The definition of a botanical garden includes, but is not limited to: a reasonable degree of permanence; an underlying scientific basis for the collections; proper documentation of collections; monitoring of plants in the collections; labeling of plants; exchange of seed or other materials with other botanic gardens or institutions; open to the public. The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is all those things…and more.
The RBG was founded over 80 years ago by Hamiltonian and conservationist Thomas Baker McQuesten. It’s patterned after the famous Kew Gardens in England. The number of collections has increased over time, and so has the number of programs. Today you can choose to stroll through the trails and various garden properties to see what’s in bloom, but you can also experience the RBG in many surprising ways. There are over 200 courses and workshops for families, adults and kids that focus around gardening, nature, the botanical arts and wellness.
The following are just a few ways to experience this local gem.
Master Your Garden lets adults flex their green thumbs with the help of experts. Upcoming workshops will help you get your garden into shape. Learn how to maintain a healthy lawn, discover container gardening, and grow your own fresh produce. Some workshops offer multiple sessions to further your keen for green.
Into the Wild is where adventure meets education. A peaceful paddle in paradise puts the beginner canoeist in touch with local flora and fauna and includes topical discussions with experts in the RGB nature sanctuaries. An Introduction to Canoeing workshop runs this June 9 and 10, and Paddling into Paradise experiences are happening May 12, 22 and 27. Both allow you to see Cootes Paradise by canoe and see nature and wildlife both in the water and on land. Get Back to Nature Walks run every Sunday; a volunteer leader takes hikers on a family-friendly walk through the RBG’s vast ecosystems. These walks are free, and it’s a surefire way to get your fill of nature and fresh air.
Beekeeping is becoming a popular activity, and it seems that we humans are becoming increasingly responsible for maintaining a healthy bee population. The Urban Beekeeping series is one of the RBG’s newest experiences. In this series, veteran beekeeping instructors and honeybee breeders will guide you through topics that include an introduction to bees and the hive environment, summer hive maintenance and honey harvesting, as well as putting the bees to bed in the fall.
What is a garden if not art in flower form? There are a series of dates and workshops over the next few months around the topic of Art in the Gardens. Learn how to paint spring landscapes, or explore watercolour techniques; a course on Chinese Floral Painting teaches balance, harmony and stroke techniques while you sit in the lilac dell. One of the programs in the Health and Wellness series allows you to learn about yoga and Tai Chi outdoors – a unique and tranquil way to combine your downward dog with the daffodils.
Kids are curious by nature and there’s no better way to satisfy their curiosity than to submerge them in an interesting environment. Junior Naturalists meet one Saturday a month until May, and Gardening Programs for Kids teach kids how to take care of their own garden plot (plus cooking, hikes, games and crafts too).
How about enjoying breakfast with a beat? Throw a little jazz in with your toast and jam at the Jazz Brunches. This summer concert series is served over weekends with a wide menu that appeals to all ages, but make sure to reserve early. Mom would likely love the Mother’s Day brunch. Afterwards, take her on a stroll through the gardens, and perhaps even down memory lane.
by Becky Dumais
Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington/Hamilton