Marla Percy is Past-President of the Niagara on the Lake Horticultural Society and writes an informative and witty weekly piece on gardening for the Niagara Advance.
"One of my favourite destinations on a sunny, but not too windy day, is the outdoor patio at the Niagara on the Lake Golf Course. The food is bistro style and fairly reasonable but I don’t go for the food. I go for the view. Just across the river set on a promontory is Old Fort Niagara on the American side.
The first post was established in 1679, but the building we see was built in 1726 and has the stark and lovely stone outlines of another time. Because it sits alone, it can’t help but make you think of what a bizarre locale it was in its early years. The end of the civilized world as it was known. It would have been totally surrounded by impenetrable forests and the only human contact for the garrisoned soldiers would have been the odd trading canoe from one of the local aboriginal groups.
The juxtaposition of imagining the life of the soldiers while sitting looking into the past from a restaurant surrounded with everything that is the 21st century always makes me put things in perspective. I slow down and enjoy my wine.
Since my move to the Niagara area I have caught dendrophilia, which sounds quite serious, but simply means loving trees. Being Canadian, my whole life has had a backdrop of trees, but I have never lived in an area which has quite so many varieties.
Being retired, of course, gives me more time to pay attention. In the old town, if you walk into the back streets you will see stunning old shagbark hickories, magnificently high tulip trees, tall and stately with their yellow tulip-shaped flowers in the spring, fabulous redbuds and magnolias. Then there are at least eight kinds of oaks, black walnuts, flowering dogwoods, Kentucky Coffee trees and Black Walnuts. The climate is just that wee bit warmer than other Canadian areas, so we are able to enjoy these extraordinary specimens.
Spending time walking among trees, without cell phones, without noise, can actually lower you pulse rate and blood pressure. Sad that we’ve already lost about 90% of the trees that were here originally, but that’s why I treasure looking at them and being near them. I don’t actually hug them, but have been known to give one a pat or two when I walk by one.
The Shaw theatre, the wineries, the restaurants all have their allure, but everyone knows this when they visit. However, another thing that I have become enamoured with in this town are the birds. Because of the tree varieties and the fabulous gardens in town, you are never more than a few feet from a bird.
There are all the usual sparrow types who have their cocktail parties in the low trees and bushes, blue jays, crows, finches and water birds. I have also seen scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles, who have very raucous voices. Because the birds are all around, when you have a moment you can watch them, and their funny ways. With no high rises to impede vision you can watch the hawks with their cocky cruising searching out their next meal, or watch a robin searching out string and twigs for his next home. The robins also follow you in the garden, especially if you have a shovel because they know if there is a shovel, there will be worms.
You become very aware of the cycles in nature. Early spring brings the bullying grackles, who drift away after they’ve terrorized other birds, only to return in the fall to make everyone uncomfortable again. Sort of like the crazy uncle who always shows up at family functions. There is lots of social life of the human kind here, but I also like the company I have found with other creatures."