Day 5: The MUN Botanical Garden – One of St. John’s Best Kept Secrets

By Lauren Saunders
June 14, 2013

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden is the province’s premier botanical garden and one of St. John’s best kept secrets. Located near centre city, the  Garden, a 100 acre nature reserve, incorporates  five nature trails, a greenhouse, and a large cultivated garden area for the public to enjoy.

Rhododendron Border – The garden recently celebrated their annual Rhododendron Festival

On a recent visit to the MUN Botanical Garden, Environmental Educator, Christine Byers took us on a tour. Here are some of our highlights:

The Heritage Garden

The Heritage Garden has a very interesting story. Each plant has been a gift to the Garden from someone who can show the lineage of that plant dating back before confederation. To explain, the garden considers 1949, the year Newfoundland joined Canada, to be their heritage threshold. If a plant has been in the province before that date, it is considered a heritage plant. This designation indicates that the plant is not native to the province, but has flourished here after being handed down from one family member to another for many generations.  Flowers introduced in one community were often passed along to neighbors and nearby relatives, and thus moved up and down the shores to different communities.  Each plant in the Heritage Garden has a story. For example, the Fair-Maids-of-France, a white buttercup found in the garden can date back to the 18th century.

The Heritage Garden with a local style “quiggly fence” in the background

Families enjoying the Heritage Garden

Wildlife Habitats

The Garden is not only known to grow the most exquisite plants, trees, shrubs and flowers,  they also aim to create wildlife habitats. On one small pathway leading to the Vegetable Garden we were shown both a “bat house” and a handmade butterfly shelter. Over the past number of years the Garden was hit by the winds hurricane Leslie and Igor. Fallen trees, among other items, have been re-purposed to create these interesting structures.

Butterfly Shelter

A gardener tends to the Vegetable Garden – very informative if you’re interested in making your own!

Rare Plants

The Garden was once told that a Himalayan Blue Poppy would not grow in Newfoundland and Labrador.  But, always up for a challenge, the Garden decided to give it a shot and their Himalayan Blue Poppy, located in the  Asian Garden is about to bloom. If you would like to see this rare plant in bloom make your way to the Garden soon.

The Field Centre

The Field Centre houses the gift shop, Garden Café, and an educational centre. The gift shop displays a number of garden books as well as local crafts and artwork for you to  browse through following your stroll through the Garden. The Garden Café is the perfect place to sit and have a delicious lunch or treat following a walk on one of the Garden’s gorgeous walking trails.

The Centre also houses several different local art shows through the season as well as educational camps and seminars. Because the Garden is devoted to research and education, it has become a leading resource on Newfoundland and Labrador’s natural history as well as a beautiful place to spend the afternoon.

The Garden Café

Stroll around the pond to feed the ducks and take in the beauty of the different species of plants, flowers, and shrubs. Group tours are available and most trails are wheelchair accessible. Leave feeling calm and inspired to start your own garden. You’ll want to return again and again.