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Here are two pictures from my trip this past summer to the Historic Gardens at Annapolis Royal. The town is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, and when I was there I was thinking about how different the history of Nova Scotia would be if Annapolis Royal had remained the capital of the province, as it was from 1710 to 1749, before Halifax was founded. I’ve found it interesting in the last couple of years to visit towns in Nova Scotia that were founded with a grand vision of future prosperity and international importance.

Governor's Garden, Annapolis Royal

Governor’s Garden, Annapolis Royal

Shelburne, for example, settled by Loyalists in 1783, was supposed to become another New York City, but the town failed after only a few years. Some elegant houses, and lots of empty spaces, remain. Stephen Kimber tells the story of the town in Loyalists and Layabouts: The Rapid Rise and Faster Fall of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, 1783-1792 (2008): “Shelburne was an idea, an improbable dream of a new and better New York that would become ‘an ornament to the British Empire,’ a beacon of hope in a bleak time. But hope blinded them to the reality that their Mecca was nothing more than a spit of rocky shoreline bordered by impenetrable forest and icy water.” Then, of course, there’s Louisbourg, which in the eighteenth century was the third-busiest seaport in North America.

Victorian Gardens, Annapolis Royal

Victorian Gardens, Annapolis Royal

In honor of the years that Annapolis Royal served as the capital of Nova Scotia, the town’s Historic Gardens feature the Governor’s Garden, a beautiful, subdued, and (of course) symmetrical eighteenth-century garden that lies next to the meandering paths and wild splashes of colour of the Victorian Garden. Maybe the next time I visit, there will be time to spend an hour reading Jane Austen in the Governor’s Garden and an hour reading George Eliot in the Victorian Garden.