The day that our little family has been waiting for has finally arrived: The Royal Botanical Gardens Rock Garden has finally reopened after a 2 year, $20 million makeover.
Pre-makeover, I had only visited once, but instantly fell in love with the place. I brought my mom and kids there for a Mother’s Day adventure, and it was an oasis of peace and beauty in the middle of a large, busy city. Gardens of tulips ran through the garden like a river. Huge old trees loomed over head, shading the visitors and animals below. It was that Mother’s Day trip to the Rock Garden that drew me to an annual membership to the Royal Botanical Gardens the following November. [A membership gets you entrance and parking at all 5 campuses of the Gardens.]
Of course, the Garden was closed in the fall for the following 2 years of rejuvenation, meaning that this one perfect trip remained my only experience with the place. Until today.
We met up with a friend to explore the place together, and were honestly wowed by the everything. The new Welcome Centre is gorgeous and modern (and beautifully cool in this hot spring weather!!).
There remains a magical feeling about the garden. The planners managed to keep all of the rock stairs, which I’m amazed by in this day and age of Extreme Safety Conciousness, creating ‘secret’ passages all over the place. There’s a hidden waterfall and stone bridges.
I love that there are hardly any railings to be found – nothing to say, “keep away from here! Explore from a distance!” We didn’t have any staff come up to us and ask us to stay on the marked trail.
This photo could have been taken when the Rock Garden was first built in the 1930′s. There’s some sort of comfort that comes from wandering a place that has remain largely unchanged for almost 90 years.
However. I am disappointed by two things.
The first is that they removed so many large trees and didn’t replace them. When you have a garden located at the bottom of a bowl-like land feature, it’s bound to get a little hot and sunny. Trees are key. And now, there’s a very large open area that will not only be deserted all summer long in the 35 degree weather, but it also contributes to making the garden look much smaller than it did before.
The second is that the tulips seem to have all been relocated to the gardens up near the Welcome Centre. Do you notice the missing colours? Take a look at the difference between these two photos:
HOWEVER. When all is said and done, I am actually pleased with the final product. Would I have done things differently? Absolutely. Did I have $20,000,000 of my own money to make this happen? Absolutely not. I’m thrilled that the Rock Garden is finally open again, even more so that we live a mere 20 minute (child) bike ride away from it!
We shall be back. Again, and again, and again. And if you live anywhere near the Hamilton area, I would strongly encourage you to look into purchasing a membership!
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