From orchids and tropical songbirds to healing plants and a canopy walk, Canadian public gardens are a feast for the senses.
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Many people imagine Canada as one giant snowy landscape of ski hills, polar bears and hockey, but gardening is, in fact, one of our most popular national pastimes.
Last year, Canadians celebrated the country’s first National Garden Day, which focused attention on the importance of Canada’s public and private gardens. There is now a new garden route as well. Here’s a peek behind the garden gates from coast to coast to coast.
1) The Butchart Gardens: Victoria’s showpiece, these BC gardens are one of the world’s premium floral gardens and a National Historic Site. Don’t miss a chance to ride the Rose Carousel with its whimsical hand-carved animals—from bears and ostriches to zebras—for kids of all ages.
2) UBC’s Botanical Garden: Established in 1916, this is the oldest university botanical garden in Canada, with collections of maples, magnolias and rhododendrons. Come in the fall for the annual heritage apple festival—70 varieties to taste—and the adventurous rainforest canopy walk along a 308-m (1,010-ft) aerial trail system suspended in the tree tops.
3) Devonian Botanic Garden: Justoutside Edmonton, the University of Alberta’s garden is proof positive that the prairie can bloom. Visit the Native Peoples’ Garden to learn about healing plants, or come for Rhubarb Day to celebrate with wine, cakes and, of course, prairie rhubarb pie.
4) Toronto Botanical Garden: This unique urban space has a series of 17 contemporary gardens to inspire urbanites. The sleek, modern glass pavilion looks like a dramatic lantern as night falls in the city, the perfect spot for a stylish soirée. If you visit on Thursday afternoons, there’s a great organic farmer’s market full of tasty local produce.
5) Allan Gardens: One of Toronto’s oldest parks, this is home to six massive greenhouses filled with colourful and exotic plants. Go to the historic cast-iron-and-glass Palm House on a blustery winter day and imagine what a refuge it was when first built circa 1909.
6) Niagara Park’s Floral Showhouse: Take a walk just beyond Niagara Falls, ON, to this year-round oasis and ever-changing floral show. Keep your eyes peeled for colourful tropical songbirds and explore the award-winning orchid collection.
7) The Dominion Arboretum: Part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s historic Central Experimental Farmin Ottawa, ON, the Arboretum, which covers 26 hectares (64 acres), was started in 1889. It has a unique microclimate that allows magnolias and azaleas to flourish, while the Ornamental Gardens include peony and lilac collections.
8) Reford Gardens (Jardins de Métis):Situated along the south shore of Quebec’s St. Lawrence River, this garden is famed for its collection of Himalayan blue poppies. It also hosts the International Garden Festival, with installations created by the world’s top contemporary garden designers and landscape architects.
9) Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens: Overlooking a tidal river valley, these Nova Scotiangardens feature a reconstructed 17th-century Acadian home, built when Port-Royal was the capital of Acadie. The historic rose garden includes more than 270 cultivars—the largest rose collection in the Maritimes—from the ancient apothecary rose to modern Canadian hybrids.
10) The MUN Botanical Garden: Memorial University in St. John’s developed this garden to display the native plants that thrive in Newfoundland’s unique climate. There’s a rhododendron dell and a new Crevice Garden, celebrating the hardy alpine plants that thrive in the cracks and crevices on The Rock, including the native yellow lady’s slipper and endangered barrens willow.
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