Scientist to recreate Mabel Bell’s 100-year old gardens in Cape Breton
There’s no doubt Alexander Graham Bell has left an indelible mark on history, but his wife Mabel was also a trailblazer. Now, almost 100 years after her death, a Nova Scotia scientist is recreating her ecologically significant gardens.
Located between Beinn Bhreagh Mountain and Bras D’Or Lake, Beinn Bhreagh is a 19th century mansion and the historic home of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell.
In the back of the grand estate is where some of Mabel’s gardens grew. In fact, apple trees she planted more than a century ago are still standing.
Alana Pindar, a research scientist, says Mabel’s understanding of ecology and the environment was well ahead of her time.
"I've learned that she has been probably one of the strongest women in science that has not been celebrated as much as she possibly should be,” said Pindar.
Pindar is working on recreating Mabel’s gardens.
Mary Tulle, chair of the Alexander Graham Bell Foundation, says the project is possible thanks to lessons from the past.
"The trustees of the Bell family gave us the opportunity to have a number of documents scanned and looked at,” explained Tulle.
Among those documents were some of Mabel old journals, which include detailed landscape plans. Tulle says they are being used as a template to replicate the old gardens at the Bell Museum.
"If she was to comment on what was happening today, 100 years later, how thrilled she would be. Humbly thrilled that the future has caught up to the past,” Tulle said.
The idea is that this century-old project can positively affect the next 100 years. The goal is to help teach people about conservation and growing their own food, in an effort to try and stave off things like climate change.
"The first seed is literally being planted on recreating a garden,” Tulle said. “(The hope is) that for generations, and starting with our children of today, to be able to come and learn how to plant, how to harvest."
Pindar says she can almost feel the scientist's guiding presence when she's at Beinn Bhreagh working on the garden restoration.
“Her journal entries and her designs of her landscape are so precise, it is almost like she wanted this replicated,” Pindar said.