Although the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), located on Plains Road West in Burlington Ontario, is better seen in the summer, their winter programming also promises much in the way of nature-based educational entertainment. While visiting the RBG Centre this past March Break, I had the chance to see their exhibit on Savage Gardens/Nature’s Ninjas. All of the animals and plants featured in this exhibit possess unique natural defenses – for example, bladderworts and poisonous ants. It was a fun little tour to walk through, and many of the creatures were provided by Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo (a great show that I’ve seen several times, now located in Hamilton, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia).
Unfortunately, the RBG has had some negative media press in the past due to the culling of deer on their extensive property (see, for example, reviews on their Google+ page). Deer culling is a highly contentious issue, with the public viewing deer as Bambi-like creatures in need of protection and policy makers viewing them from a rational/scientific perspective in which deer overpopulation can cause severe damage to ecosystems (Whittington, 2013). These kinds of socio-ecological natural resource management debates can damage the image of a natural area in the eyes of the public.
Outside of this debate, however, the RBG does an excellent job of offering educational programs and maintaining an extensive living plant collection. Their educational offerings include curriculum outlines for teachers, camps for young students, botanical ID workshops, Walking into Nature (WIN) family programs, and many more. They define a ‘living plant collection’ as: “a group of plants grown, assembled and displayed for a predetermined purpose […] RBG maintains and develops over 40 living plant collections spread throughout the Arboretum, Rock Garden, Laking Garden, Hendrie Park and RBG Centre” (Curation Policies, 2014).
During my visit to the RBG Centre this past week, I was able to partake of the beautiful sights and smells of their Mediterranean plant exhibit. I include some of the pictures from this exhibit, below. It was wonderful to be able to walk through the warm, fragrant aisles of plants and trees in the greenhouse after such a long, cold, icy winter. A great stop in my March Break journey!