Kingsbrae Garden – A Reason to Visit St. Andrews
In my last post I described how much Alison and I enjoyed playing golf at the Algonquin Golf Course in St. Andrews. As much as I love golf, I think I love to garden even more. I enjoy visiting great gardens to gather new ideas to put to work in my own. On this website you will find posts on gardens around the world including Victoria’s Butchart Gardens, Philadelphia’s Longwood Gardens and South Carolina’s Brookgreen Gardens. However, not all great gardens are in places far away from my home base in Nova Scotia. Right in Halifax we have the Public Gardens, considered to be the best example of a Victorian garden in Canada and Annapolis Royal has its Historic Gardens which has a fantastic rose collection. Our sister province of New Brunswick has its Botanical Garden in Edmunston which is the largest arboretum east of Montreal. It also has the garden I’m going to write about in this post, Kingsbrae Garden in beautiful St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Please join Alison and I for a tour.
History of Kingsbrae Garden
Kingsbrae Garden is not that old, only opening its gates in 1998. It was created through the generosity of Lucinda and John Flemer who inherited 27 acres of prime real estate right in the town if St. Andrews. Rather than keep it to themselves or worse, sell it off in parcels to developers, they wanted to utilize the existing specimen trees and Acadian forest remnants on the property in creating a garden open to everybody. It would not be focused on one style such as English, ornamental or Japanese, but rather feature a surprising number of smaller themed gardens that actually creates a unified whole that is greater than the parts. In this, the Flemer’s have succeeded beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations for a garden this young. Kingsbrae Garden has won many horticultural awards and is now the #1 attraction in the St. Andrews area according to thousands of Trip Advisor reviews. It is also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, meaning that is only utilizes the best horticultural practices that are eco-friendly and sustainable. So its plants are not addicted to fertilizers or chemical insecticides and herbicides for their survival. Lastly, it provides valuable employment opportunities for over fifty people in the St. Andrews area.
With that background let’s visit the garden. Admission is $15.00 for adults, $11.00 for seniors and students or $36.00 for a family. In my experience this is a very reasonable price to see, smell and enjoy the company of 50,000 perennials and many more annuals.
Here’s a map of Kingsbrae Garden. As you can see at a glance there is a tremendous variety of things to see.
While most people enter via the parking lot, we simply walked the short distance from the Algonquin Resort where we were staying. That way you enter through this gate. As you can see from the sign, Kingsbrae Garden is dog friendly.
Even before paying the admission fee in the small Visitor Centre you get a treat with this white garden. This is a type of garden that is very difficult to achieve as it involves very few actual flowers, but rather foliage to create the visual effect.
Opposite the white garden there is an excellent example of espalier apple tree. This is a technique that is thousands of years old and uses pruning and tieing off to create not only a pleasing visual appearance, but increases productivity as well.
If you look at the map you will see that when you come out of the Visitor Centre you are in a formal knot garden with roses and a small rill that bisects the garden. The entire garden is surrounded by a high hedge with a narrow opening opposite the Visitor Centre.
As you step through this gap in the hedge you are suddenly confronted at what I can only describe as an explosion of colour. It is my favourite moment at Kingsbrae Garden because it can literally make you gasp in astonishment. The transition from formal to riotously informal is brilliant.
Once you enter this world of colour and fragrance you will probably disregard any plans of progressing through the garden in an orderly fashion in favour of just going where your eyes and nose take you.
One of the things you get to see in places like Kingsbrae Garden that you cannot possibly replicate in your home garden is the mass planting of perennials like these wonderful pink astilbes.
Or these day lilies in which Alison is glad to find herself. The umbrella was for shade and not rain. It was a beautiful late July day on which we visited.
And these coreopsis.
I have plenty of all three of these type of perennials in my garden, but could never achieve effects like above or else I’d have room for nothing else. But with 27 acres at its disposal, Kingsbrae Garden has the luxury of mass planting and the results are amazing.
However, flowers are not the only focus at Kingsbrae Garden. There are hundreds and hundreds of different shrubs and trees. It is said that green is a naturally calming colour that comes in more hues than any of the other colours on the visible spectrum. This display of green can let you decide.
If there is a more stately tree than the Japanese maple, I’ve yet to see it. Kingsbrae Garden has a great variety of these Asian beauties throughout the garden.
Just wandering around you will come across some of the more whimsical features that the garden is known for, like these tiny houses, built long before they became all the rage as actual real life places to live.
Or maybe just some fancy plants in a fancy plants planter.
Feeling hungry? Im afraid that someone got to this apple before you.
Kingsbrae Garden has its own windmill which was actually constructed in Holland especially for this place.
Gardens aren’t planted just for the visual effects, but also to attract birds, butterflies and other creatures. Monarch butterflies live almost exclusively off the largesse of the milkweed plant. They drink its nectar, lay their eggs on it and the caterpillars return the favour by eating the leaves before pupating. Great deal for the monarchs, not so much for the milkweed.
Next, I did my best pose as Rodin’s The Thinker while relaxing in the Therapy Garden. Who needs Freud when you can have this instead?
Time for a few more flowers and then we’ll go check out the animals.
How about some more astilbes? I know I can never get enough of them.
And some almost electric blue sea holly.
If you have little children they will be delighted by the animals, especially if there is a baby on hand as there was one the day we visited. Isn’t this baby alpaca just about the cutest thing you have ever seen?
One last whimsical sculpture and we’ll head for the exit.
Just as we neared the exit this magnificent albino peacock began strutting his stuff as peacocks do. What a nice way to end out visit.
Kingsbrae Garden has a small gift shop where you can buy a number of nice items including one of these birdhouses or feeders.
It also has a cafe as well as Savour in the Garden which is a fine dining establishment that has garnered accolades since its opening in 2013. Closed because of Covid, the plan is to reopen it soon.
For more information on Kingsbrae Garden visit their website here.