RBG Laking Garden Irises and Peonies

We went to see the Laking Garden irises this morning, not realizing it was going to be so hot. Why do I never check the weather?

RBG Laking Garden entrance

It was 31 degrees in the shade, my friends, and the Laking Garden is laid out like an English garden – very open and very sunny!

RBG Laking Garden knot hedges

But it was beautiful!!!

Tree Peonies

We knew the irises were blooming but were completely surprised by the tree peonies. The front entrance was covered with pink, white, red, and yellow blooms.

Tree peonies RBG Laking Garden RBG Laking Garden tree peonies


The irises blew us away. Everyone’s used to the typical purple variety found in most gardens but the colors here were incredible. The collection contains at least 1068 types of iris of which over 600 are of the tall bearded class. The Tall Bearded collection shows breeding trends from the 1920’s to the present day featuring both heritage and modern cultivars. There are also Standard Dwarf Bearded irises and Intermediate Bearded Iris.

Irises at the RBG Laking GardenRBG Laking Garden irisesRBG Laking Garden irises spring 2018

You will also find Siberian, Spuria and a modest selection of Species Iris. The genus Iris  is thought to contain up to 300 species of which nearly all are distributed in temperate Northern hemisphere zones. They are found mainly in semi-desert or cold rocky mountainous areas of Eurasia and Asia but can also be found along grassy slopes, meadowlands and riverbanks. The Blue Flag Iris is a native wildflower of Ontario and grows in wet areas.

RBG Laking Garden irisesIrises are named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow

There were also some nice shady sections in the garden to escape the heat. It looks like the hostas here will be quite lovely this summer.

Pagoda behind the peonies at the RBG Laking Garden Hostas in the shade at the RBG Laking Garden Trails at the RBG Laking Garden

Sargent’s Crabapple at the RBG Arboretum

The crabapple trees are blooming now and full of bees!

Sargent's crabapple tree blossoms and honey bee

And they have such a lovely smell.

I didn’t realize that crab apple trees are an important tree for pollinators. They bloom early and continue longer so there is a continuous supply of food. There are also far more species than just honey bees that benefit from this and benefit us. We have over 700 native species of bees in Canada as well as other pollinators like butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, some beetles and hummingbirds.

How can you help our precious pollinators?

Check out the article Pollinator Health to learn about the importance of protecting bees and other pollinators, and the actions you can take to help.

Perhaps you’ll even add a Sargent’s crabapple to your yard.

What’s blooming now at the Arboretum? Lilacs

There are so many beautiful lilacs blooming at the Royal Botanical Gardens Arboretum today. If only pictures could smell!

Katie Osborne Lilac Collection

This collection is named after the wife of Colin Osborne as a memoriam.  There are over 745 plants in the dell and surrounding area making it one of the more diverse lilac collections in the world. Thanks to the informative displays we learned that around 21 different species occur in the wild, originating in Asia and Europe. All those lovely lilacs I saw as a child growing “wild” in the ditches are offspring of imported plants.

Press on any picture to see the full size image.

Color classification is established by the Wister Code, named after John Wister. The color catagories are

  • I. White
  • II. Violet
  • III. Blueish
  • IV. Lilac
  • V. Pinkish
  • VI. Magenta
  • VII. Purple

The flowers are also classified as either Single – with four petals, or, Double – with more than four petals.

So my classification for the lilac below would be D3 (Double, blueish). I’m probably wrong though.

Double blueish lilac at the Katie Osborne Collection, Hamilton

Purple cut leaf lilac at RBG Arboretum, Hamilton
Cut Leaf Lilac

The Cut Leaf Lilac is an unusual variety that I had never seen before. I loved the airy nature of the plant compared to the typical dense lilac bush.

Breeders like Victor Lemoine, Manitoba-born Frank Leith Skinner, and Canada’s first female hybridizer, Isobella Preston, have all contributed to the wide variety of bloom size, shape, color, and, of course, scent. The dell was incredible today with the symphony of colored blossoms and individual perfumes.

More information about color classification and identification can be found on the Royal Botanical Garden website.

Woodland and Kippax Gardens

Kippax Garden

Virginia bluebells were everywhere.

This garden opened in 2008 when more than 14,000 perennials and grasses were planted. Helen M. Kippax, the garden’s namesake, was one of the founding members of the Canadian Society for Landscape Architecture.

It is a display of the beauty and sustainability of native plants including more than 130 native species. The design, inspired by local plant communities such as prairie, oak savanna, Carolinian forest, and wetland pond sits on about one acre. Instead of individual plants the focus is on plant communities and a more sustainable approach to garden layout.

virginia bluebells in the Helen M. KIppax garden

Woodland Garden

From the Kippax Garden you can enter the Woodland Garden.

paperbark maple in the morrison woodland garden RBG
Paperbark Maple

There is one particularly stunning magnolia tree in the middle of the Morrison Woodland Garden. It was exploding with blooms.

Magnolia at RBG

Helleborus in the Morrison Woodland Garden
starbust magnolia in the Morrison Woodland garden
Starburst Magnolia

There were also some incredible tulips in the scented garden.

tulips in the scented garden RBG lost a tree at RBG Magnolia in the Morrison Woodland Garden tulips at RBG

Unfortunately RBG lost some beautiful pine trees in a recent windstorm. They were huge and wonderful, and now only one is left.

Cherry Blossoms and Magnolias at RBG

We found a profusion of magnolia blooms at the RBG Arboretum today.

Bugs on magnoliasMagnolias at RBG ArboretumRBG Arboretum Cherry Blossoms and Magnolias

The cherry blossoms weren’t at their peak by the time we came. Someone mentioned that with all the wind and rain they didn’t last as long this year.

Cherry blossoms at the RBG Arboretum

There were also three different colors of Eastern Redbud blooming. It is considered a native species because of one recorded observation on the south end of Pelee Island in 1892 by the Canadian botanist John Macoun. The species name, canadensis, is the Latin form of Canadian.

Redbud trees blooming at the RBG Arboretum

The Starburst magnolias are definitely our new favorites. This species was introduced to the United States in 1862 by Dr. George Robert Hall. It comes from the Ise Bay area of central Honshū, Japan’s largest island. It has a much more delicate flower that some of the other larger, showy, pink blooms.

Starburst Magnolia

There are also two lovely sycamore trees that have huge branches dipping down and touching the ground. This American sycamore is from the 1940’s when the arboretum was opened.

There is a sycamore tree in Windsor that is 225 years old, with branches that are 120 years old. It has been recognized as an Ontario Heritage Tree. Some sycamores have been known to live 500-600 years.

Forests Ontario has an interactive map where you can search Heritage Trees all over Ontario.

The Royal Botanical Gardens Rock Garden

We weren’t really sure what to expect when we went to the Rock Garden today. We knew that it had been made in an abandoned quarry and it reminded me of a book I read when I was a teenager. It was a mystery, I think, and there was a house or estate built in a similar abandoned quarry – maybe an Agatha Christie or something like that. If anyone remembers please leave a comment.

Royal Botanical Garden's Rock Garden, Hamilton

Anyhow, this no longer abandoned quarry is lovely and surprising and has the most delightful little paths leading you to secret places. We found some children hiding in a “cave”, their mother said it was their favorite spot in the garden.

RBG Rock Garden

There was no water yet in the waterfalls or river.  I’m sure it will be splendid when it gets going.

Pink Flowering Almond
Pink Flowering Almond

Double BloodrootNarcissus at the RBG Rock GardenDouble NarcissusMagnolia

European Beech

There are also the most incredible European Beeches near the parking lot.  They are old, and wrinkly, and remind me of elephant legs, and they’re beautiful.

European Beech at the RBG Rock Garden European Beech at the Rock Garden RBG European Beech closeup European Beech bark

Cherry Blossoms

The cherry trees were also blooming but it wasn’t the best light to capture them.

Cherry blossoms Cherry blossoms at the RBG Rock Garden

First Hike Through the Cherry Hill Gate

Through the Cherry HIll Gate opens the Hendrie Valley Trail system. Everything is still overwintering but there are plenty of birds, squirrels and chipmunks around. Make sure you bring some seed because they will come and eat from your hand. Unfortunately we didn’t have any.

Grindstone Marsh Trail Trumpeter swan, Grindstone Marsh Trail Boardwalk along the North Valley Trail, Hendrie Valley Park Grindstone Creek, Hendrie Valley Trails Hendrie Valley Trails

We did find some signs of spring in a patch of early snowdrops.


We also wandered though the RBG grounds and found the Bloodroot Sculpture. It’s part of the larger Dan Lawrie International Sculpture Collection

Bloodroot Sculpture

The Hendrie Park Gates  – surrounding the South end of the Scented Garden – were constructed in recognition of the Hendrie family, who previously owned the lands on which the garden now sits. The fountain isn’t yet in working order but it’s still a lovely spot.

Hendrie Gates