GPOD on the Road: Gardens Around Niagara Leave a comment

Happy Friday, GPODers!

Last summer I went on a bucket-list trip, taking my camper van from my home state of Connecticut across Canada to Vancouver Island, and back across the US. It was a wild ride that exceeded all of my expectations, and I captured some amazing gardens and flowers along the way.

Today I’m sharing a treat from the very beginning of my journey—gardens in and around Niagara Falls, Ontario. Across from the roaring falls is Oakes Garden Theatre, which serves as the entrance to Queen Victoria Park, and the tranquility you’ll find there is unbelievable considering the massive crowds jostling for photos just steps away.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to enjoy all that Queen Victoria Park had to offer, but I did make another stop nearby that had more plantings worth sharing.

formal garden beds with red flowers and traditional hedging

When you approach Oakes Garden Theatre, you think you’re entering the grounds of an eclectic private estate, and the hustle and bustle of the tourist attractions that surround the falls quickly slips away.

It creates a truly surreal kind of experience. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the plant choices also added to this “where the heck am I?” feeling. You don’t often see castor bean (Ricinus communis, Zones 9-11 or as an annual) grown in public gardens because of the toxicity of their seeds. I imagine these get replaced long before they go to seed, but an eye-catching gamble none the less!

long border of plants at oakes garden theatre

But the plants aren’t the only elements that strike you—though this long border of elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta, Zones 8–10 or as a tender bulb) with red begonias is massively impressive—the architecture gives the illusion that this garden was teleported from another era.

To give some perspective on just how close this garden is to the falls… You can still see the mist! This was a beautiful Saturday morning in July, so the crowds were abundant. After fighting through the crowds, these gardens were a much-needed sanctuary of peace and quiet.

stone and gravel path cutting through various trees and shrubs

Formal garden beds not your cup of tea? You can explore through the more naturalistic plantings on display. Not much was blooming in this area, but plenty of gorgeous foliage from all sorts of shrubs and trees.

shaded garden pond surrounded by trees

And even shaded garden ponds! If Niagara Falls wasn’t enough water for you in one day, enjoy the cool shade and sit by a pond much less exhilarating and far more relaxing.

niagara falls with formal hedging in the foreground

Though formal gardens aren’t often my favorite designs, these uniquely-shaped hedges were a highlight of this visit. The swirling, wave shapes were a great representation of the falls, casting up their mist in the background, while still maintaining a very sophisticated look.

rows of pleached trees

Yet another unexpected garden feature, these meticulously pleached trees. Pleaching (the structural training of any trees by manipulating branches) requires serious planning, religious pruning, and lots of time. Something you’d expect to see at the Gardens of Versailles, not at a public park across the street from Niagara Falls.

two large Alaskan cedars

OK, OK – my last photo of green. But I just had to share these towering Alaskan cedars (Cupressus nootkatensis, Zones 4–8). This garden was full of gems for any woody-plant lover.

three container plantings with bright green foliage and hot pink flowers

If you’ve made it this far, your reward are these colorful arrangements I saw when I made the 30 minute drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. If you’re looking to escape all the lights and sounds of Niagara Falls, this quaint town on the shores of Lake Ontario is a must-visit. Regular GPOD contributor Cherry Ong shared some stunning photos of the container displays on Queen Street a couple summers back (GPOD on the Road: Niagara-on-the-Lake) and seeing everything in person did not disappoint.

Lastly, a gorgeous garden bed with plenty of room to sit and admire this incredible cornucopia of color.

Thanks for joining me on this look back at a wonderful memory. More gardens, stories, and photos from this trip to come. And let me know if you plan on traveling to any gardens this summer!


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

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