Exactly what constitutes a botanical garden is debated among professionals. A very conservative view is a scientific garden of this kind must be associated with a university in order to fulfill its objectives as an educational and research facility. Such a definition would restrict the number of Canadian botanical gardens to only 4 (University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, Laurentian and Memorial).
At the other end of the spectrum several societies have been formed around private plant collections, billing themselves as botanical gardens even though they may have no horticultural staff, and operate entirely with part-time volunteers. Such gardens are usually limited to plant display. An acceptable interpretation of a botanical garden falls somewhere between the 2 extremes, and included some fine botanical gardens associated with municipalities. Canadian gardens form part of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta and participate in the International Association of Botanical Gardens.
First Botanical Gardens
The early herbal or physic gardens were created by physicians and students of medicine to grow plants having medicinal or pharmaceutical properties. The first botanical gardens devoted to broader studies of plants, including those of both economic and horticultural significance, were developed in Italy: in Pisa (1543) and Padua (1545). Shortly thereafter, botanical gardens were established in Leipzig, Germany (1580); Leyden, Holland (1587); and Montpellier, France (1593).
In the 17th and 18th centuries, many gardens were founded to examine scientifically new plants introduced to Europe. Governments saw the potential of developing these plants as crops. The importance of botanical gardens in the introduction of new crop plants is exemplified by the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, England (established 1759), which pioneered the development of rubber, banana, tea, pineapple, coffee and cacao.
Many botanical gardens continue to introduce new plants, emphasizing both economic and ORNAMENTAL varieties. The tradition of systematic BOTANY (classifying and identifying plants) continues, and recent ecological studies are providing a better understanding of plant resources, particularly of rare and ENDANGERED PLANTS.
Development of Canadian Botanical Gardens
The first botanical garden was established in 1861 by George Lawson at Queen's College (now QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY) in Kingston, Ont, but it lasted only until the 1870s. In 1886 the Experimental Farms Act of the federal Department of Agriculture was passed and, one year later, an arboretum and botanical garden was initiated at the former Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa. Other research- and display-oriented gardens were later developed by the department at other stations.
The second university botanical garden was established at Vancouver by John Davidson in 1916. It continues to thrive as a separate academic service department of the University of British Columbia. The city of Montréal established the Jardin Botanique before WWII; it is now one of the major world gardens. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton were established in 1941. The postwar period saw several new gardens develop as population centres increased. A review of some Canadian botanical gardens follows.
Agriculture Canada Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Ottawa (established 1887, 55 ha), has some of the oldest cultivated woody specimens in Canada that have been evaluated for hardiness. Rose, hedge and rock garden annual and perennial test gardens are also present. Laurentian University Botanical Garden, Sudbury (established 1972, 7 ha), specializes in native plants of the region.
Author ROY L. TAYLOR
Links to Other Sites
The website for the magnificent Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC.
Royal Botanical Garden
The official website of the Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton.
The Plant List
Search this online database for information about one million plant species from around the world. Also, click on "major plant groups" at the bottom of the page to browse descriptions of species of interest. Fungi and algae are excluded. From the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK and the Missouri Botanical Garden in the US.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
See a selection of images of the visitor's centre at Vancouver's VanDusen Botanical Garden. From the website for structural engineering firm Fast & Epp, which won the inaugural World Architecture Engineering Award for this structure.
Seeds of Diversity
This down-to-earth site provides information about public-domain non-hybrid plants of Canadian significance, including garden vegetables, fruit, grains and ornamentals. From “Seeds of Diversity,” Canada’s Heritage Seed Program.
Quebec Society for the Protection of Plants
The Society brings together researchers from universities and federal and provincial governments, agronomists, biologists, professional foresters, technologists, students, as well as any person interested in plant protection. Members of the Society are concerned with theoretical and practical aspects of plant protection.
Greenheart Conservation Comapny LTD.
Check out the project photos and designs produced by Greenheart Conservation Comapny LTD., a company that designs, builds, and operates conservation-based canopy walkways and other nature-based attractions around the world.
UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research
The website for the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. Offers trails through beautiful west coast settings, research gardens, a library, and gift shop.
Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation
The website for Tofino Botanical Gardens, featuring gardens, forest, and shoreline that explore the relationship between culture and nature in Tofino, BC.
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Take a virtual tour of the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.
Kurimoto Japanese Garden
Information page about the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, named after Dr. Yuichi Kurimoto, the first Japanese national to graduate from the University of Alberta's Faculty of Arts. From the website for the University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden.
Montreal Botanical Garden
The website for the Montreal Botanical Garden, which features a collection of 21,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, and about 30 thematic gardens. Their website offers superb virtual exhibitions, photographs, information about ongoing research initiatives, and much more. Also links to their famous Japanese gardens.
Canadian Botanical Association
The website for the Canadian Botanical Association, the national organization for botanists in Canada. Click on the "Sections" link to access information about educational resources and programs.
Sheet Music From Canada's Past: Flowers
Scroll down the page to view a selection of finely illustrated covers of sheet music published in Canada prior to 1921 (click on the images for larger views). Check the menu on the left for links to audio clips and additional information about Library and Archives Canada's collection of sheet music.