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Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton: Arboretum

The Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton (RBG), Ontario, has a lilac festival in May each year at its Arboretum, which is well worth a visit -- both the festival and the arboretum.

The RBG is well signposted from the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and highway 403 in and around the Hamilton area.

And, of course, North American visitors can fly into Hamilton Airport or even Buffalo Airport, though you do have to cross the border in that case.

A visit to the RBG can be tied with a visit to the African Lion Safari or Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, both of which are reasonably close nearby.

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton, Lilacs and Butterflies

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Arboretum sign

The Lilac Festival in late May showcases the Botanical Gardens more than 600 varieties of lilac in a pleasant woodland setting along the edges of Hamilton Bay and adjoining Cootes Paradise Sanctuary for Ontario wildlife.

A trail, Captain Cootes Trail, connects with the RBG trails in the Arboretum's Lilac Dell.

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Lilac Festival

The Lilac Dell walks include some that go down steep sides into a valley and through woods to the water's edge so be sure you are wearing sensible footwear. This isn't a place for high heels.

There are, however, walks, like the Lilac Walk at the entrance, that are very level and are fine for wheelchairs or those who aren't as steady on their feet as they once were.

The Lilac Dell includes many developed by a Canadian, Isabella Preston, and consequently called 'Preston hybrids'. The Arboretum's whole lilac collection is named for another Canadian woman lilac enthusiast, Katie Osborne.

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Lilacs and black swallowtail butterfly

Lilacs are one of the first trees to flower in Ontario and their scent tells us that summer is on its way, sometimes long before the temperature does.

Brought to Canada by Europeans, the hardy lilac can be found way up north -- everywhere trees will grow, which made it popular with pioneers for its use as a scent aa well as a reminder of home.

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Lilacs and yellow swallowtail butterfly

Butterflies are attracted to the blossoms as much as people and a visit to see the lilacs is also usually a visit to see some butterflies.

Here a yellow swallowtail is lunching on lilac nectar while the photo above shows a black swallowtail is doing the same.

Other Things to See

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton, Ontario, Canada,  Arboretum chestnut tree in flower

An Arboretum is a garden of trees and the Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton's is open most of the year. Even after the lilacs are finished, it's well worth visiting for the the beauty of the walks and the many other flowering trees. This chestnut is a good example.

Raspberry House, an old farmhouse on the site, was the home of the family who originally owned and farmed the land. Today, it's the headquarters of the Bruce Trail Association.

If you've enjoyed this page, you may want to visit our Laking Gardens page as well.

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