My parents, especially Mom, loved to while away an afternoon in an enclosed steamy glass greenhouse situated near the famous Niagara Falls. As kids we piled into the station wagon and headed just past the mighty Horseshoe Falls to literally spend hours inside the tropical paradise, rife with wild orchids, ferns and palm trees. A real find, the historic property makes a pleasurable tonic to the final days of winter.
Styled in seasonal flower beds lush with Easter lilies, forced spring bulbs, Azaleas, and the rare Schizanthus the gardeners hand-pollinate these seeds which are not commercially available.
At the Niagara Parks Commission daffodils are so big the accolade: “The Daffodil Capital of North America” is often heard. Meanwhile its sister plant, the Narcissus also profusely flowers there and so do tulips. In springtime find the Orange Queen, Blueberry Ripple and palettes of pink tulips adorning the park’s gardens.
Calendar of Blooms:
Spring show: January till Easter
Easter Display: Easter weekend lasting 3 weeks prior.
Mid-May: Hydrangea Show
Location: 7145 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls
Here’s a spring peek at some of Canada’s other great gardens:
Ottawa’s Tulip Gardens
There’s a beautiful friendship between Canada and The Netherlands and each spring, visitors to the national capital will see this strong bond through a profusion of colourful perennials.
Ever since the first Canadian Tulip Festival made its debut in 1953, these happy tulips have turned Canada’s capital into a colourful flower show. We can thank the Dutch for that.
As World War II ravaged across Europe, a young Dutch Princess Juliana with her two princess daughters boarded a Halifax-bound ship then made her way to Ottawa. She later gave birth to Princess Margriet Francisca at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
The federal government symbolically made the hospital room Dutch soil and to this day Princess Margriet is the only royal ever to be born in North America.
In addition, the Dutch were deeply moved by Canada’s role in the liberation of the Netherlands; thus the countless precious tulips.
For me as a university student, the heavy weight of long dreary school days seemed to be lifted off my shoulders when I used to take long walks in spring along the Rideau Canal.
Memories of the Crayola-dipped tulips splayed on the canal shoulders with clusters of the bright perennials dancing around Dows Lake and the Parliament Hill have stuck with me over the years.
Location: Dows Lake, Major’s Hill Park, Parliament Hill
Burlington’s Royal Botanical Garden
They had me at the whiff of lilacs. This floral emporium perched between Toronto and Niagara has Canada’s largest lilac collection. Rows upon rows of lilac bushes and trees will certainly get you lost in the Mother Nature wonderland.
The city’s rocky hard northern part is now a green gem, Burlington’s Royal Botanical Garden. Back in the Roaring Twenties, Thomas B. McQuesten purchased some farmland and created a rock garden by depositing rocks into an eyesore open pit.
Head to the Lilac Dell Arboreteum to see the lilacs but of course, tulips, peonies and irises are crowd pleasers too. At the Rock Garden, an explosion of 100,000+ tulips will surely make you smile with their bright-hued petals.
Arguably lauding the title of “Canada’s biodiversity hotspot,” it’s no wonder. The RBG reports the grounds are the home to more species of native plants than any other area in the country.
April-Magnolia, cherry trees
May –Tulips and Lilacs, dogwood and crab apples
Location: 680 Plains Road West, Hamilton/Burlington, Ontario
Montreal’s Botanic Garden (Montréal’s Jardin Botanique)
No doubt Montreal’s long cold winters seem never ending but a visit to its botanic gardens will definitely cure any cabin fever. In the heart of the city, by Olympic Park, 22,000 species will do just that.
It’s truly extraordinary how the vision of two men, Brother Marie-Victorin and horticulturalist Henry Teuscher back in the dirty thirties, dreamed of having a bit of paradise and mustered up unemployed men in desperate need of a job to create such a botanical wonder.
Canada holds it so dear to its heart that in 2008, the nation designated this garden a National Historic Site.
Considered among the world’s largest and finest, crowds can travel the globe virtually through the myriad of themed gardens at Montreal’s Jarden Botanique.
Certainly the Chinese Gardens with its Ming Dynasty-inspired pagoda and waterfalls and the signature jolly red lanterns all awry in different shapes and sizes illuminate this pageantry which takes on a whole new look by night.
Over by the Japanese Garden, serenity and calm take over the senses as I stopped and marveled at the sculpted bonsai trees.
At the Jardin des Premières-Nations (First Nations Garden) native birches and maples appeared. Inside the greenhouses, crowds gather to view hyacinths and irises in full bloom.
April: Hydrangeas, Tulips
May: Hyacinth, Cherry Trees, Crab Apples, Iris, primrose, Magnolia, Narcissus
Location: 4101, rue Sherbrooke Est
Vancouver Island’s Butchart Gardens
Years ago our family cross-country road trip included a stop at the legendary Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. Years later a visit there continues to awe me. Big on the WOW factor with its explosion of colour you feel like you discovered a piece of heaven on earth.
Sandwiched between the Saanich Inlet, abundant critters from sea otters to bald eagles are equally attracted to the floral displays there. Spring brings the 300,000 bulbs.
This gem of a garden was the vision of Jennie Butchart and designated a National Historic Site in 2006. In 1904,
Butchart fell in love with the fashionable Victorian gardens of the day and decided an abandoned limestone quarry ought to do the trick for one of her gardening sites.
Today the exquisite Sunken Garden is located there. At the time it was created, Canada was big into the early 20th-century beautification movement and I like many others appreciate her legacy. It’s still family owned and operated.
March – Daffodils, Cherry Trees, heather, hyacinth;
April – Tulips, magnolia, crab apple, summer snowflakes;
May – Wisteria, Rhododendrons, lilacs
Location: 800 Benvenuto Avenue in Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island
Edmonton’s Devonian Botanic Gardens
Feel the stresses of city life roll off you at this outdoor oasis surrounded by rolling hills. Edmonton’s Devonian Botanic Gardens is the most northerly botanic garden in Canada.
It’s part of the University of Alberta and considered among the best gardens in the country. It has gardens and ecological preserves, including indoor greenhouses where butterflies, succulents and orchids flourish.
Good for the casual grower and for the serious green thumber, I like the variety of botanical wonders. One of the crowd pleasers is the fragrant herbal garden. Visit these large island green beds and smell the aromatic lavender and mint.
Another advantage is the stunning Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden, where the rare elusive stunted northern alpine trees and dwarf Rhododendrons that normally propagate in higher elevations show off their colourful luster.
Especially beautiful is the Eunomia oppositifolia known as aethionema, a dense cluster of pink flowers these early-spring floral gems are a native from Lebanon and thrive on the south facing arid slopes.
The peaceful airy Japanese Garden is ideal for meditation and inspired by the traditional kaiyou style (meaning “strolling garden”). It’s popular with wedding parties and there are plenty of spots to pose for those special nuptial shots.
May – Alpine Garden for alpine foliage watching
June – Japanese Spring Festival