A tradition of award-winning gardens in Stratford

From early spring to late fall, Stratford’s impressive gardens are a treat for the senses.

For the gardener in all of us, any exploration of Stratford, Ontario, in the warmer months has to include the town’s world-class gardens.

Topping the list (though it’s a challenge to pick a favourite) is the Shakespearean Gardens, which has more than 60 varieties of herbs, flowers and shrubs. Each variety comes from the Bard’s era and was selected because he mentioned it in his plays. They’re all framed by a pergola, the Perth County Courthouse and the double-arched Huron Street Bridge. Keep an eye out for Stratford’s swans, who call the river home in the summer months.

A note on the swans: Following a tradition that dates back to 1918, every April the swans are returned to the river from their winter quarters as part of the Parade of Swans, during which the swans are paraded down to the river, accompanied by a bagpipe band. The town makes a weekend-long event of it, with music, food and more.

Other gardening enthusiasts might prefer the Arthur Meighen Garden, named after this country’s ninth prime minister and funded in large part by the T.R. Meighen Family Foundation. The garden is a series of limestone terraces on the grounds of the Festival Theatre, with the main path winding through the garden and over a bridge above a lily pond. It’s big, with 21,000 plants expressly grown for the project and placed in recurring combinations throughout the beds.

Along the banks of the Avon River, you will also find Confederation Park. The stately fir trees were planted by the Boy Scouts in 1937. You can take in the Japanese garden and the waterfalls, and from there you can wander over to Millennium Park to discover its gardens as well.

If you like your flora and fauna a little more wild, try a visit to the Wildwood Conservation Area off Route 7. This wetland area has walking trails and a boat launch.

And for all things gardening, you won’t want to miss the Stratford Garden Festival, named Festival of the Year in 2014 by the Canadian Garden Tourism Awards.

Many of Stratford’s homeowners have gotten in on the act as well. Flowers and shrubs abound around the many picturesque homes, further adding to the beauty of the town. Everyone’s into it, and it shows.