Highlights of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

April 15, 2015 11:00 am

image001One of the best, free attractions in the Niagara Falls area is the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, which is open all year round from dawn until dusk. Originally established in 1936 as an apprentice school for aspiring gardeners, the garden continues its run as an outdoor classroom, but now, it serves the students of the “School of Horticulture,” who tend the space and study for three years to become adept at the art and science of ornamental horticulture.

Home to countless species of plant and landscape design that is anything but routine, the Botanical Gardens is well worth a visit when you vacation in Niagara. From butterflies to herbs, here are some of its highlights.

1. The Niagara Garden Trail

Technically, the Botanical Gardens is one of the features within the Garden Trail, but because it is the most prominent feature, they enjoy a separate esteem. However, the other sites within the Garden Trail are worth a visit either before or after you enjoy the Botanical Gardens. They are: the Floral Clock, the Floral Showhouse, Queen Victoria Park, and Oakes Garden Theatre. Each of these sites is fully accessible, and their displays are changed at least four times a year so that each one reflects the current season.

2. The Arboretum

Covering the largest area of the Botanical Gardens, the arboretum is filled with a wide variety of trees including pine, birch, maple, elm, and fir. Paved paths and nature trails move in and out of the trees, and the grasses and other flora are allowed to grow taller than in other parts of the garden to encourage the growth of the trees. Rhododendrons and daffodils also abound here, as well as scores of other shrubs and ornamental trees.

3. The Herb Garden

A formal-style garden, this herb garden covers over 6,000 square feet. Planted in display beds, each bed is categorized according to the use of the herbs inside it. Some beds are filled with herbs used for dyes. Others are filled with those that end up in perfumes. Still others are categorized for their use in foods, drinks, medicines, homeopathic remedies, and more. A fascinating look at a wide variety of useful plants, the garden boasts a number of other pleasant features as well, including brick bed edging, obelisks, Haddonstone urns, a sundial, and even a knot garden.

4. The Butterfly Conservatory

image003Just outside the conservatory is an open-air butterfly garden planted with everything from milkweed to lilac to attract native butterflies like the Tiger Swallowtail, the Painted Lady, the Mourning Cloak, and the Monarch. Once you enter the conservatory, you’ll find a climate-controlled and tropical paradise with over 2,000 free flying butterflies representing dozens of species. There’s even a grow room where visitors can see butterfly eggs, larvae, pupae.

5. The Ornamental Grass Garden

This collection of grasses is planted in such a way as to draw attention to the various species’ shape, size, color, and texture. Some grasses grow little more than an inch high while others tower over 10 feet. Colors range from greens and yellows to blues, reds, and purples. The height of the grass season starts in the late summer and lasts through the winter.

The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens is one of the most fascinating places in the Niagara area. With over 100 acres to peruse, it doesn’t matter whether you want to add to your knowledge of plants or you just want a beautiful place to enjoy a picnic. Either way, it’s a beautiful place to visit.