Here’s a city bus tour of a different kind: every Saturday morning throughout the season, the Garden Promenade bus takes visitors to Ottawa/Gatineau on a freewheeling floral trip that highlights the cities’ 50 gardens. Yes, 50 gardens! Surely that makes the National Capital Region the Garden Capital of Canada.
Travelling through city neighbourhoods (including Sussex Drive’s Rideau Hall), whizzing by the colourful gardens of Parliament Hill and many of the nation’s most prestigious museums and art galleries, and exploring the outer reaches of Dows Lake and the ornamental gardens of the Central Experimental Farm, the route also takes in the charming gardens of Gatineau, including MosaïCulture — a unique exhibition of living sculptures that takes place in Jacques Cartier Park until October 15, 2018. (Read article about MosaïCulture.)
Although the Garden Promenade bus is a great way to explore the region, you can see the gardens on the route in many other ways and times, too. Shopping at Rideau Centre? Stroll through Simon’s to access the mall’s rooftop garden, or pop into Nordstrom’s Bazille restaurant, which overlooks the garden. At the National Gallery, more than art meets the eye. Along with the recently restored courtyard garden, you’ll see a sunken garden, water garden and Taiga garden, all designed by notable Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander.
You’ll see some spectacular gardens at some of the region’s landmark museums, too. Recently installed on the grounds of the Museum of Nature are the Landscapes of Canada, a collection of native plants that represent the various eco-zones across the country. A highlight of the garden is Bill Lishman’s dramatic stainless-steel Iceberg Sculpture. Serenity reigns in the Zen Buddhist meditation garden of the Museum of History in Gatineau. Stepping stones guide visitors along the meditation pathway, which is lined with trees of the boreal forest, flanked by undulating raked gravel and accented with rocks hewn from the Canadian Shield.
Next time you’re in the nation’s capital, pick up a Garden Promenade pamphlet and plan a self-guided tour of the many diverse gardens on the route. Or, until September 1, book the Saturday morning Lee Valley Garden Promenade bus for a two-hour tour, with stops at three of the gardens along the promenade.