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Visiting Gardens While Travelling

Gary Westlake

I suppose you could take your vacation on a beach somewhere, reading a book and sipping pina coladas. Relaxing is a good thing. But why not spend some of your downtime visiting some of the wonderful gardens this world has to offer?

You can get some great ideas for your garden. You cannot learn everything you need to know about designing your own garden in books. You need to see first hand how masters of the art of gardening arrange borders and display plants. You can talk to other gardeners who are almost always eager to share. If you happen to be a shutterbug like me, you will find lots of beautiful and interesting subjects.

You don't have to go far to find some great gardens. There are many right here in Ontario but how do you find them? One way is to ask around at your local horticultural society or sign up for one of the many bus tours that they sponsor. The Peterborough Horticultural Society, in the last couple of years has visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, the Toronto Botanical Gardens, the gardens at Casa Loma, and several private gardens. All of these were wonderful gardens to visit and not far away. The Norwood Horticultural Society recently organized a great tour of David Hinton's rhododenron garden, Sheila and Peter Keeping's garden (Peter is a Clematis grower), and the Macglachlin Garden in Oshawa - all this with a tour of a winery thrown in. There are a number of interesting gardens on the Bruce Penninsula. There is a brochure that tells you where they all are.

Some garden centres have display gardens. Griffins Garden centre near Lakefield has a large pond with a display garden around it. There are wonderful display gardens at Lost Horizons in Acton and at Gardens North near Ottawa. There is a book on Ontario gardens called Great Gardens to Visit by Patricia Singer. There is also a pamphlet put out by the Garden Committee of Ontario called Gardens and Arboreta of Ontario that lists a number of the major gardens to visit.

Another way to find what gardens to visit is to go on local garden tours that organizations put on as fundraisers. Here in Peterborough, we have a garden tour sponsored by the Art Gallery that was held last Sunday and a pond tour sponsored by the Peterborough Youth Services held on July 9.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel further, there are many great gardens in other parts of Canada. Among the premier gardens are the Montreal Botanical Garden, the Public Gardens in Halifax, the Vandusen Garden and the Butchart Gardens in BC and there are many others. There is a book called The Garden Lover's Guide to Canada by Larry Hodgson with a number of suggestions.

In the United States there are also many to visit. A number are listed on the following websites and

Europe has countless gardens to see. Just deciding which you have time to visit is a challenge. In England alone, there are Kew Gardens, Eden Project, Stourhead, Helligan, Rosemoore and many other public and private gardens. One of the best ways to find out where to go is to join the Royal Horticultural Society. They send you a magazine every month with all kinds of information and ideas and when you go there, you get reduced entry fees. You could also connect to them through the internet at Here is another useful site for the UK . In the Netherlands, there are the famous Keukenoff gardens where at the right time of year you can find an amazing display of tulips. For Italy, this site might be useful In every country you will find gardens of all types and sizes to explore. There are a number of books listed in under "garden tourist/gardens to visit".

So you do not have to stop gardening while you are on vacation. You can continue vicariously in the gardens of other gardeners all over the globe.