You Must Visit These Canadian Botanical Gardens
You don't need to go far to see botanical wonders -- Canada’s gardens are among the most beautiful in the world. Here are the top 10 gardens across Canada you absolutely must visit. Get out and see a few this summer! BY LARRY HODGSON(10 Photos)
Butchart Gardens (Victoria, BC)
Butchart Gardens is the most visited garden in Canada. This garden started out as an abandoned quarry before becoming one of BC’s top tourist attractions. The huge sunken garden, with its colourful annuals and spring-fed natural lake, is the heart of the site but there are spectacular gardens throughout: a Japanese garden, an Italian Garden, a rose garden and much more. Stay until dark and enjoy the illuminated fountains, with concerts summer evenings and fireworks displays on Saturdays. Garden enthusiasts will be blown away by the stunning hanging baskets while the “I just came because it was on the tourist map” crowd will be astounded by the picture perfect colour.
Montreal Botanical Gardens (Quebec)
North America’s premier botanical garden has the largest collection of plants on display on the continent: some 22,000 different kinds…. and all labelled! Name a garden style and you can find it here: informal English gardens at the Flowery Brook, a Japanese garden, North America’s largest authentic Chinese garden, a First-Nations garden, perennial beds, a shade garden, some of the most beautiful vegetable gardens you’ve ever seen, and the largest greenhouse complex on the continent, with tropical plants, bonsais and a fabulous collection of orchids. There is something for everyone: the medically inclined can head off to the medicinal plant garden, the visually impaired can make contact with texture, taste and aroma in the Courtyard of the Senses while those with more macabre thoughts will enjoy – is that the word? – the toxic plants garden. There are seasonal activities too, like a greenhouse full of butterflies during the spring and stunningly colourful Chinese lanterns during the fall Magic of Lanterns extravaganza. The casual visitor might simply enjoy a stroll through the rose garden and the Chinese and Japanese gardens, but gardenistas who want to see everything all had better plan on spending at least two days: the gardens just go on and on.
Photo Credit - Canadian Tourism
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia)
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia): If you’re historically inclined, this garden is for you. Various homes representative of Nova Scotia’s past have been reunited on a single site, each surrounded by a garden typical of the time, from the classic potager of the Acadian Garden, to the oh-so-formal knot garden, the Governor’s Garden in its 18th century glory, the Victorian Garden of colourful exotics and on to the Innovative Garden displaying ultra-modern plants and techniques, thus completing the portrait. You certainly don’t need to be a plant-lover to enjoy this one!
Royal Botanical Gardens (Hamilton, Ontario)
The Royal Botanical Gardens is one of the largest gardens in the world in area: an unbelievable 1,092 hectares, although most of that (birders take note!) is a nature reserve. The various gardens are so spread out there’s a shuttle to carry you from one garden to the next. The RBG Centre lies adjacent to Hendrie Park, the floral heart of the park, with its rose garden, scented garden, water gardens and a Mediterranean conservatory. The RBG is most famous, however, for its Rock Garden, a huge sunken garden of meandering paths, streams, ponds and colourful beds, built into a former gravel pit. The arboretum is the place to go if you love trees and shrubs (the lilac collection, for example, is one of the largest in the world). Note that Laking Garden, famous for its displays of spring perennials, will be closed for a complete renovation during the summer of 2011.
Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Niagara Falls Garden Trail (Niagara Falls, Ontario)
There’s no use denying it: Niagara Falls is Canada’s foremost garden city, with greenery and beautiful gardens stretching 53 kilometres along the entire length of the Niagara River, from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie. The main horticultural highlights are within the city of Niagara Falls itself. Rent a bike or take the People Mover to get around. There’s plenty to discover, from the Floral Showcase (a stunning greenhouse with seasonal displays) to the vast and beautiful Queen Victoria Park just above the falls. And then there’s the surprising Oakes Garden Theatre, a formal garden amphitheatre surrounded by Japanese gardens and the not less worthy botanical gardens with floral displays of all kinds. It also houses a fabulous Butterfly Conservatory. End your daylong tour at the world-famous floral clock which is exactly what the name suggests: a round carpet-bed garden of flowers and foliage overlaid with a working clock.Photo Credit: CC Some rights reserved by jeff.lugar
Muttart Conservatory (Edmonton, Alberta)
You can’t miss the four glass pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory when you visit Edmonton, rising as they do out a vast verdant park just across the Saskatchewan River from downtown. Each pyramid has a different theme: one houses temperate plants (magnolias, Japanese maples, etc.), another tropicals (figs, palms, and orchids) and a third plants from arid climates (cactus, succulents, etc.). The final pyramid is the most colourful: it contains special displays that change five to seven times a year, usually with a seasonal theme (Easter, Christmas, spring, etc.). Plant-lovers will be blown away by the fabulous plant choices, neophytes by the exotic trip around the world the pyramids offer.
Reford Gardens (Grant-Métis, Quebec)
On Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, Redford is one of Canada’s most widely recognized gardens. A former fishing lodge, it was changed into a stunning private garden by Elsie Reford (1872-1967) and is now open to the public. Reford Garden offers much to the visitor: a classic English border, the Long Walk, meandering paths along a natural stream spotted with colourful plantings, groves of primroses, and of course, its famous blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia). Considered one of the most difficult garden plants to grow, it thrives here in vast numbers… and yes, its huge flowers really are bright blue! With rare plants galore, plant lovers won’t want to leave…yet anyone can appreciate the beauty of the gardens, a major draw for anyone doing a tour of the Gaspé Peninsula.
Nitobe Memorial Garden (Vancouver, BC)
Certainly one of the grandest of Canada’s Japanese gardens and considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, Nitobe Memorial Gardens is a “stroll garden”, designed for a quiet promenade. The pervasively calm atmosphere of the ambient greenery –- and there are very few flowers outside of cherry blossom season in this garden designed for meditation -– has such a restful effect you can’t help but forget all your negative thoughts. NItobe Garden is located on the UBC campus not far from another great garden, the UBC Botanical Garden.photo credit: JenniferC Creative Commons
VanDusen Botanical Gardens (Vancouver, BC)
It may seem unfair to accord a second must-see garden to Vancouver (see previous garden), but the opposite is actually true: no other Canadian city has such a trove of world-class horticultural sites, so we’re actually being quite stingy. But this is one you really can’t miss: VanDusen Gardens hosts a stunning collection of plants that thrive in Vancouver’s mild climate, including bananas, tree ferns and, yes, even palms. The garden is beautifully landscaped and there is plenty to offer for every taste, including the younger set: an evergreen maze, a children’s garden of unusual plants, topiaries in intriguing animal shapes and much more.Photo Credit: Stan Shebs, Creative Commons
Kingsbrae Garden (Saint Andrews, New Brunswick)
Kingsbrae is an 11-hectare garden encompasses a former summer estate in beautiful Saint Andrews by-the-Sea. It’s laid out as a series of garden rooms: as you pass from one to the next, you go from discovery to discovery. It has a white garden, a rose garden, a maze, perennial and cottage gardens and many others, some very formal, others very laidback: pretty much a tour of the gardening world in one single spot. Non-gardeners will see it as a lovely place for a stroll, plant-nuts will taking pictures of the all the rare and unusual plants, including Canada’s first Wollemi pine.