Even on a dreary, grey January afternoon, the new garden at Pillar and Post can brighten spirits.
The Local had a chance this week to traverse the landscape with Vintage Hotels vice-president of operations Paul MacIntyre early this week.
“It’s actually laid out like Monet’s garden,” explains MacIntyre. “We went to France to visit the Monet garden, and we actually have 7,500 different types of species in this garden. A lot of them are typical to the Monet gardens, but many of them are also normally found here in Niagara as well. There’s a lot of overlap.”
Upon entering the open gate, one is struck by the pathway leading to the centre court area, currently occupied by a 26-foot-tall Christmas tree. MacIntyre explains that come summer, the archways along this promenade will be adorned with roses.
To the left of the promenade sits the pond that truly captures the spirit of a Monet painting. Crossing the Monet Bridge, MacIntyre explains that though the angles have been shifted a bit to fit the space, the pond is true to form. During the warmer months this area will be adorned with hydrangeas which will climb up the metal obelisks dotting the landscape. On the King Street side of the pond, a gently-flowing waterfall cascades down under a lower walkway that is currently closed due to icing.
According to MacIntyre, the almost six-acre property can host three weddings at a time. The barn at the south corner of the Monet garden, built with reclaimed boards from farms across Ontario, has a capacity of 120 people (under non-COVID times). A wedding gazebo is planned for another section of the garden as well.
The accessory building sits next to an artificial turf surface that was installed for the purpose of holding the skating rink that they plan to erect next winter, under normal circumstances. The rolling overhead doors of the building can be opened to serve food and refreshments for skaters who visit. Before Boxing Day, hotel guests were able to enjoy holiday movies under the stars, projected on the side of a Vintage Inns van parked on the turf.
More than 350 new trees were brought in and added to the canopy on the block. The Christmas tree, however, is temporary, and was brought in with a giant crane. MacIntyre says, though, that it fits so perfectly they may decide to plant one in that same space, known as the promenade circle.
MacIntyre has been involved with the multi-million dollar project from the start. He is clearly proud of the way it has all turned out. “It took about seven years to get approved,” he says, “and another year and a half to clean up the site. C & C Yachts left behind a lot of resin and chemicals that we had to clean up.”
There are plans to construct a new conference building beyond the south wall facing Anne Street. That project was originally scheduled to start this year but has been pushed back. “This was going to help take the Pillar to a place where it would be a little more busy. But now (with the pandemic) we have extra conference space, and it will most likely be like that until at least 2024. We may end up not even needing that extra space.”
Though the main purpose of the garden is to host weddings and other special events, MacIntyre promises that Vintage Hotels will continue to open the space to the public when it is not in use for bookings. Once all the flowers are in bloom this spring and summer, there will be no shortage of selfie stations suitable for all social media platforms.
The Gardens at the Pillar and Post are currently open to the public each day from 10 a.m. until about 2 p.m. The entrance is on John Street through the main gate onto the promenade.