Olivia Mills honed her gardening skills at her father’s and mother’s side in Ireland. The John Strahan French House is the oldest dwelling (circa 1820) in the charming village of Burritt’s Rapids. At the north end of the lot, there is a coursed rubblestone building which for many years housed the blacksmith shop known as “French’s Forge”. Since the 1820s the house has undergone a number of additions. On purchasing the property some 48 years ago, the Mills had the unenviable challenge of converting the mostly neglected field into the oasis which will greet visitors on the tour.
It took six loads to clear the yard of most of the rubble which included scraps of metal from the old forge. The back yard, with its 200 feet of river frontage, has been described as “the nearest one can get to an English cottage garden.” Like the house, the garden has evolved over the years and is now a symphony of color and fragrance. If you’re fortunate, you will catch a glimpse of “Old Mr. Heron” standing sentry on the riverbank.