Settlers Garden - Cape Breton Museum - Cabot Trail Attraction

Settlers Garden

The Settlers Garden is the product of a year’s intensive effort in design, construction and planting, culminating in the Grand Opened on August 3, 2008, the garden represents, in miniature, the natural and cultivated world of the early European settlers who made their homes in the North Highlands of Cape Breton.

Each of the ten individual gardens is a facet in a gemstone, and each may be seen as a source of food. There’s nourishment for the body (the Fruit, Vegetable, Grain, and Cooking Herb gardens, as well as fruitful Native shrubs and trees); food for health and the spirit in Medicinal herbs; food for the soul in the old-world Heaths and Heathers; a feast for the eyes – and food for nostalgia – in the Cottage Garden.

The Museum gratefully acknowledges funding from these agencies, which made development of the Settlers Garden a possibility.

Settlers Garden Sponsors
Settlers Garden Sponsors

Other contributors include the many local people who provided plants, memories, advice and funding support. Claudia Gahlinger, Réjean Chamberland and Esther Danielson, in particular, provided the design, supervision and much of the labour in bringing the Settlers Garden from idea to reality.


A Garden Tour:

Beginning with the Native Garden and walking clockwise:

1 ~ The Native Garden
Features useful shrubs such as elderberry, mountain ash, sumac, lowbush blueberry and serviceberry. Settlers made use of these for pies, vinegars and jams; mountain ash and other berries are much appreciated by birds.

2 ~ The Woods Trail
Brief but surprisingly restful, giving the feel of a peaceful forest walk. Look for alternate-leaf dogwood,interrupted fern, red elder, fringed orchid. Some deadwood has been left purposely for the birds, including a resident woodpecker. Look for nesting boxes placed high in the trees.

3 ~ The Meadow
is a wild patch of caraway, clover, brown-eyed Susans, Sweetgrass, musk, the thistle-like black knapweed, and many more.


4 ~ The Fruit Garden
The border and rock slope of the Fruit Garden feature traditional fruits that are popular nowadays – raspberries, strawberries and blackberries; fruits making a welcome comeback – currants, gooseberries, hops; and heritage plum and apple varieties.

5 ~ The Vegetable and Grain Garden
Blue, red and white potatoes, and other staples of the Settlers: turnips, kale, onions, carrots, beets. Surrounded by blue-flowering annual flax used for linen fibre, we have oats and barley. As our climate is changing we will be trialing heritage wheat varieties, not normally grown here by the settlers.

6 ~ Heaths and Heathers
Reminders of Scotland, heaths and heathers do well in our cool climate and acidic soil, offering colours both delicate and glorious from spring through fall.

Beach and Cottage gardens

7 ~ The Cottage Garden
Old-fashioned favourites like lungwort, bleeding hearts, peonies, foxglove, hollyhocks, stocks, irises, daylilies, Rugosa roses and the favourite ‘Golden Glow’ (by the power pole). Most of these flowers were donated by gardeners in our community. Between the Cottage Garden and the ‘beach’ grows a sedum border.


8 ~ Herbs for Cooking, Medicine and Dyes
Laid out in the Celtic ‘Triskele’ pattern, our herb gardens are small but packed with variety. The Dye garden features plants yielding red (Madder), blue (Woad) and yellow (Golden Marguerite) dyes, with many shades in between. The Medicinal garden includes Heal-all, Echinacea, Horsetail, Coltsfoot, Horehound, Pennyroyal and Arnica. The Cooking herb garden includes Rhubarb, Lovage, Sage, Calendula and Parsley.

9 ~ The Children’s Garden
On the opposite side of the museum, on the way to the forge. A work in progress, the Children’s Garden will feature a Sunflower Circle and a Pizza Garden – tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs growing in wooden trawl tubs – as well as board games and a solar fountain.

10 ~ The Hay Barrack
Our performance area was modeled after a structure for storing hay: a protective canvas (or shingled) roof was lowered on the poles as the hay was used up.

Gardens for the Future
These gardens tell the story of our future, not just our past. They are grown using sustainable methods and organic weed and pest control. Irrigation is with rainwater collected in cisterns. Eelgrass, straw and hay mulches reduce weeds. Waste plants are composted. We are striving to grow only open-pollinated plants.