When you think of museums in Burlington, perhaps only two come to mind. There’s Joseph Brant House and there’s Ireland House, right?
Well, add Hendrie Park at the Royal Botanical Gardens to the list too. It’s much more than just a park — it’s a living museum, filled with nature’s treasures.
This living plant museum not only contains 18 different gardens but also hosts two Garden Music Nights each week throughout the summer. Tuesday is Country Music Night and Wednesday night features Red-Hot Jazz and Cool Blues.
I’ve asked it over and over again on this blog, but I’ll ask it once more: “How did I not know about this?”
I had heard of Hendrie Park before, of course — having passed by its magnificent wrought iron gates many times — but I had no idea what was hiding behind those gates.
We visited expecting a relaxing outdoor concert set amongst a few flowers. But what we experienced was so much more.
The Hendrie Park gardens include everything from its famous Centennial Rose Garden to medicinal, scented, veggie and wildflower gardens.
In the centre of the rose garden, surrounded by trellises of climbing plants, is the Tea House. It’s just what you’d imagine a tea house to be, featuring white wicker furniture with floral table cloths draped under floral tea cups.
Good thing they also sell snacks for hungry boys.
In front of the Tea House are beautiful, infinity-edged reflecting pools containing a display of jewel-toned water lilies set against a background of dark water.
When we visited the park for Country Music Night, the sun’s rays were reflected beautifully which helped magnify the impressive rose collections.
When I returned for the Jazz concert the next night, it was raining. The ripples from the rain drops made the reflecting pools seem all the more serene.
We made our way over to the giant Rose Garden Tent that welcomes over 20 musical acts throughout the summer.
On Tuesday nights, RBG goes a little bit country!
“Get ready for hot summer nights filled with inspiring performances from home-grown Canadian talent,” their website proclaims.
We enjoyed a fantastic concert by Little White Lies playing covers of many popular country songs from the past two decades.
The next night was a more soulful sound from the Loose
Quartet. This happened to be the same band we saw a
few weeks earlier
few weeks earlierat Spencer Smith Park.
These concerts happen rain or shine. I loved that while it was pouring outside, the audience could continue to enjoy the fresh air concert inside.
The patter of the raindrops against the tent seemed to amplify the bluesy sound. The soulful rendition of “Summertime” was especially poignant.
Not everyone chose to sit beneath the tent. Some preferred the cover of trees and umbrellas to stay dry.
I was hungry for supper (as usual) and treated myself to a plate from their BBQ — a jumbo dog, potato salad and fresh corn on the cob, grilled in the husk.
Behind the big white tent are the original cast iron gates that remain from when this property was the Hendrie family farm.
In 1932, the Hendrie family retained Frederick Flatman to design and construct these wrought iron gates patterned after “The Backs” at Trinity College, Cambridge, England.
Flatman embellished the Hendrie Gates design with symbols appropriate to our New World setting: a sheaf of Durham wheat, a cluster of Ontario grapes, and a horseshoe.
The craftsmanship of his wrought iron work is distinguished; the Gates were designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1991.
On the other side of the gates is the Scented Garden, with its traditional stone walls, gravel paths, boxwood edging, and cooling central fountain.
The Scented Garden explores the range of scents through the use of annuals, perennials and shrubs that produce scented flowers as well as scented, “scratch and sniff” leaves.
“Stop and smell the flowers,” is how the saying goes. This is not hard to do in the Scented Garden as the air is filled with fragrance. But, Hendrie Park is also a place to “stop and read the signs.” Informational plaques are everywhere in this park providing significant insight into exactly what you are seeing (and smelling).
Veggie Village is a display garden showcasing the many ways in which you can grow vegetables at home. The garden consists of nine vegetable demonstration plots as well as an interpretive zone where visitors can learn why and how we should all be eating and growing our own local produce.
Across the way sits the “Green Thumb Club” where kids in summer Discovery Camps cultivate their own plants and vegetables.
Of course, I haven’t described other highlights like the World of Botany, the Annuals or the Woodland Garden. I’ll leave these for you and your family to explore. Please share your experience at Hendrie Park in the comments form below or on my Facebook page.
Take time to stop and smell the flowers and listen to live music. Life is too short not to. You deserve it!