Surround me with flowers, butterfly bushes, and trees of all sizes and I’m a happy mom. Add my two favourite kids into the mix and I’m just about giddy with joy. My two loves were brought together on a recent visit to Montreal’s Botanical Garden where my boys and I enjoyed an afternoon visit to one of our city’s best attractions. From breathing in the sweet smells of the rose bushes, trailing our hands through the grass, and waving hello to the koi and great blue herons; it was a beautiful and all-around awesome day.
75 hectares to explore
The lush gardens are a sensory delight through spring, summer, and fall, and the grounds were even open this past winter for COVID-weary walkers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers looking for space to enjoy the outdoors.
Spending the day admiring the 22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, ponds, and the more than 20 beautifully themed gardens is a refreshing way to rejuvenate your body and soul.
While wandering the gardens on your own, take the chance to check out some of the summer and fall activities throughout the site.
Until September 2, you can take advantage of the free electric mini-train transport service that’s a fun way to get around, or a great way to give tuckered-out toddlers a break. The 25-minute ride around the perimeter of the park includes five stops and you can get on or off at any one of them. Priority is given to those with reduced mobility and with COVID-19 restrictions, there is limited space, so if you miss out on one ride you can try for the next. For schedules and boarding points consult: espacepourlavie.ca/en/mini-train-free-shuttle-service-jardin-botanique
Not just home to flowers, this summer the gardens are also host to a small flock of Chantecler chickens. Until September 6, guides are raising visitors’ awareness of the possibilities and issues of urban farming and aim to inspire you with a demonstration balcony dedicated to urban agriculture. You can ask for tips on optimizing your gardening spaces, discover unusual plants, and receive information on keeping hens. For dates and times, visit calendrier.espacepourlavie.ca/the-urban-vegetable-garden
And right up to October 31, take the guided tour Beyond gathering and collecting plants in the First Nations Gardens. Explore the intricacies of the variety of plants that are still picked and collected today by Indigenous Peoples for consumption and medicines. And learn more about the ceremonies, and practices surrounding these plants and their value by the First Nations and Inuit. The tours are offered three times per day and last 15 minutes. You can find the full schedule and info here: calendrier.espacepourlavie.ca/useful-plants-of-the-first-nations-920198
We particularly enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the Japanese Gardens where the boys hung over the bridges to catch a glimpse of the turtles and multi-coloured koi. You can also view the exhibition Enchanting Botanical Prints that presents the works of artist Sandrine de Borman, who draws inspiration from the world of plants.
At the nearby Chinese Garden, get to know a rural Chinese family that lives, works, and experiences the land in its own way, as part of China: Ties to the Land exhibition. And make your way over to the Frédéric Back Tree Pavilion to have a ride on the interactive swing and reflect on trees and their place in nature as you take in the exhibition In the Company of Trees.
The highlight for my boys included the Toxic Garden (of course) with its poisonous plants, and I happily wandered about the perennials and vegetables snapping photos of plant markers as reference for future shopping trips and wondering “why don’t my flowers look like these?”
Before heading home, stop off at the café terrasse to enjoy some strawberry and rhubarb ice cream or grab a homemade ginger lemonade at the open-air café. You can also peruse the gift shop and check out the selection of eco-friendly products made by Quebec artists and craftspeople.
Things to note:
- All of the public areas are wheelchair accessible, including the pavilions, most trails, and washroom facilities.
- A breastfeeding room is available for parents and is located close to the horticultural information counter.
- Make sure to pick up a map at the entrance or download it on your phone so you can locate the various gardens and find bathrooms and food services.
Montreal Botanical Garden
4101 Sherbrooke St. E., Montreal, H1X 2B2
Note that purchasing fixed-time tickets online is highly recommended, and make sure to read about the health measures in place before your visit. Tickets can be purchased here: espacepourlavie.ca/en/ticketing