Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington

If you asked me to suggest a place to spend a February afternoon in Ontario, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington would not have been the first thing that came to mind…or the second, or even the seventh.  Gardens…February…no.

The RBG is where I found myself yesterday, however.  The Orchid Society was hosting their annual show.  I didn’t know there was an Orchid Society, let alone a show, but my daughter’s art class had been invited to participate with a display of their artwork.  So of course we had to go – it’s not every day your child’s artistic efforts are on public display.

It turns out the RBG is a pretty cool place to go even in winter.  Their main building holds several atriums of plants from all over the world.  In addition to the orchid show, they were also hosting a Frog Show described as “ribbiting!” on the poster. I hadn’t gone there with the thought of writing an article in mind, so we just had a nice mosey around.

We ventured in, welcoming the heat coming from the temperature controlled rooms, although I was wishing I had hung up my coat by the time we entered the Mediterranean Room…the temperature required to keep Chilean plants at their best is not the greatest environment for Canadian winter fashion.


The frogs were on display and clearly not letting their celebrity status interfere with their regular routine…most were sleeping.  The ones that were awake were still not moving.  In fact I didn’t see a single frog so much as flex a flipper the entire time.  Those heat lamps must be really relaxing.

Waxy Monkey Frog
Waxy Monkey Frog

We had a tour of the orchid room which was pretty, but I was clearly out of my element.  I don’t usually notice flowers; I never buy any and my husband has learned not to get me plants for any special occasion unless he secretly wants them himself, because I will thank him, put it on the table, and not notice it again until a spider swinging on a withered branch catches my eye.  Clearly hours had gone into the creation of these orchid displays and ribbons for first, second and third prize were pinned to the winners.


After the orchid room we went in search of the high school’s art display.  All the kids’ drawings and paintings had been hung on a wall except for Madeline’s, which was displayed separate and apart on its own easel – I am assuming for no reason other than maternal pride they did so because hers was the best one.


Madeline's orchid; charcoal/chalk on paper
Madeline’s orchid; charcoal/chalk on paper

The RBG is the largest botanical garden in Canada and a National Historic Site with 2450 acres of nature on display.  They regularly hold lectures and host school trips to educate the public on the importance of conservation.  There are 27 km of hiking trails, two canoe launches and picnic grounds.  It also manages one of the largest freshwater marshlands in North America. Admission is $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for children 4-12; kids younger than 4 are free.  Trail users do not pay admission, just parking at meters located at all trailheads.  Leashed pets are welcome in the outdoor garden areas.  The RBG is fully accessible and companion animals are welcome throughout the entire facility.  There is a no smoking policy in effect on the entire property.

Directions:  From Toronto take the QEW to Hwy 403 West (Hamilton). Exit at Waterdown Road and go south on Waterdown to Plains Road West. Turn right onto Plains Road West and travel 2km; RBG will be on your left.

From Kitchener: take Hwy 401 E to Hwy 6 S. Follow Hwy 6 S for about 20 minutes to the York Road exit; make a left and then a right on the new Plains Road. Drive south over the 403. Turn left at the lights; continue on Plains Road West for about 1 km; the RBG will be on your right.

From Niagara/US:  take the QEW to Hwy 403 West (Hamilton). Exit at Waterdown Road. Drive  south to Plains Road West. Turn right onto Plains Road West; travel 2km; RBG will be on your left.

Published by

Lisa Hoadley

One 4-week internship short of a Journalism diploma (College of the North Atlantic, NL). Freelance writer/photographer specializing in travel and lifestyle assignments. 8th Place Winner in the 15th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition; 4th Place in Writer's Digest Writing Competition, Magazine Article Division.

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