royal botanical garden flower

A Mediterranean escape in Ontario

Story by Danielle Todd

BURLINGTON, ONTARIO — The outdoor growing season is long over in Ontario, but the flora still blooms at the Royal Botanical Gardens in this city just outside of the Greater Toronto Area. While most of the outdoor gardens are closed for the winter, the main building remains open.

royal botanical gardens mediterranean garden

The Mediterranean garden is one of the highlights of a visit to Burlington's main attraction. (Danielle Todd photo)

Among the indoor botanical exhibits, the RBG features a Mediterranean garden. It’s an all-season attraction but the best time to see the plants is in January and February, says communications manager Nick Kondrat. That’s because the plants in the Mediterranean region flower early in the year to avoid the harsh, arid summers.

Climate controlled to 21 Celsius degrees with a touch of humidity to support vegetation normally found in the subtropical regions, the greenhouse is home to fig, olive and a variety of citrus trees. Along with the soothing sound of trickling water from a small koi pond, the combination of blooming hibiscus, tangerine blossoms and lemon balm is delightfully calming.

It’s a short walk around the 12,000-square-foot, two-level facility, but with more than 250 species of plants, there’s a lot to take in. Look carefully and watch your step as this unique conservatory is also home to a variety of lizards to control pests.

You’ll want to leave yourself at least 30 minutes for strolling the greenhouse. Once you experience the tranquility and warmth, though, you might stay a little longer, especially on a cold, grey, winter day. For those of us who can’t make it to Santorini this season, a visit to the Mediterranean garden will feel like a little vacation.

Upcoming Events at the RBG

If it’s not serenity you’re looking for, there’s plenty of action in other parts of the RBG centre:

  • Santa and his reindeer are visiting during the holiday season.
  • While at the RBG, visitors are also invited to check out the model train demonstrations. The Burlington Model Railway club and Central Ontario Garden Railway association will be creating an intricate miniature world for tiny trains to navigate.
  • If you’re looking for inspiration for your own holiday décor, RBG’s Doorways to the Holidays will feature close to 100 holiday-themed decorated doors. The doors are donated or scavenged, then individually decorated by RBG staff, their sponsors and local community groups. It’s a collective effort that not only reflects the spirit of the holidays, but also the creativity and resourcefulness of the community.
  • Then, after the holidays, it’ll be time to break your diet resolutions at Chocolate: The Exhibition. From January 28 to April 15, you can learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about chocolate from cacao bean farming to a foil-wrapped treat. Chocolate-related events will be held almost daily, including school programs, kid’s camps and public activities. Most of these events will involve sampling, but don’t worry about the calories. They don’t count when it’s educational.


Royal Botanical Gardens Burlington Ontario

The Royal Botanical Gardens has loads of activities this winter. (Danielle Todd photo)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (check RBG’s website for special holiday hours).
Admission: $10 for adults, $5.75 for children 5-12 (children under 5 are free).
Location/contact: 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, ON. Tele: (905) 527-1158

How to get there:
From Toronto
Queen Elizabeth Way to Highway 403 West (Hamilton). Exit at Waterdown Road. Travel 800 metres south along Waterdown Road to Plains Road West. Turn right onto Plains Road West and travel 2 km. Turn left into the RBG parking lot.

From London and Kitchener-Waterloo
Highway 401 East to Highway 6 South. Follow Highway 6 South for about 25 km. Exit onto York Road, make a left and then a right on the new Plains Road and drive south crossing over the 403. Turn left at the lights to continue on Plains Road West for about 1 km, passing the glass building. Turn right into the RBG parking lot.

From the Niagara Region
Queen Elizabeth Way to Highway 403 West (Hamilton). Exit at Waterdown Road. Travel 800 metres south along Waterdown Road to Plains Road West. Turn right onto Plains Road West and travel 2km. Turn left into the RBG parking lot.

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