View from upper garden Photo by David J. Elliott

It’s almost ready! The Royal Botanical Gardens held a sneak preview of its Rock Garden Rejuvenation Project on Sunday, June 14th. Wearing bright green hard hats (yep, the colour was intentional) and yellow vests, since construction is still underway, the rain held off long enough for us to get a great first public viewing of what’s to come. WOW! Spectacular is the only word to describe things so far …

No more climbing over rocks to get from place to place, accessibility challenges are a thing of the past. The new garden is beautifully laid out with winding paved walkways that slope gradually. Wide, meandering natural stone staircases (railings to be added) join upper and lower gardens. For posterity, many original pathways and staircases were retained. Running throughout the lower bowl, the new water features will be a huge draw. Spanned with bridges, the design is a subtle nod to the Oriental in its architecture — appropriate, since rock gardens originated in the East and Burly’s twin city is Itabashi, Japan. Special attention has been paid to lighting, making the garden fully accessible in the evenings. Très romantique for an evening wedding! Music from outdoor speakers adds to the ambience — someone at the RBG was inspired to think about adding music.

There are three garden areas, perennial and spring gardens and numerous flowering shrubs. Much of the plant material is original with new additions and more to come. Emphasis has been placed on perennials in this rejuvenation, cutting down on daily maintenance, but banks of bulbs and annuals ensure ongoing bursts of seasonal colour. I was looking for the name of a plant and our Tour Guide said labelling is already underway by summer students. The visitor centre, said to be state of the art, and a café are in mid-stage construction. The popular Rock Garden Tea House? It’s still there. Given a gorgeous face-lift inside and out, including a large propane fireplace inside, it’s to be renamed The Garden House.

View from upper garden Photo by David J. Elliott
View from upper garden
Photo by David J. Elliott
With Noreen McPhail, former RBG Tour Guide Photo by David J. Elliott
With Noreen McPhail, former RBG Tour Guide
Photo by David J. Elliott
Alternate view from upper garden. Photo by David J. Elliott
Photo by David J. Elliott
Mixed Planting. Photo by David J. Elliott
Visitor and Corporate Event Centre. Photo by David J. Elliott
Meandering stone staircase. Photo by David J. Elliott
Water feature. Photo by David J. Elliott
Lower Bowl and view to Visitor Centre on upper level
Photo by David J. Elliott
Photo by David J. Elliott
Lower Pathway. Photo by David J. Elliott
Photo by David J. Elliott
The Garden House. Photo by David J. Elliott

A $20 million project, this renovation will make the Rock Garden a year-round tourist destination and corporate facility which will only reinforce Burlington’s ranking as the #1 mid size city to live in Canada (read our post on this).

Originally a Depression Era make-work initiative, the Rock Garden has been around for more than 80 years. It’s never looked better! Can’t wait to see it finished. Grand Opening is set for Spring 2016. We’ll keep you posted on updates at the Rock Garden, including any public tours/previews tentatively on the agenda for this fall, so check back with us regularly.

Raising money to complete the garden is ongoing under the campaign Rock Garden Memories, with husband and wife philanthropists David Braley and Nancy Gordon matching community donations up to $2 million. If, like most Burlington residents, you have fond memories attached to the RBG and its gardens, you might think about giving. The RBG is currently in the process of raising the last 2 million for project completion.

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Joyce Turner-Gionet is a freelance marketing, advertising and technical copywriter experienced in corporate, agency and small business environments. She blogs and writes freelance feature articles and people and business profiles for magazines. Joyce’s Happy Places: Family. Friends. A frothy cappuccino with brown sugar and cinnamon. Anywhere I can hear waves on water.