Forget about your school stress and live your fairytale at Royal Botanical Gardens
By: Belinda Tam, Contributor
Wonderful aromas, flowers, trees and shows. Doesn’t that sound amazing? With the stress of tests, midterms and assignments, sometimes it’s hard to get away from it all. The Royal Botanical Gardens (680 Plains Rd. West) is one of those places that will make you feel like you’ve walked into a fairy tale. With midterms in full swing, the RBG can be a great way to take time for yourself and relax without having to leave the city.
As the largest botanical gardens in Canada, a national historic site and a registered charitable organization for over 80 years, the RBG is an ecological gem. It was built and founded by Thomas Baker McQuesten, a Liberal member of provincial parliament for the area, who created what would become a regional botanical tourism site and environmental agency.
In 1941, McQuesten was granted a provincial mandate for four areas of development: conservation, education, horticulture and science. Nearly 80 years later, the RBG has established an international reputation as a living laboratory for science, a leader in sustainable gardening and a key player in connecting Hamiltonians to nature. Within its 60 documented collections and 40,000 plants displayed in four major areas, it is a shining attraction just outside the city.
The RBG is comprised of four parks: Hendrie Park, Rock Garden, Laking Garden and the Arboretum.
Hendrie Park is the largest garden, known for its various plants and trees arranged in a unique design. It holds 20 different areas including the Rose Garden, Medicinal Garden and a Scented Garden. Each area boasts has a peak season that ranges depending on the time of year, allowing areas such as Hendrie Park to always give visitors a new experience.
The Rose Garden has been newly renovated and is an extraordinary display of roses across two acres of land. Many of the roses are joined by companion plants that help to protect the roses within their vicinity.
The Medicinal Garden is unique because each bed in this garden is focused on a particular part of the human body. The beds are organized by the diseases they treat, but also features plants from various cultures, allowing one to compare ancient traditional herbs to modern medicine.
The Scented Garden features the traditional conception of a garden: stone walkways, a beautiful central fountain and the fragrance of flowers pollinating the air. You are encouraged to walk through the garden, smell the annuals and consider why we have an emotional attachment to plants. Why do we place them in vases to adorn our tables? Why do we plant them outside of our houses?
When you go into different areas of Hendrie Park, it feels like you’re walking from one section of a storybook to the next, making it a magical experience.
Then there’s the Rock Garden. It is RBG’s newest garden, built to celebrate the start of a new era with a modern twist. The founder of Royal Botanical Gardens, Thomas Baker McQuesten, took abandoned gravel and used it to form what is now known as the Rock Garden. Within the garden, there are ponds, a waterfall and a year-round perennial display. The new garden also showcases a multi-use visitor center that houses a restaurant, conference centre and a look-out deck with a view of the garden’s lower-bowl.
The next area of the grounds is the Laking Garden. This is the second-oldest garden at the RBG and is home to perennial collections. Features of the garden include its iris, peony, and clematis collections, typically in full bloom during the summer months.
The last section of the garden is the Arboretum. It looks like something that came out of a landscape painting, with a vast arrangement of trees and plants. This area is especially beautiful in the spring when branches start to bud, but also in the fall when the foliage starts to assume beautiful reds, yellows and oranges. There are plants from all over the world here.
As large as the RBG is, they hold many events during the year.
The RBG has two ticketed events in the pipeline. “RBG After Dark: Boos, Brews & BBQ” is a Halloween costume party that will be held with creatures from the past. Enjoy the activities, music, locally crafted brews and delicious BBQ on Oct. 17 from 7-10 p.m. in the Rock Garden. Come out in your Halloween costume and take in the amazing autumn nightscape of the Boo-tanical Gardens!
“The Great Pumpkin Trail” is taking over Hendrie Park’s South Bridle Trail lining each side of the path with hundreds of jack-o-lanterns. Enjoy the live entertainment, face painting and pumpkin-themed activities and games while taking in the autumn weather before All Hallow’s Eve. The event will take place on Oct. 24 and 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Both of these events are a fabulous way to meet up with friends, grab a bite, enjoy the scenery and get in the mood for Halloween!
As students, we have a lot of stress on our shoulders. We need to be able to take care of ourselves throughout our journey. The RBG can offer an escape from the stresses of campus, while still keeping you within the city’s limits. Stepping into one of its many acres will transport you to your favourite fairy tale and hopefully allow you to feel rejuvenated as we enter the second half of the semester.