My Nonna loved everything about flowers. Every Birthday and Christmas card I ever received from her had beautiful hand-drawn flowers inside. It was with my Nonna that I first visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. This summer I returned, after a long hiatus, to celebrate Canada Day. July 1, 2013 was a hot and sunny day with a soft breeze and a few droplets of rain here and there. Have you ever been to the Royal Botanical Gardens before? Most people have no idea how large the gardens actually are. Yes, there is the main building and Hendrie Park across the road but many people do not even make it to the Rock Gardens, Arboretum or intricate trail system around the expansive property. But now I’m jumping ahead of myself.
As I mentioned, it was a hot and sunny day with a soft breeze and I owe my first smell of lilacs this year to that soft breeze. If you are a lilac fan then you need not travel past the parking lot. The next time I own a house with a yard I will be planting more than one of these gorgeous and beautifully scented bush.
This Canada Day, hubby and I were hosting my in-laws at our place: my mother and father-in-law, my sister-in-law and her beautiful girls. Armed with snacks, baby bags and strollers we marched our way through the tunnel under Plains Road that connects the main building to Hendrie Park and our adventure began.
Being Canada Day, staff had set up activity tents for kids that hosted face painting, maple leaf tattoos and a variety of Canada Day crafts like noise-makers, Popsicle stick flowers and colouring. There was also an educational booth setup featuring all the uses of Rosehip including tea and jelly. The jelly was actually quite good and I remember asking where I could find some for my toast but cannot remember their answer so please leave a comment if you know where I can pick some up. My favourite part of this activity hub was actually watching the little ones (my nieces and others) run around with red maple leaf tattoos on their arms and maple leafs and hearts painted on their cheeks.
We walked with each other enjoying the sites and sounds through the rose gardens, medicinal gardens and scented gardens. To describe all the different scents and colours and textures and other beautiful things we saw would be nearly impossible. After exploring the grounds all morning we stopped at the Garden Teahouse for some lunch. The tea-house is beautiful – the cups are quaint and teapots adorable. Both myself and my sister-in-law were a little nervous bringing the little ladies into such a breakable place but we were seated on the balcony and felt much better outside on the plastic patio chairs.
The menu is small and perfect – scones and jams and plates with olives and pickles and other small salads. There are sandwiches and soups and cheese and crackers and all are divine. I wish the Teahouse was open through the winter because between the tea and the fresh-baked scones that’s all anyone would need to stay warm.
Back across the tunnel, on the same side as the main building, we stopped to look at the Gift Shop. As you might imagine, there are quite a few trinkets and other garden decorations they sell there. They also sell toys, “stuffies”, games and gadgets for kids. I was lucky enough to leave with a beautiful blue painting for our guest room – soft blue trees and flowers – perfect for my blue palate.
Beyond the gift shop you will find an outdoor natural playground for the kids with climbing structures and a slide. If left to their own devices my nieces would have spent hours going up and down the slide over and over again. Thankfully we enticed them to move to the Mediterranean gardens with hopes of seeing some salamanders. We didn’t end up seeing any little lizards, but in the middle of the exotic olive and fig trees was an indoor pond with colourful fish. The pond kept the kids occupied as I explored all of the cacti around a corner.
By this time, as you can imagine, the little girlies were getting tired so we decided to head home for a Canada Day swim. On my way out I grabbed a map of the grounds so that I knew where to explore next. The Arboretum, I learned, is almost as large as Hendrie park with just about as much to see. As the name implies, the arboretum showcases a broad range of trees and has a lilac, magnolia, flowering cherry , crab-apple, beech and dogwood collection – not to mention the Nature Interpretive Centre. There is also the Rock Garden and Laking Garden locations to be explored.
By the sounds of it the gardens could take days, if not months, to walk through. And even then, the nature of special places like this is that they change with the minutes, hours, days, months, seasons and years. No matter when you visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, you will always see something that is new and different because that is the nature of flowers and gardens and growth. It truly is a spectacular place.