The classic Rock Garden destination at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Ontario re-opened to the public in May 2016 after a three-year, $20-million rejuvenation project in the garden, located between the cities of Hamilton and Burlington. The original Rock Garden was a Depression-era project that transformed an abandoned gravel pit into a majestic bowl using 10,000 tons of limestone and 45,000 perennial plants. The design had not changed since 1932, and significant improvements in infrastructure were needed.
“After more than 80 years, the time had come to bring the garden back to the forefront of our community,” says RBG CEO Mark Runciman. “The David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden retains the historic charm that generations of visitors have cherished, but has truly become a garden for the 21st century, one that embraces environmentally friendly trends in garden design and management while respecting its heritage setting. We are grateful to the federal and provincial governments, along with lead donors David Braley and Nancy Gordon, for helping to make this dream a reality.”
The rejuvenation project began with a $14-million commitment from the federal ($7 million) and Ontario ($7 million) governments. There are major upgrades in water and sewage systems, and new paths with gentle slopes make the garden more accessible. A new visitor centre will serve as a year-round destination for business and private functions. New lighting and sound systems extend the garden’s operating hours into the night. Horticultural highlights will provide visitors with an experience throughout the entire growing season.
The new garden areas were designed by Janet Rosenberg & Studio Inc., with bold drifts of herbaceous perennials and grasses chosen for their structure and texture. The sustainable design will require less replanting and soil disturbance. In addition to the 20,000 plants remaining from the original garden, another 42,000 plants from 90 plant families were installed during the rejuvenation. There are 143,800 plants from 2,411 species in the garden.
The dramatic new visitor centre at the entrance to the garden includes a full restaurant with 48 seats and a conference facility that accommodates weddings, corporate and private functions.
“Ontario’s world-class attractions, like Royal Botanical Gardens, play a vital role in the province’s economic and cultural prosperity,” says Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
The Tea House, added in 1962, has been re-named Garden House to display RBG archives such as a “Wish You Were Here” collection of old postcards featuring the Rock Garden.
RBG encompasses 1,090 hectares (2,700 acres) of horticultural, environmental and historical significance, is a National Historic Site and a registered charitable organization with a mandate to bring people together with plants and nature.
RBG Location: 680 Plains Rd. W., Burlington, ON L7T 4H4
RBG Rock Garden location: 1185 York Blvd., Hamilton, ON L0R 2H9