Mill Pond tour highlights local flora

By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – The Mill Pond, located just outside of the village of Guysborough on Hwy. 16, is a local landmark frequented by anglers and enjoyed by recreational users of the TransCanada Trail, which skirts the property. In recent years changes have been afoot, changes that have left many locals curious. Last Saturday the proprietor of Fern Ridge Landscaping, Sean James, led a public tour of the property detailing the landscaping philosophy used to develop the site. The group was accompanied by property owner Robert Mayfield, who is pleased with the results.

The Mill Pond property is unique in that it is developed and landscaped in a manner which creates a natural, untouched impression. Trees are sprinkled across the property with local plants used to fill out the understory. Traditional flower beds are in evidence but they are populated with local plants that are often overlooked or even shunned as pests by the typical gardener. The raison d’etre of James and his company is that local plants are beautiful, bullet-proof in an often difficult climate, require less care and fuss, and thus should be more fully utilized in landscaping and ornamental gardens. Working with what is available locally is both eco-friendly and pleasing to the eye.

“To the general observer it does not look special or played with but the difference is, what you’ll notice is, masses of plants...That is the difference between pretty nature and pretty landscaping. And if we can make a hybrid of the two of them then we have created something really special,” James told the tour participants.

It has been two years since James’ heart was captured by the Mill Pond property. He used his vast knowledge of ecological landscaping to convince Mayfield that creating an expanse of grass on the property was not as wonderful a plan as highlighting the natural qualities of the land using plants native to the area.

“My first instinct was to cut everything down and make it grass,” said Mayfield. “But because of what I learned from Sean we’ve developed...quiet a mix of formal stuff, the grass over there, plus all these native plants.”

To date they have catalogued well-over 100 local plants on site. For local gardening enthusiast, this information will be made available in a book form once the project is complete.

The tour wound around trails while James explained the usefulness of bats, dragonflies, and birds to keep flies and mosquitoes at bay. This is especially a concern in a wetland property such as the Mill Pond.

As the local gardening enthusiasts left, a second group arrived at the site from garden clubs around Halifax and Pictou County. Many of these visitors had never been to Guysborough before and one noted, “It’s my first time here but I’ve already been to the Days Gone By Bakery.”

The vision and innovation on display at the Mill Pond was evident to all who took the hour-long tour around the property. Native plants aren’t weeds to be uprooted, they are diamonds in the rough waiting to be appreciated by an informed eye. The beauty of the Mill Pond shares this lesson with everyone who cares to look.