Rock Garden Perennials
Peak Interest: Year-Round
The David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden contains many bold drifts of herbaceous perennials, chosen as much for their structure and texture as they were for their colourful flowers. This sustainable garden design by Janet Rosenberg & Studio Inc. uses herbaceous perennials for environmental benefits, requiring less replanting and soil disturbance compared to before renovation. In addition, the nearly 700 unique taxa of perennials illuminate the garden throughout the seasons.
Where to Find Rock Garden Perennials
Royal Botanical Gardens is made up of four distinct formal gardens contained within 1,100 hectares of nature reserve, across the municipalities of Hamilton and Burlington Ontario. See all our garden areas and start planning your visit at rbg.ca/gardensandtrails
David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden
1185 York Boulevard, Hamilton
Opened to visitors in 1932, the historic Rock Garden is considered the birthplace of Royal Botanical Gardens. Following a significant rejuvenation, the Rock Garden reopened in 2016 to embrace sustainable trends in garden design and management while respecting the integrity of its heritage setting. Bold swaths of brilliant perennials provide sweeps of inspiring colour and texture throughout all seasons.
What’s in Bloom?
Blooms are ever-changing in RBG’s five cultivated garden areas and nature sanctuaries. Check back to learn what’s blooming now or see the blooms calendar for a rough estimation of what to expect in a particular season.
Spring in the Rock Garden welcomes myriad of early flower favourites. From the tiny snowdrops (Galanthus) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria) to the multitude of daffodils (Narcissus) and later spring flowering onions (Allium). The harbingers of spring, ephemerals begin to flower as the snow melts and continue growth until the heat of summer. They emerge quickly before trees leaf out, while there is still access to light for a short growth and reproductive phase, before fading to their underground storage parts. The Rock Garden features native Trillium, more than 115 types of daffodils, perennialized tulips and a beautiful display of ornamental onions.
Commonly known as Hosta or Plantain-lily, hostas are generally shade-tolerant plants grown for the diverse foliage through the growing season. Native to northeast Asia, these herbaceous perennials are known for their bold textured leaves, intriguing leaf patterns and plentiful colour variations. The six-petal flowers are produced along upright scapes above the leaves, and are white, lavender, or violet in colour, some with a pleasing fragrance. Hostas come in thousands of different named variations and Rock Garden features more than 55 of those types.
Commonly known as Alumroot or Coral Bells, Heuchera grow in a variety of garden conditions and are used throughout Rock Garden, with a concentration of them adjacent to the Garden House. Coral Bells have been hybridized to develop a multitude of types available, featuring an extensive array of flower sizes, shapes and colours as well as numerous shapes, colours and forms of foliage. Unfortunately, some hybrids are not as vigorous or winter hardy as other hybrids, so horticulture staff are trialing approximately 30 unique cultivars to assess their potential.
The evolving new design of the Rock Garden seeks to be more sustainable and to support the surrounding ecosystem. One thing we are focused on is growing plants which will help to support pollinating insects: providing food, shelter, breeding grounds and overwintering habitats. It is important to provide pollinators with a diversity of flowers throughout the growing season and to cultivate native plants and their cultivars wherever possible.
There are plenty of non-native perennials growing in the Rock Garden that are also great for pollinators, native perennials make the pollinators, as well as the birds and other wildlife, the happiest. Some of the featured pollinator friendly perennials in the garden include goldenrods (Solidago), Joe Pye weeds (Eutrochium), cranesbills (Geranium), sedges (Carex), meadow rues (Thalictrum) and milkweeds (Asclepias).
Support Horticulture at RBG
The care and growth of our horticultural collections are possible thanks to the generous support of RBG Members and donors. With a donation to Growing up Green, you can ensure an active, vibrant and healthy future for the children of today and tomorrow through our horticultural and conservation projects.
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the largest botanical garden in Canada, a National Historic Site, and registered charitable organization with a mandate to bring together people, plants and nature.