Summer in Canada flew by. In my head, it is still late-May, and I am thinking about all the wonderful reading I am going to do. But alas, time flies whether or not you're having fun, and the flowers are still blooming where I am. I have been thinking a lot about keeping myself busy with activities that include people who are close to me, know me, and care about me. And with the changing of seasons on the horizon, I also urgently wanted to feel the warmth that summer brings just a little bit longer.
I've always been nostalgic about places and moments and smells, and with summer ending, when my friend Sally invited me to join her for a visit to Ontario's Royal Botanical Gardens, I couldn't say no. I decided to bring the camera along with me and keep some of the documents I would politely say, "no, thanks" to on any other day. Although my camera's digital viewfinders are from 2010, and definitely feel that way, the pictures turned out great.
Sally and I went to the gardens on a Monday. Monday, let me tell you, was h-o-t hot, and our original plans had us sitting in the full-sun rose garden at a sweltering 2 o'clock pm. So, we said "no, thanks" to that plan, re-organized our schedules a little bit, and headed to the gardens around 4:00 pm. We may or may not have grabbed some fries before we started walking around... but this is neither here nor there... and they were really good. I also had a burger.
Now, I have never been to the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) before, but it was really quite something. If I am not mistaken, and what I can tell now reading the map I've kept, there are four main sections. If you are visiting RBG for the first time, and are from out of town, I would recommend that you set aside at least four hours to view 2-3 of the sections that intrigue you the most. Trying to view everything just seems stressful, but if you want to, I would then set aside the entire day. And while the gardens are certainly walkable and refreshing, bring lots of water with you and move inside periodically (there are lots of flowers and plants inside the buildings!).
Perhaps its because I have so many fond memories of sitting with Mom or Dad on their lunch breaks at an indoor gardens in some office building in downtown Calgary, but my favourite part of the gardens was the indoor Mediterranean Garden.
These indoor gardens smelled much like those moments from my childhood, so we stayed in here for too long and came out looking like we had showered in our clothes. Nevertheless, Sally and I took a lot of pictures of the stunning plants that have adapted to the world's Mediterranean climate zones. (We also took probably one too many photos of the koi pond, but... like...:)
Yeah... Sally took that photo. Nice one, Sally!!
Mediterranean plants bloom from late January to early May. So, a visit to Greece in the spring would feel like a dream! I was so excited in this two-level garden that I let my lens get blurry. I snapped about 50 duplicates. Again, I probably stayed in the indoor gardens for too long. Sally's amazing photography skills, as always, came to my rescue:
Important note: the Mediterranean Garden has, as you can probably guess, Mediterranean temperatures. So, it's hot. Enjoy your time, take your photos, but maybe do not spend more than 20-30 minutes in this particular section (your sweat glands will also help to warn you!).
Because of my own associations with places like Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, another section that I will remark on was Hendrie Park. This sprawling park boasts rose gardens, a teahouse (!!), and a scented garden, among so many other things. Hendrie Park, as you will quickly realize, is a very large section, with little shade. There were a few wonderful spots on the grass with shade, but on a busy day, I would suspect these fill up quite quickly. Luckily, the indoor spaces, restaurants, as well as the teahouse refresh and energize!
And I was obviously not too upset about all the sun(flowers):
We spent the majority of our time in Hendrie Park. The lavender here was especially remarkable, and we enjoyed our long rest on the grass. We were surrounded by dozens of butterflies and bees. (I got stung by a bee for my first time ever in May of 2017, and it was a sad event.) The break gave me and Sally time to chat and go through all the photos we had taken.
Among the roses, tea, and lavender, I found Hendrie Park's medicinal garden perhaps the most intriguing. Here were plants serving as gastrointestinal, cancer-fighting, respiratory, immune system, reproductive, urinary system, and nervous system medicines, and even eye medications!
Before leaving RBG, we headed over to Laking Gardens to view the perennial gardens, ornamental grasses, peonies, clematises, and hostas!! The "Hosta Walk" was my favourite. Also, I have no idea what these flowers are called, since there were never signs to mark them. These were my favourite plant of the day, found sprawling all over RBG:
These orangey, desert tones are taking me into the fall months here in North America!
For (Young) Adults:
The artist and poet that I will share here is Nayyirah Waheed. Waheed's ability to forge meaning with concision is breathtaking. She makes even the smallest words carry the most significance.
Waheed's poetry finds a rightful place online. I find her work so inspiring because she uses her online presence and platform to spread her artwork—artwork that speaks to her own lived experience as a Black woman in the U.S. And while a lot of her shorter poems are available online, on her Instagram account, her longer pieces are especially rich with meaning.
"Ontario Royal Botanical Gardens Visitor Guide." 2018
Waheed, Nayyirah. Nejma. CreateSpace, 2014.
My name is Tasha Guenther. I currently live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada while I finish my PhD in Cultural Studies with a concentration in digital cultures at McMaster University. I enjoy writing short stories and non-fiction pieces for grade school children.
Alongside my learning, studying, and thinking about digital platforms and critical theory, I really appreciate long conversations with close friends, reading poetry, and taking photos of my cat. Learn more about me here or connect with me on my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.