think serve as a wonderful extension to a library.
Follow the corridor to its end and you will be led to a main room that might almost be a dining room since there is an enormous long table and benches of rustic wood ideal for dining al fresco. What a charming scene it is when children are found at the table doing art projects or having their lunch. The garden creates each of these rooms by the effective use of borders which include the pergola, the paved walkway, plants and fences.
The planting in the garden is very reminiscent of Gertrude Jekyll’s idea that each view of the garden should create a picture. For example in the room I have called the gallery note how the vine draws the eye from the garden up and onto the building. The garden is also an example of Jekyll’s dictum that it is preferable that there be no harsh edges but a natural flowing from group of plants to group of plants whether they drift into one another to commingle or they lean into one another, creating support both aesthetically and literally, the shorter plants support the taller. In her book, “Colours of the Garden”, Gertrude Jekyll wrote , “Many years ago I came to the conclusion that in all flower borders it is better to plant in long rather than block-shaped patches. It not only has a more pictorial effect, but a thin long planting does not leave an unsightly empty space when the flowers are done and the leaves have perhaps died down. The word “drift” conveniently describes the shape I have in mind, and I commonly use it in speaking of these’ long-shaped plantings.” I hope the photo captures the beautiful drift in the dining room of this garden.I hope that you will enjoy the Fernie Heritage Library Garden as much as I do and while you pause in the garden for a rest stop or a picnic lunch don’t only look at the garden, take a moment to admire the building which is an incredibly fine example of an archetypal Edwardian building and about which there will be more in some future post.
Below some more pictures of the garden.