Rideau Hall is the only official residence in Canada’s Capital Region that’s open to the public. The grounds of this historic site represent one of the finest historic landscapes in Canada.
Let’s have a closer look at one of the grounds’ attractions: the Canadian Heritage Garden. This garden, otherwise known as Rideau Hall’s rose garden, officially opened in June 2000, and has been in the care of the NCC ever since.
The garden boasts over 200 varieties of winter-hardy roses. It features many native Canadian varieties, as well as roses that reflect Canada’s cultural diversity. The garden is a living reminder of our ancestors and our democratic traditions. It is the first garden in the world to use roses to represent a country’s ancestors and history.
The arched columns bear information about milestones in the creation of Canada, from 1608 to 1992, and about 100 roses recall specific events in our history. There are 11 circular flower beds — we call them rooms — which begin with First Nations in Canada, and chronicle the arrival of European explorers and settlers. Each room has a plaque listing the ancestral groups represented by the roses.
In 2020, after 20 years of life, the garden needed a little TLC. Among other things, the granite had changed colour, and some of the rose bushes had reached the end of their life span. During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to our regular maintenance operations. We have since taken the necessary steps to restore the garden to its former beauty. Let’s have a look at that process.
A rose among thorns
With the right amount of love and care, the Canadian Heritage Garden at Rideau Hall is simply beautiful. In its intended state, it is the perfect place to sit and enjoy a quiet moment of reflection and rest during a visit to the grounds of Rideau Hall. The garden is one of the rare rose gardens in Ottawa, and it’s well worth a visit — especially if roses are your cup of tea.
The grounds, woods, gardens and landscape all share the heritage characteristics and designations of the historic buildings at Rideau Hall. Only exceptional circumstances would cause a scale-back in their maintenance and in the NCC’s landscaping and grounds operations, as our staff takes great pride in their work.
And then, 2020 happened. When COVID-19 first hit Ottawa, we put all staffing actions on hold —including the hiring of students for the summer, who typically do most of the maintenance work in this garden. It didn’t take long for the garden to deteriorate. Although this is unfortunate, it was unavoidable, as the health and safety of our students and employees come first.
Snap back to 2021: our staff planted new roses, pruned dead woods, re-levelled paving stones, power washed the stone monuments and benches, hand-painted letters (7,000 to be exact — at 60 seconds per letter) on the monuments — and the list goes on.
“All the time spent working in the rose garden and the hard work of our staff and students have been rewarding. We are maintaining a piece of history that will be enjoyed in perpetuity by all.” —Kathleen Minkowski, gardener for the official residences
The garden is now ready to welcome visitors once again!
See for yourself
Roses are red
The Canadian Heritage Garden was blue
We did some work
and now we welcome you!
With this short “poem,” we’d like to invite you to go and visit the Canadian Heritage Garden. It looks delightful, and it’s a good way to learn about Confederation. But don’t take our word for it, go and explore the grounds of Rideau Hall for yourself, at your own pace.
The Canadian Heritage Garden is an initiative of Governor General Ramon John Hnatyshyn and his wife, Gerda Hnatyshyn, to celebrate the first 125 years of Confederation. The garden was funded by the Canadian Heritage Garden Foundation, a foundation established by Gerda Hnatyshyn.
Rideau Hall has been the official residence and workplace of every governor general of Canada since 1867. The NCC has managed its buildings and grounds since 1988.