Public Gardens

Great Summer Garden Escapes

Larry Hodgson published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings accessible to the public. This text was originally published in July 2014 in Canadian Garden News.

With summer weather upon us and your spring plantings settled, mulched and watered, it’s time to think about one of Canadian gardeners’ favorite activities: visiting other gardens.

All across Canada, there are beautiful public gardens just waiting for your visit. They come in every size imaginable and are found in a range of climate zones. Each offers great beauty and endless discoveries. You can choose to visit a local garden or, when traveling, add a garden or two to your agenda.

Plan a Garden Tour

Your first thought when planning a garden visit is to admire the colorful flowers. This is, naturally, a given. Most gardens offer a huge variety of blooms—all of them, of course, plants adapted to local growing conditions. Make sure you bring a notepad, either paper or virtual, as you’ll want to take down names for use in your own garden when you get home.

Jardin public d'Halifax à Halifax
Halifax Public Garden in Halifax. Photo : Markjt

Gardens are also great places to spot wildlife. The many blooming flowers attract hummingbirds and pollinating insects (butterflies, bees, and many more), and you’ll also find plenty of other types of birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other animals, depending on the region.


You may also be surprised to learn that many gardens play a role in conservation and preserve native habitats or display native flowers, some of them rare or facing extinction. Often these plants are unknown to the average gardener and well worth discovering.

Photography and Education

Photographers will find plenty to do in a garden. They have beautiful vistas just dying to be snapped and individual blooms begging for a close-up. Bring a macro lens and you’ll be absolutely stunned by the detail you are able to pick up inside the flowers.

Jardins de la Ferme expérimentale centrale d’Ottawa
Gardens of Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm.Photo : Richard Hinchcliff. Source : Jardins du Canada

Be sure to bring the kids and grandkids when you visit a garden. Large, open flowers are great teaching tools for some very basic facts of life, and the little ones will love the color and the wildlife.

And don’t forget that public gardens are wonderful sources of information. Most have personnel on site that you can talk to, as well as an information desk where you can ask questions. Even the plant labels—often including botanical names and the plant’s origin—are a great source of information. A number of gardens surround old homes or other sites of interest, so you can learn about the history of the region on panels located throughout the property, or take an organized tour if one is offered.

Jardins de la Ferme expérimentale centrale d’Ottawa
Gardens of Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm. Photo : Richard Hinchcliff. Source : Jardins du Canada

A Lovely Spot for a Picnic

Many gardens even encourage picnics (check on this beforehand!), so bring a lunch and make your visit a full day one. Just don’t feed the wildlife (human food can be very harmful to animals). Also, check beforehand to see if your dog is welcome: sometimes they are (on leash), sometimes not.

Do visit a garden the next time you travel: it’s something you’ll definitely become addicted to!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “Great Summer Garden Escapes

  1. Rhonda Millett

    Finally made it to Reford Gardens last summer in the Gaspesie. It was amazing, the blue poppies were worth it alone!

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