Delos White Beadle, horticulturist

By Pleasance Crawford

Delos White (D.W.) Beadle (1823-1905) received a law degree from Harvard University in 1847, but returned in 1854 to his native St. Catharines, Ontario, to help operate the St. Catharines Nursery, which his father, Chauncey Beadle, had established in the 1830s. in 1859, D.W. Beadle became a constituent member of the Fruit Growers’ Association of Upper Canada (later, Ontario), where he served as treasurer, then secretary-treasurer, from 1861 through 1886.

Beadle’s reputation as a knowledgeable horticulturist grew rapidly. In 1864, he was chosen to conduct the horticultural department of the new Canada Farmer. In 1872, he wrote a 391-page book, Canadian Fruit, Flower and Kitchen Gardener (Toronto: James Campbell & Son) – the first original work on general gardening to be published in Canada. from 1878-1886, he was editor of The Canadian Horticulturist.

Beadle sold the nursery business in 1887, but moved to Toronto and an active retirement as a landscape gardener, gardener, florist, seedsman, and occasional contributor to The Canadian Horticulturist. A son, Chauncey Delos Beadle (1866-1950) worked at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt’s famous estate in Asheville, North Carolina, for more than 50 years, eventually heading the landscape department and nurseries.

©Pleasance Crawford. If you quote from this short essay, a citation would be appreciated.

Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Rideau Hall in Ottawa was created Thomas McKay, a local industrialist, in 1838. In 1864, the federal government leased the property to serve as the official residence of the Governor General, and bought it in 1868. From that time on, the buildings and grounds have been altered and enlarged due to the wishes of successive Governors General and their wives. Federal architects and landscape architects have overseen each change.

The 35.6 hectare (88 acre) estate contains in miniature the primary elements traditionally found in the English landscape style: serpentine entrance drive, ornamental gardens, pastoral grassed open spaces, and woodlands. McKay sited the house on the estate’s highest point of land, and laid out the estate grounds. Early on there was a separation between the northern service area (farm buildings and kitchen garden to make the estate more self-sufficient) and southern pleasure grounds. Between 1864 and 1868, extensive work was undertaken to satisfy the landscape design requirements of the first Governor General, Lord Monck, who was keenly interested in landscape gardening. He oversaw, with his head gardener Alpine Grant, the creation of a handsome entrance drive, rolling lawns, and ornamental gardens – all of which still survive today.

Today’s Rideau Hall landscape is the outcome of sometimes successful, sometimes not, additions and deletions according to the wishes of the Governors General and their wives. The character and function of the grounds, however, do continue the forms established in the 19th century. Examples of some major interventions are the HRH Duke of Connaught’s redesign in 1913, which included cutting down large number of coniferous trees and replacing them with 600 deciduous trees, all to create a more treed entrance drive and a small forested area. An extensive rock garden, established by Lady Byng (wife of Governor General Lord Byng) in 1926, and a program of ceremonial tree plantings by important visitors since the 1950s have further enriched the grounds. In 1927, the stone and iron fence around the boundary of the estate was erected.

Rideau Hall continues to play a role in the urban design of Ottawa, the nation’s capital, as the verdant terminus of the federal Ceremonial Route (called Confederation Boulevard) that links Rideau Hall, through the city of Gatineau, to Parliament Hill.


Photo credit: “Rideau Hall, September 1918.” William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada/PA-009275.


©Edwinna von Baeyer. If you quote from this short essay, a citation would be appreciated.

Parkwood Estate, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Parkwood was the home of Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin (1871-1972), founder and president of General Motors Canada. It is one of the most lavish and beautifully developed estates in Canada, and is now open to the public and conserved as a National Historic Site. The estate reflects McLaughlin and his wife Adelaide’s deep interest in landscape design and horticulture, and their 55 years of lavishing energy and resources on the grounds.

Parkwood’s 4.86 hectares (12 acres) was mostly designed by H.B. and L.A. Dunington-Grub, who were influential landscape architects in the 1920s up into the 1950s. Parkwood is one of the few existing landscapes designed by this husband-and-wife team, which reflects the typical coherence and careful detailing in their designs. The grounds surround a 55-room mansion designed by the Toronto firm of Darling and Pearson in 1916-17.

The landscape treatment has numerous individual gardens laid out by the Dunington-Grubbs, including a sunken garden, an Italian garden, and rose gardens. Extensive use of cedar hedges helped compartmentalize the grounds into discrete spaces (“garden rooms”), often distinguished by elegant formal plantings, sculpture, or ornamental pavilions. The hedges served as dividing lines and screens to enclose areas as well to create vistas.

Another significant component of the grounds is the unique formal water gardens built in 1935-36, designed by the Toronto architect John Lyle. These gardens, called the Formal Garden, include a 67 meter (225 feet) long reflecting pool, fountains, terraces, a stone Art Deco teahouse, and formal flowerbeds.

Photo credit: Vlad Litvinov, 2010.


©Edwinna von Baeyer. If you quote from this short essay, a citation would be appreciated.



William Lyon Mackenzie King Estate, Kingsmere, Quebec, Canada

William Lyon Mackenzie Ring laboured for nearly 50 years to transform his Kingsmere property into an English country estate landscape. Located about 24 kilometres north of Ottawa in the Gatineau Hills, Kingsmere was his true passion. Over the years, it became many things to him: a refuge, a status symbol, an experimental station, and above all an enormous canvas for him to fill with flowers, trees, picturesque roadways, and statuary. Kingsmere was also a focal point for King’s flights of romantic imagination and his profound emotional response to the landscape.

King developed his holdings from a modest lakeside lot into a magnificent country estate of nearly 500 acres (202 hectares), including five houses, outbuildings, cultivated fields, gardens, trails, and extensive woodlands. The estate was loosely organized into four sections that he named Kingswood, Moorside, Shady Hill, and The Farm.

King began by landscaping his small cottage property, Kingswood, in a rudimentary manner, planting vines around the outbuildings and flowering shrubs near the cottage, and underbrushing the wooded site. On the upper section he later installed a serpentine’ entrance road, a pergola, and flowerbeds. A rustic wooden stair led down the hill to grass terraces at the lake, where an arrangement of boathouse, small dock, and stone walls along the shore gave this section a more formal, less wild aspect.

In 1924, Mackenzie King purchased the Moorside property and began landscaping in earnest. During his adult years, he sustained a great admiration for British society and culture, especially for the gardens and landscapes on the country estates of his English friends. He never referred to a master plan for the estate, but seemingly carried a mental model of the ideal English landscape in his head. Although King had the acreage and the finances to indulge his landscaping enthusiasms at Moorside, he slowly produced a scaled-down version of an English country estate. As at Kingswood, the landscaping was not done all at once, but piecemeal.

Creating an English-style landscape on the rugged Canadian Shield was challenging. To develop the landscape of his dreams, King began by creating that necessary component of the large estate, an extensive lawn. This he accomplished with the advice of the Central Experimental Farm officials and the paid labour of Kingsmere-area farmers.

Around the Moorside cottage, he planted shrubs and laid out a terraced lawn at the side. The terrace, set off by a white, wooden balustrade of King’s own design, formed a transition from the house into the ornamental gardens. The two openings in the balustrade were carefully placed by King to align with the axis of the ornamental gardens. The first section was laid out as a square–the four corners of which were filled with a mixture of annuals and perennials and the centre with grass. In line with this formal quadrant garden, further down the slight slope leading to the forested edge, was a double row of perennial beds, planted in a looser, more exuberant manner. There he placed the focal point of the ornamental gardens, a four-pillared ruin he called “Window on the Forest”. To the right of the ruin were rock garden, flowerbeds, and lily pond in an area King named the “Hidden Garden”.

He altered the forest by building a number of woodland paths. One of the main trails, his “Waterfall Trail”, led to landscape features that King slowly acquired through land purchases and then enhanced by judicious clearing: various vistas, a cave protected by a cedar railing, a picturesque rockface, statuesque groves of birch and beech trees, and on down the steep hill to King’s favourite feature, the “Bridal Veil” falls. In the falls area, King diverted the small stream at several points so that it would meander along its course, and had five cedar-plank bridges built at various points. The forest and roadways near Moorside were all further enhanced by King’s planting of nearly 3,000 trees. He unified the landscape treatment by consistently using stacked stone walls, white-plank fencing, and stone entry pillars. As well, all buildings were painted in the same colour scheme: yellow with white trim and green roofing.

The estate’s most outstanding feature was its artificial ruins, a common feature of King’s beloved English landscape style. Ruins suggested antiquity, a sense of time irrevocably past, and a romanticism that greatly appealed to him. He built three main ruins. A towering arch rescued from a condemned Ottawa building, the “Arc de Triomphe” was sited near the “Window on the Forest”. He said the Arc was the doorway into a forest area he called “Diana’s Grove”. King’s largest ruin, a grouping of four unconnected walls that he called his “Abbey Ruin”, was built on a hilltop southeast of the Moorside cottage. In 1935 King had passed a stone house that was being demolished in his Ottawa neighbourhood and was struck by the picturesqueness of a stone window frame, thinking it looked like the ruins of a Greek temple. After re-erecting this window, King wanted to complete it, to create, he wrote in his diary, a cross between the Parthenon and Westminster Abbey. On reflection, however, he decided to only build an extensive ruin, on which he had Virginia Creeper planted. He often went there to read the Bible or favourite poems.

The third estate section, “Shady Hill” included a cottage (no longer standing), which King renovated for his close friends, Joan and Godfroy Patteson who helped King in various ways on the estate. Nearby was the fourth section, the Farm, a pastoral mixture of orchards, meadows, flowerbeds, tree-shaded roadways, picturesque outbuildings, and barns. In 1935 the farmhouse was transformed into a year-round house, which King used from 1943 until his death in 1950. He attempted to be a gentleman farmer–he loved the look of sheep on the landscape–but after several disasters, and the sickness and death of most of the livestock, King abandoned farming.

As the estate grew, King fretted over its future until he decided to will it to the people of Canada as a park. The National Capital Commission now oversees this historic site. The Commission has restored the ornamental gardens as well as the buildings at Kingswood and Moorside. The Farm is now the residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons.


Photo credit: “’Fireplace wall,’ Abbey Ruins, estate of Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King [ca. 1935]”, Library and Archives Canada, identification number: 3321997.

©Edwinna von Baeyer. If you quote from this short essay, a citation would be appreciated.

Rural Cemetery Style–example, Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Beechwood Cemetery in northeastern Ottawa is the city’s oldest surviving non-denominational cemetery, a well-preserved landscape of late-19th century Ottawa. Established in 1872, Beechwoods 65 hectares were laid out in the “rural cemetery” style: winding tree-lined roadways on a hilly, naturally wooded site. This landscape style, beginning in the mid-1800s, was an innovative style and was adopted by cemeteries such as Mount Auburn, Boston, Massachusetts, established in 1831; Mount Hermon, Quebec City, in 1848; and Mount Pleasant, Toronto in 18??. It is not certain who was the chief designer of Beechwood’s landscape. Alpine Grant, Governor General Lord Monk’s head gardener who laid out the original Rideau Hall grounds, was credited with assisting the implementation of the design.

It was not uncommon in the 19th century to use cemeteries as places for pleasant walks. Often they were the only park-like spaces available for Sunday picnics and strolls, providing a pastoral retreat, a soothing horticultural oasis. Beechwood was no exception. It became a favoured spot for Ottawa’s Sunday walkers, and even more so when streetcar lines connected it to the city.

Beechwood was not only admired for its pastoral, natural landscape. The cemetery also had formally designed areas of flowering shrubs, rustic work and flower beds. The horticultural work was overseen by a head gardener who raised plant material in Beechwood’s own greenhouses.

The cemetery is important in Canadian military history. Significant military group plots, the North West Rebellion to present day conflicts, are represented. As well, Beechwood was the site of annual Decoration Day ceremonies.

The cemetery is also significant in the history of Ottawa and Canada due to the notables buried there. Archibald Lampman, the poet; W.T. Macoun and his father John, famous horticulturists; William McDougall, a Father of Confederation; a number of Ottawa mayors and aldermen; and prominent lumber barons, businessmen and their families.


Photo credit: Anna Litickle, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution—Share Alike, 2017

©Edwinna von Baeyer. If you quote from this short essay, a citation would be appreciated.