Rideau Canal Garden Tours

For the next four days, (actually starting today, the 28th of July) Ottawa is home to the Rideau Canal Festival.  Doesn’t ring a bell?  Well, surprise … this festival is now in its fourth year, with various displays and events that celebrate the canal’s inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Events take place at three locations: the Bytown Museum and Locks next to the Chateau Laurier, Confederation Park (across from city hall) and the Dow’s Lake Pavilion. 

This weekend, Saturday July 30 and Sunday July 31st, plant and garden lovers can tag along for free on a tour of the changing flower beds that grace both Dow’s Lake as well as both sides of the canal.  This walking tour, called Rideau Canal Garden Tours (both tours begin at 1 p.m. and meet at the Info Kiosk at the Dow’s Lake Pavilion; on Sunday the tour is bilingual) is hosted by Gerald Lajeunesse and Tina Liu, respectively the old and new guard landscape architects at the helm of the National Capital Commission.

What is the history of these beds?  How are the plants chosen?  Are they being trialed?  Are the same plants available to homeowners?  Why aren’t they labelled?  Are they being regularly fertilizered and if so, with what?  Are any pesticides used?

This bed incorporates pink and purple sweet alyssum, zinnias and mandevilla (usually this bed has morning glories) set to climb up string in front of the stone wall.

Although most of the beds that line the canal utilize colourful annuals, there are several beds around Dow’s Lake that showcase perennials.  This bed, near Madawaska Avenue, is a new one and has a dreamy selection of blue, purple and silver perennials.  Catmint (Nepeta), ornamental sage (Salvia), Artemisia and others have been chosen.   If you’re not familiar with the varieties, having both Mr. Lajeunesse and Ms. Lui at your disposal on this tour will help, I”m sure!

This bed is the circular raised planter along the path between Dow’s Lake and Carling Avenue.  Its one of the more spectacular displays, imo, probably because it is both raised and allows the designer to really make a statement because it can be viewed from a distance.  It is ringed here with white sweet alyssum and includes purple fountain grass (Pennisetum) as well as pink (Angelonia) and purple/blue annuals (Ageratum). 

Although these displays are striking right now, especially when you look at the way in which the designer has chosen combinations of colours, textures and habits, late summer is the time that they really shine.

This is the same bed last summer.  Gorgeous, no?  I want to know who designed this one …

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