It is now mid winter: time to dream.
I think that Canadian gardeners are world-class dreamers as we have a very long season to do it. With this in mind, I want to help direct the discussion about your travel plans for this year with a few suggestions of my own.
Whenever I visit a city for the first time I ‘google’ the local public gardens to see what is out there and I am frequently surprised by what I find.
- Trebah, Cornwall, England. I want to be inspired by a garden and learn from it. How is the hand of man invisibly partnering with Mother Nature to create space that draws me in, gets me off the park bench, exploring every corner of the place?
Trebah is pure magic. While it is a small public garden of 26 acres, the land rolls from the top of a hill over 200 ft. down to the English Channel, where the garden meets the beach of Falmouth Bay. I have been to Trebah four times and each visit opens my eyes to new possibilities.
It helps that this garden has a deep pedigree. Once settled by a Mennonite family in the 1860’s the transformation of it began in earnest. When the original owners travelled to London they would acquire Australian Tree Ferns available for cheap at the dock yards. They were used as ballast in ships returning from Australia. 150 years later there is the most remarkable forest of giant tree ferns growing at Trebah. Standing under them helps you understand what it is to be a garden toad, looking at the world through the filter of evergreen fern foliage. http://www.trebahgarden.co.uk/
2. Kew, London, England. One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world has more of an impact on your life than you likely know. Consider that over 30% of all modern medicine is plant-based and that Kew employs over 300 full time medical research staff and owns the worlds deepest and oldest collection of seeds. All of this means nothing to the casual visitor as it all happens behind the scenes.
The ‘scenes’ that you encounter when you visit Kew are well worth the trip to England. You can stroll the grounds for hours without repeating steps, lounge under the massive centuries-old trees and stop to smell the roses or stroll through their famous greenhouses. Do this most any time of year. I was there a month ago, in early December, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I recommend that you book a tour of some of the back-spaces of the place to really make your investment of time worthwhile. Accessible by subway. Cool! http://www.kew.org/
3. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I had read about this place forever but to see it first hand, as I did last year for the first time, was incredible. This garden demonstrates how much we can do with a small, urban property. Somehow they fit extensive greenhouses, demonstration gardens, a horticultural school, perennial borders and an educational garden that demonstrates the connections between man and nature through the gardening experience into a handful of acres, in the middle of Brooklyn. You can reach this one by subway too. Easy peasy. Just don’t rush your time there. http://www.bbg.org/
4. Toronto Music Garden. We don’t have to travel extensively to find an extraordinary public garden. Here in Toronto we have a marvellous garden on a mere two acres, on the banks of Lake Ontario, overlooking Toronto harbour with a clear view of Toronto Island. This is the perfect place to sit and contemplate the good fortune of being a Torontonian. This garden was originally designed for installation in Boston, but they could not make it happen. Their loss, our gain. It is free. And now that the extensive street construction is mostly over on Queens Quay, we can drink it all in to the sound of sea gulls soaring in the sky above. http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/venues/torontomusicgarden/
5. Royal Botanical Gardens and Montreal Botanical Gardens.
This is like having twins and choosing which one you like the most. I love them equally, but for different reasons (because each is unique in its own way!).
The Royal Botanical Garden is massive in scale, sub-urban and has extensive elements that hold appeal to everyone. Want a walking trail into the wilderness? A formal rose garden? Extensive perennial borders? A place for a wedding, or to teach your kids about how food is grown? It is all here in its formal and casual presentation. If I lived in Burlington I would live at the RBG and sleepover at home. This year marks the grand-reopening of the famous rock garden. Don’t miss it. https://www.rbg.ca/
Montreal Botanical Gardens. Worth a special trip to Montreal. This public garden is so much more than a garden, but a great garden it most certainly is! Beautifully themed as you walk from one section to another, following a path that takes you on a breathtaking botanical journey. Look for special events each season as they do this sort of thing very well. http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden