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MARK AND BEN CULLEN: Garden Days Canada great time to explore beautiful gardens

We have big plans for our best-ever Garden Days Canada during Canada’s Year of the Garden.

Garden Days Canada is an annual event sponsored by Gardens Canada to celebrate gardening in this great country. Garden Days 2022 takes place June 11-19, and it’s a great excuse to visit a public garden or seek solitude in a private garden of your own.

After two years of sticking close to home, Canadians are encouraged to get out safely and enjoy some of the great public gardens and garden attractions.

Here are some favorite gardens:

Toronto Botanical Garden: This one-of-a-kind public garden is open to the public for free all year round. It’s really the best deal going for a day out in the city. Executive director Stephanie Jutila joins the TBG from Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden where she was responsible for major success in recent years. With the TBG’s planned expansion from four to 35 acres, we are excited to see what Stephanie Jutila has in store (https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/).

Toronto Music Garden is Mark’s favorite public garden in the city. Free to enjoy, it’s located on the waterfront just west of Queen’s Quay. Inspired by Bach’s music, you are likely to happen upon live classical music performances which are scheduled to return in 2022 after a hiatus.

Centennial Park Conservatory is another best-kept secret in the northwest corner of the city, not far from the 427 and 401. Originally opened in 1970, Centennial Park does not have the Victorian feel of the better-known Allan Gardens (which is partially closed for renovations) but offers a larger greenhouse and grounds. Enjoy the main greenhouse’s display of tropical plants and explore the south wing “arid house” collection of succulents and cacti. Bring the kids to enjoy BMX trails and frisbee golf in the surrounding park.

Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens, just a short drive along Lakeshore Drive into Mississauga on the shores of Lake Ontario, is one of Canada’s largest public rhododendron gardens and well worth a visit. The azaleas and rhododendrons planted among perennials, white pine and shrubs peak between May and June and are worth visiting year-round.

Whistling Gardens is “Canada’s Newest Botanical Garden” with an established feel. Located just outside Brantford in Wilsonville, Ont., Whistling Gardens is home to North America’s largest peony collection – over 1,200 specimens that will be in bloom about now. Throughout the season, enjoy their conifer collection which is also considered to be the largest in North America.

Bellevue House in Kingston, Ont., will give a historical perspective of gardening in Canada. Originally Sir John A. Macdonald’s home in the 1840s, Bellevue today remains a working garden staffed by gardeners in period dress who educate visitors on organic gardening from a time before organic was even a term. Heirloom vegetable varieties, traditional apple selections and historical flowering gardens are all worth the drive.

Stratford, Ont., is a Communities in Bloom national award-winning community. The town did not lose any of its floral charm during COVID-19. Bring walking shoes to explore 15 kilometers of trails connecting Lake Victoria to the formal Shakespearean Garden, a Japanese Garden, arboretum park and back to the very picturesque downtown to name only a few of the local garden hotspots.

Through the Garden Gate: After a two-year hiatus, Canada’s largest tour of private gardens was back in support of the Toronto Botanical Garden, June 11-12. This year’s tour was in Wychwood, a historic neighborhood of arts and crafts architecture that combines creativity and sophistication (sounds like a Cadillac commercial). This well-gardened enclave is in the heart of the city.

On this very special Garden Days Canada 2022, everyone is encouraged to take the time to enjoy the garden culture the country has to offer.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son, Ben, is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening and on Facebook.

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