Skip to content
We're open and committed to your safety. Learn more about visiting safely during COVID-19.

Arboretum

RBG’s Arboretum is more like an English landscape park than a garden. As its name implies, this is the place where you can see a wide variety of trees and other woody plants up close. It is especially beautiful in spring and fall.

This garden area functions as a trailhead for the majority of the year (payment at parking meters), with General Admission applying in May and June during bloom season.

Key Attractions

  • Flowering Tree Collections (May and June)
  • Trailhead leading to Cootes Paradise
  • Nature Interpretive Centre
  • Anishinaabe waadiziwin (trail featuring indigenous plants)

Quick Facts

  • Over 47 hectares (116 acres)
  • Showcases 1,400 types and 3,300 individual plants
  • Home to one of the largest lilac collections in the world (over 600 varieties)

Visiting the Arboretum

  • Parking charges apply (general admission applies May to June)
  • 16 Old Guelph Road, Hamilton, L0R 2H9
  • Parking is available on-site
  • See below for current hours

Today’s Hours

Seasonal Hours

  • 8 a.m. to Dusk (Jun 15 to Dec 31)

Exceptions

  • Dec 25 Christmas Day: Closed
  • Dec 26 Boxing Day: Closed
  • Jan 1 New Year's Day: Closed

Collections & Areas of Interest

Katie Osborne Lilac Collection

Peak Interest: May and early June

The Lilac Dell exhibits over 600 species and cultivars of common lilacs. French hybrids form the basis of the collection, but also displayed are Preston hybrids (originated in Canada by Isabella Preston), early-bloomers such as hyacinth lilacs and a selection of species found in the wild. An introductory Lilac Walk at the entrance to the Lilac Dell is organized in a series of exhibits that interpret the desirable breeding characteristics of lilacs, and major developments in the history of lilac breeding. On more challenging terrain, The Katie Osborne Lilac Collection within the Lilac Dell is one of the most diverse and one of the definitive collections to demonstrate the range of the genus Syringa. A popular seasonal attraction, it provides visitors with weeks of delightful springtime colour and fragrance. Visit during the Lilac Festival (late May) and enjoy special tours and demonstrations.

Learn More

Magnolia Collections

Peak interest: April and May

Magnolias are among the most primitive of flowering plants, with fossil remains dating back over 100 million years. Relatively unchanged since then, they are found in the wild in tropical and temperate Asia and America. The collection, located in two separate areas of the Arboretum, displays a selection of magnolias that are hardy in our area. The collection also exhibits Ontario’s native magnolia, the Cucumber-Tree (Magnolia acuminata), an endangered species found wild in only a few locations in the Carolinian Zone. The western section of the collection was originally developed as a memorial to local architect Lester Husband, while the eastern section, near the Synoptic Shrub Collection, commemorates past Gardens’ staff member R. A. Sims.

Learn More

Dogwood and Redbud Collection

Peak interest: May

RBG’s woodlands are home to some species more commonly found in the southern United States. For example, south of the lilac dell the collection of dogwoods (mostly Cornus florida and its cultivars) and redbuds (Cercis canadensis) at the edge of this woodland provide a springtime show of mauve-pink and white blossoms. A member of the Pea family, Redbud reaches the natural limits of its range near Lake Erie, though it can be planted further north. Interestingly, Cornus are commonly used as shrubs in the landscape but can reach 5m tall in their natural habitat.

Crabapple Collection

Peak interest: May (flowers) and fall (fruit)

Our display highlights the range of form and colour in the Malus genus. Crabapples are a common small tree used in residential landscapes. Over the years RBG has grown and evaluated many of the hundreds of cultivars bred from the two-dozen or so wild species found in North America, Europe and Asia.

Flowering Cherries

Peak interest: April and May

At RBG, our flowering cherries are part of our early spring celebrations. Globally, flowering cherry trees have a long history, especially in Japan where cherry blossoms are celebrated, and flowering times recorded dating back 1300 years. RBG also annually records the flowering times of its Cherries as part of a biological science known as phenology which is an important tool in helping to track climate change. In 2010, we added 34 trees to this collection, donated to RBG as part of the Sakura Project. These trees are planted at both the Arboretum and Rock Garden sites and are a must see in early spring.

Learn More

Synoptic Shrub Collection

Peak interest: all year

The Synoptic Shrub Collection presents a living encyclopedia of shrubs that can be grown in our area. Like a dictionary, it is organized alphabetically, by genus, from A to Z. It includes species as well as cultivated plants commonly available in the horticultural trade as well as unusual shrubs that are harder to find and have been sourced from other botanical gardens through plant exchanges. Currently undergoing rejuvenation, visitors will be able to see how a collection of mature shrubs can be revitalized.

The Pinetum

Peak interest: all year

Also called evergreens, needle-leaved trees or softwoods, conifers are trees whose seeds are open to the air, most often in cones. Most keep their leaves for at least two years, and all have soft resinous wood.

Ontario’s tree emblem reflects the major role that some members of this group of plants have had on our history—the British Navy’s demand for White Pine (Pinus strobus) shaped the early settlement of our province. Along with pines, the Pinetum explores the diversity of conifer genera around the world.

The Journey to Anishinaabe Knowledge

Peak interest: all year

Native plants provided indigenous peoples with almost all of life’s essentials. Starting in the Arboretum near the Nature Interpretive Centre, this new trail explores plants used by the Anishinaabe peoples, and their connections to culture, language, ecology and history.

Learn More

What’s in Bloom & Plants of Interest at the Arboretum

  • Yellow Forsythia Blooms
  • Redbud Blooms Starting On Branch
  • Pink Crabapple Blooms
  • Lilac Dell In Arboretum In Bloom
  • Pink Saucer Magnolia Flowers In Bloom

March

  • Witch-Hazel
  • Avenues of Trees

April

  • Witch-Hazel
  • Redbud
  • Flowering Cherry*
  • Magnolia*
  • Avenues of Trees

May

  • Redbud
  • Flowering Cherry*
  • Crabapple (flowers)
  • Lilac (late-May)
  • Dogwood
  • Avenues of Trees

Bloom times can vary from year to year as they are influenced by many natural events including temperature and climate. Please bear in mind that if we experience an early or late spring, bloom times could shift up to 10 days earlier or 10 days later.

*These plants have short bloom times and are very weather dependant. Check our social media feeds closer to bloom time for updates.

  • Two Tone Lilac Blooms
  • Cornus Dogwood Arboretum
  • Tree-lined Boardwalk Trail
  • Sicamore Tree Arboretum
  • Tree Trunk In Forest

June

  • Lilac (early-June)
  • Dogwood
  • Avenues of Trees
  • Synoptic Shrub Collection

July

  • Avenues of Trees
  • Synoptic Shrub Collection

August

  • Avenues of Trees
  • Synoptic Shrub Collection

Bloom times can vary from year to year as they are influenced by many natural events including temperature and climate. As Please bear in mind that if we experience an early or late spring, bloom times could shift up to 10 days earlier or 10 days later.

*These plants have short bloom times and are very weather dependant. Check our social media feeds closer to bloom time for updates.

  • Acorns Quercus Rubra
  • Arboretum Large Tree With Red Leaves In Autumn
  • Red Berries On Tree
  • Crabapple Tree In Fall Turning Red
  • Ohio Buckeye Fruiting

September

  • Seed Bearing Trees
  • Crabapple (fruit)
  • Synoptic Shrub Collection

October

  • Fall Colours
  • Pinetum
  • Synoptic Shrub Collection

November

  • Witch-Hazel
  • Pinetum
  • Synoptic Shrub Collection

Bloom times can vary from year to year as they are influenced by many natural events including temperature and climate. As Please bear in mind that if we experience an early or late spring, bloom times could shift up to 10 days earlier or 10 days later.

Winter

  • Witch-Hazel
  • Pinetum
  • Fruit-bearing shrubs
  • Grasses

Nature Interpretive Centre

Located at the Arboretum the Nature Interpretive Centre (NIC) is RBG’s educational hub for programs, seasonal children’s day camps, and school group programs.

It is the Nature Interpretive Centre’s mission to educate visitors of all ages about nature and environmental stewardship with the hope of inspiring a sense of appreciation and understanding about the value of nature. An outdoor amphitheatre and three classrooms host a variety of nature-related activities, day camps and educational programs for school groups and special interest groups such as Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and various youth groups.

  • Map At Nature Interpretive Centre Credit Markzelinski.com
  • School Programs Elementary
  • Kids Watching Snapping Turtle In Tank Credit Markzelinski.com
  • Kids Playing With Water Aparatus Credit Markzelinsk.com

History of the NIC

The Nature Interpretive Centre opened in 1968 as a Centennial Project supported by the Junior League. Members of the Junior League and the RBG Auxiliary quickly began assisting with interpretive programs and nature exhibits at the centre. Today the Nature Interpretive Centre has become the focal point for much of the activity in the Arboretum including many seasonal events and serves as the trailhead for 12 kilometers of footpaths along the valleys and shores of Cootes Paradise.

Garden FAQ

Directions / Parking

Paid parking available inside the traffic circle, or just inside the kiosk gates. Parking passes available from other garden areas as part of general admission. Parking charges do NOT apply during peak bloom time (when general admission is required to visit the Arboretum).

Admission

General Admission applies at the Arboretum during peak bloom season (May and June). Throughout the rest of the year, the Arboretum functions as a trailhead, where only parking charges apply.

General Admission also includes access to all other garden areas for the day, and a parking pass to be used at RBG trailheads (including the Arboretum).

Special events at this location may require separate tickets. Find specific event details at rbg.ca/events

Hours

The Arboretum is open to visitors year-round, functioning as a paid garden area during peak-bloom, and a trailhead throughout the rest of the year.

2020 Hours:

  • January 1 to May 8: Dawn to Dusk (no paid admission required)
  • May 9 to June 21: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (admission applies)
  • June 22 to December 31: Dawn to Dusk (no paid admission required)

Some holiday hours may apply. See rbg.ca/visitus for details.

How Far is the Arboretum from RBG’s Other Garden Areas?

  • Arboretum to Rock Garden: 1.7 km / 1 mile
  • Arboretum to Laking Garden: 2.4 km / 1.5 miles
  • Arboretum Hendrie Park/RBG Centre: 3.7 km / 2.3 miles

Walking to and from the Arboretum is NOT recommended; Old Guelph Road does not include sidewalks. Please consider driving or biking between locations, or using the shuttle service when available (weekends, spring to mid-summer).

Are there Washroom Facilities Available?

Small washrooms are available at the Nature Interpretive Centre.

Food and Drink / Picnics

Outside food is permitted at the gardens during regular hours (restrictions apply during specific special events). Please pack-out or properly dispose of any waste. Outdoor cooking is not permitted in any of RBG’s garden areas.

Is the Garden Accessible?

The lilac walk at the arboretum is paved / packed gravel, though most of the Arboretum is grassy field, or rough trail pathways. Descending into the lower lilac dell includes a steep slope, not recommended for those with mobility issues.

Can I Bring My Dog?

Leashed dogs are permitted in the gardens for a visit during regular operating hours. Please be responsible and clean up after your dog. Dogs must remain on-leash and on-trail at all times.

Some special events at this location may not accommodate dogs. These are noted in the individual event FAQ’s available on the event pages.