Our Story

Our Story

Canadensis: The Garden of Canada

The Canadensis Botanical Garden Society will be building “Canadensis: The Garden of Canada” as a legacy project for all Canadians within the historic Central Experimental Farm hub and adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal.

Botany matters. In today’s world, where environmental systems are increasingly interdependent, living plants are literally the “lungs” of the planet. Canadensis: The Garden of Canada will offer a unique place to celebrate our great natural heritage and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to sustainability in the context of climate change.

Ottawa today is the only G20 capital that has no botanical garden to display, interpret and promote Canada’s botanical diversity and beauty, as well as Canada’s vast horticultural, agricultural and arboricultural knowledge and expertise.


Canadensis is a magical botanic place where visitors can enrich their lives with unique learning experiences that excite and stimulate the senses.


The goal is to inspire present and future generations of Canadians to engage, explore and participate in the wonders of our botanical natural environment. In the immediate term, the project has these specific objectives:

  1. to create a garden with representative Canadian landscapes and plants that grow and thrive in Canada;
  2. to create a centre for research and learning that addresses new plant research and strategies and technologies for sustainability, with particular regard to the challenges of climate change and innovative approaches that are being explored in Canada;
  3. to create a popular gathering place, a unique destination and tourist attraction for over 500,000 visitors a year; and
  4. to generate economic benefits in the order of $100 million annually.


Soon after the Central Experimental Farm was established in 1886, a plan to develop a botanical garden on a piece of land earmarked for that purpose was included. The botanical garden was meant to enhance the Central Experimental Farm and to complement the National Arboretum where its 1700 Canadian trees and shrubs have been a long time attraction. The garden was to be a link to the Central Experimental Farm, a fully functioning research and production farm in the heart of Canada’s national capital. However, the plan for a botanical garden was never realized – until now.

The Canadensis Botanical Garden Society:

In 1998, a volunteer-led, not-for-profit organization made up of individuals with wide expertise coupled with a passionate interest in city-building, Canada’s wealth of plant life, and sustainability in an era of climate change, organized and began work on turning an old idea into a reality. Since then, the Canadensis Botanical Garden Society has diligently worked with various levels of government, developed a business plan, offered interesting seasonal programming and created a network of corporate and public members in support of implementing Canadensis on a dramatic, canal-side site. It is now ready to go.

Canadensis, The Garden of Canada:

The Master Plan design intends to transform the 34 acre piece of fallow Central Experimental Farm land just south of the National Arboretum, into a modern meaningful botanical masterpiece of international standing. Imagine! Visitors may be able to travel by water taxi from downtown Ottawa, heading towards the distant silo – a vertical garden tower that will act as a visible landmark, an architectural and horticultural statement in the heart of the Garden. Stepping off the boat at a landing by the Hartwells Locks on the Rideau Canal, they can join other visitors already enjoying the multiple attractions of Canadensis, The Garden of Canada. Some highlights are:

  • a Visitor Centre with featured displays, a restaurant, banquet/wedding hall, conference rooms and fantastic views of the canal and surrounding areas,
  • a 30-metre high lookout Silo demonstrating the vascular system in plants with a dramatic view of the parliament buildings, the Central Experimental Farm and Gatineau hills,
  • the traditional Canadian Red Barn transformed into a unique Learning Centre with classroom, library and design studio facilities,
  • the Climate Change Lab that interprets the impacts for visitors to see,
  • the Amphitheatre as a performing arts venue,
  • the Canopy Walk: an elevated boardwalk that allows visitors to explore the treetops and enjoy panoramic views,
  • the Canuck Garden: a Canadian themed garden, featuring native (canadensis) species, and introducing a garden style as unique as the Japanese or English Garden.
  • the Children’s Garden with water play activities and rafting on a mini-canal and lock system,
  • an Aboriginal Garden showcasing sustainable farming techniques, medicinal uses of plants and spiritual interrelationships.

Canada has an incredible diversity of ecosystems. From the arctic tundra biome to the mild Niagara escarpment, plants have enriched Canada’s life and wellbeing. Gardens and displays will be organized according to themes that are especially relevant to life in 21st-century Canada. Displays will focus on innovative approaches to climate change and environmental sustainability that are being pioneered in Canada.

  • Microclimate manipulation and water harnessing
  • Climate change and environmental sustainability lab;
  • Urban Agriculture and links to large scale food production
  • Economy garden and medicinal plants Vertical and micro urban landscaping
  • Flower, vegetable and shade garden designs

The Garden, as a place of beauty, relaxation and entertainment, will have something for every segment of the population from toddlers to seniors, amateurs to experts, and regular members to foreigners. Canadensis will be a vibrant place. Young children will appreciate nature through play. Schools will bring students to the learning centre. Floral displays will be the background for formal and informal events and evening users will enjoy performances and dining along the Canal. Temporary exhibitions and events will attract visitors year round.


Botanical gardens offer immense and measurable benefits to the Community. Consider Denver, for instance: more people visit there to see the city’s Botanical Garden than they do sports events, and they bring “new dollars” to the city. In New York, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden notes that: “[former] Mayor Bloomberg of New York was very interested in money facts – we showed him that for every $1 the city invested in the garden, an additional $7 went to the city’s vendors, restaurants and hotels.”

Canadensis is expected to generate $454 million dollars in economic impact over the first five years. Of course, not all the benefits can be measured in dollars. Botanical gardens also teach us about the world we live in, and they foster socially and environmentally responsible behaviour.

The Timeline:

Everything is planned to happen over a five year period with the anticipated launch of Canadensis in the coming year as a lasting legacy project from Canada’s 150th anniversary. Year 1 will see the completion of a comprehensive site master plan, site preparation and infrastructure development. This will continue in year 2. The Visitor Centre, water features with surrounding gardens, and additional gardens will be done in year 3. Years 4 and 5 will see the construction of a conservatory, research and learning facilities, and additional gardens. The remaining entertainment installations would be put in place as capital funds become available.

In the Meantime:

This spring an attractive, modern sun shelter will be constructed at the site designed by graduate students from Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism students. A public event is planned to officially open and showcase the beautiful structure. The site is a wonderful picnicking venue set in an inspiring, urban, pastoral landscape.


The realization of the first phase of the project will involve an estimated capital investment of approximately $50 million. This will allow the Canadensis botanical garden to open to the public. The remaining phases will occur over a five-year period.

The funding is anticipated to come from all levels of government, sponsorships and fund-raising. Once the garden is fully operational, it is planned to be financially self-sustaining.


For further information regarding Canadensis, the Garden of Canada / le Jardin du Canada, you are invited to contact the Canadensis Botanical Garden Society (CBGS) at info@jardincanadensisgarden.ca or visit the website at www.canadensisgarden.ca