The International Peace Garden marks 90 years of greenery, tranquility and reflection

BOISSEVAIN, Man. — Nestled in a sparsely populated expanse of prairie along the longest undefended border in the world, the International Peace Garden has celebrated 90 years of friendship between Canada and the United States.

The openness between the two countries is clear here.

A small stream marks the border, and people walk freely on it and return strolling among the gardens, ponds and monuments. It’s quiet enough to hear the soft buzz of bees among the flowers, some of which are arranged in the shape of the maple leaf or the stars and stripes.

It is a pastoral setting, largely aimed at thoughtful reflection.

“Peace is something we should always aim for, and what better way to contemplate it and share it with people than in a garden,” says Tim Chapman, the garden’s general manager.

Established in 1932, the garden was designed by Dr. Henry Moore of Islington, Ontario, and was widely expected to be located in that province. But the National Gardeners Association decided it should be near the geographic center of North America — Rugby, ND

It’s in the Turtle Mountains, a lush area of ​​gently rolling hills a 20-minute drive from the nearest small communities on either side of the border. Surrounded by forests and lakes, it has 80,000 flowering annuals and perennials, many of which can be seen from a platform above a fountain.

A cairn at the entrance, set up in the interwar period, commits the two countries not to take up arms against each other. It is flanked by Canadian and American flags.

There is a “rock of friendship”, originating in England, which is directly on the 49th parallel. There is a clock tower that chimes every 15 minutes, momentarily breaking the calm. And there’s a small conference center with inspirational quotes etched into limestone walls.

From more recent times, an exhibit shows damaged girders from the World Trade Center which was the target of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The girders are, in part, a tribute to the cooperation between Canada and the United States United in the aftermath of the attack.

“Being here in the garden helps people contemplate, you know, if there isn’t more dialogue and thoughts of cooperation and peace, unfortunately, very bad things can happen in the world,” Chapman said.

Plans for the 90th anniversary celebrations include a weekend of historical exhibits and cultural performances on July 30 and 31, as well as a 1930s-themed dinner.

Leaving the gardens is a reminder of contemporary reality. Canadians and Americans do not need to officially enter the other country to visit the gardens but, on their way back, must return through their respective border checkpoints located close to either side of the exit.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2022.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press