Located in North York adjacent to Edwards Gardens, the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) is a must-visit for anyone with even a passing interest in horticulture or interest in plants and flowers. The TBG offers the chance to not only enjoy acres of manicured grounds and themed gardens, but also to learn more about gardening through various programs, guided tours, workshops and special events throughout the year. Find out everything you need to know before you go and during your visit, with a complete guide to the Toronto Botanical Garden.
What we now know as Edwards Gardens was settled in 1817 by Alexander Milne. There were various changes made to the property over the subsequent years, but it wasn’t until 1944 that things really started to take shape, garden-wise. In 1944, Toronto businessman Rupert Edwards turned the property into a sprawling garden. He sold the property ten years later to the City of Toronto wanting to preserve it as a public park. That park, Edwards Gardens, opened to the public in 1956. In 1958, the Garden Club of Toronto founded and provided ongoing funding for the Civic Garden Centre, what is now the Toronto Botanical Garden. The TBG was founded with the goal of being a gardening education and information center, a goal it still focuses on today.
Location and When to Visit
If you want to visit the TBG, you can find it within the larger Edwards Gardens Park at Lawrence Avenue East and Leslie Street. The gardens are open year-round from dawn until dusk, and admission is free of charge (though donations are appreciated). The gardens are always worth visiting, but it’s during the spring and summer they really come alive.
If you’re driving to the gardens, take Highway 401 to the Leslie Street exit. Drive south on Leslie until you get to the stoplights at Lawrence Avenue. Head through the lights and take the first right into the large parking area (parking is free of charge).
If you’re taking the bus, TTC buses pass the corner of Leslie Street and Lawrence Avenue regularly and you can take with the Lawrence East 54 bus or the 54A bus. Alternatively, from the Yonge subway line, go to Eglinton Station and take the 51, 54 or 162 bus to Lawrence Avenue. The TBG is on the southwest corner.
What to Expect
A visit to the TBG means getting to see 17 award-winning themed gardens spanning nearly four acres. There’s a lot to see here so plan your time accordingly. They're meant to be appreciated, but also teach you something about horticulture. They cover a wide variety of plant species, representing various designs, habitats, and environments. Some of these gardens include carpet beds, an herb garden, the kitchen garden (planted each year with vegetables of a different country, continent, or culture), teaching garden, green roof, woodland walk, bird habitat, and much more. If you want to know more about the gardens as you walk through them, there is a downloadable app with customized tours and detailed information about planting and caring for the plants in the collections.
There is a café on site, as well as a garden shop. The café is open seasonally May to October and serves breakfast, lunch, and snacks in a historic barn. The shop is open year-round and caters to all of your gardening needs (from seeds and tools to live plants and seasonal flowering bulbs).
It’s important to note that dogs, picnics, bicycle riding, and sport activities are not permitted in the gardens
Some highlights include the Edwards Summer Music Series, a free summer concert series (early July to the end of August) that happens in the gardens, rain or shine. Also in the summer, visitors can take advantage of free garden tours. These volunteer-led tours are 90 minutes long and happen at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and 6 p.m. on Thursdays, late May through September.
It’s also worth noting that the TBG hosts an organic farmers’ market that runs year-round (outdoors in the summer, indoors in the colder months). There are a variety of vendors selling everything from baked goods to fresh produce and you can shop the market on Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Events and Learning Experiences
One of the best things about the TBG are the many indoor and outdoor learning experiences for all ages they offer. These include garden tours, kids’ day camps, field trips, lectures, and an extensive horticultural library. For adults, programs and classes cover everything from food and wellness, to plant care, garden design, art, photography, and more. TBGKids Programs offer fun learning experiences for kids of all ages in the form of camps, family events, and the Children’s Center and Teaching Garden.