I Never Promised You a Rock Garden

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. 

Royal Botanical Gardens Rock Garden

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!!). 

Royal Botanical Garden Rock Garden RenovationThere 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. 

RBG Rock Garden

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. 

RBG Rock GardenThis 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. 

RBG Rock Garden

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. 

RBG Rock Garden Opening

 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: 

RBG Rock Garden Makeover

RBG Rock Garden TulipsThere used to be tulips everywhere you turned. I love tulips. It makes me sad that they decided to replace the tulips with grass. 

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! 

RBG Rock Garden

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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Jenn vanOosten

I live in Hamilton, Ontario, and love my city. I'm a Netflixer, choral music geek, bookworm, inventor of recipes (I take Artistic Licence on EVERYTHING that I make), wife of one, mother of two, and owner of a neurotic Schnauzer. I respect people who respect others. I love good food that's well done, but my favourite lunch is KD & hotdogs. With ketchup. I'm addicted to Clearance Shopping. I will ALWAYS get the product that I want at the price that I want, eventually.


  1. How beautiful! I’ve been meaning to get up to the RBG for a while. And there’s another reason now!!

  2. This looks great even with all of the changes and loss of big trees

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