** Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is important to maintain social distancing when out in public and avoid congregating in groups. Please visit the flowers responsibly this season **
Springtime in Ottawa is one of the best seasons when all the flowers start to bloom and it finally feels like winter is over. It may take a bit of time for it to finally happen and there may be a number of rainy and cold days but when the sun comes out Ottawa shines. The annual Canadian Tulip Festival is the star of the spring season in Ottawa with thousands of tulips blooming through out the city.
The Canadian Tulip Festival’s origins go back to the end of the Second World War when the Dutch government sent tulips to Canada as thanks for keeping a member of Dutch royal family safe during the war. With that a tradition was started and a festival was born. Now is the perfect to see all the flowers and get outside and enjoy the sunshine.
The tulip festival takes place the second and third weeks of May but the tulips often bloom late so you can still see them into the end of May. Even tulips season comes to an end there are many places to see other flowers in bloom during springtime and through summer in Ottawa and this is your definitive guide to experiencing Ottawa in bloom.
Major’s Hill Park in the heart of downtown Ottawa is a great place to experience the tulips. There are a number of colorful beds of tulips against the backdrop of the National Gallery of Canada and Parliament Hill. You’ll also find smaller tulip beds planted around downtown along Wellington St., around the War Memorial and on Parliament Hill.
Dow’s Lake/ Commissioner’s Park
This is the centre of the Tulip Festival in Ottawa where the majority of the tulips are planted. Starting from the Dow’s Lake Pavilion you can walk along the park and see all the colourful beds of flowers. It’s best to go early in the morning or on a weekday since it can get very crowded here and then it’s kind of hard to enjoy the flowers. There used to be lots of activities and international pavilions with food and art as well as music during the festival weekends but now unfortunately almost all of that is gone. You can still sometimes catch some music and there are fireworks the Sunday of the Victoria Day long weekend but really it’s just about tulips now. For that reason it’s really best to visit early in the day to avoid crowds.
There are many other blooms around Ottawa in May and into June, especially daffodils, crab apple tree blossoms and lilacs.
Rockcliffe Park – The Rockeries
This is the best place to see daffodils in Ottawa and it’s still kind of a secret spot. The daffodils bloom around the same time as the tulips or earlier in May. There is a small area to park along Acacia Ave and then you can easily access The Rockeries to see the flowers.
Central Experimental Farm – Ornamental Gardens
This is one of my favourite places in Ottawa and you’ll see blooms here through the spring, summer and fall. The first blooms of the season at the Ornamental Gardens and the Dominion Arboretum are usually the magnolia trees. There are only a few but they are beautiful. Then the crab apple trees start to bloom mid to end of May along Prince of Wales Drive and through the Arboretum and it’s one of the best times to visit the gardens.
Late in May and in June the lilacs start to bloom and then mid June the peonies and irises and well as the rest of the Ornamental Gardens are in bloom. Through summer the roses and mixed flower beds bloom and late summer you’ll see sunflowers. The best place to see sunflowers in August and September is at the far end of the Central Experimental Farm at the corner of Baseline and Merivale Rd. There is free parking at the Ornamental Gardens as well at the Arboretum. Even into October you can see flowers at the gardens, there is anyways something new to see.
This is another sort of still secret bloom location. In the sunken garden at the back of the gallery close to the Royal Canadian Mint there are a bunch of crab apple trees that bloom late May. They’re really beautiful to see and easily accessible since they’re right downtown.
The Governor General of Canada’s residence at Rideau Hall is a great place to see flowers during the summer. The publicly accessible grounds of Rideau Hall have a big rose garden and it’s rare that you’ll ever see many people there unless it’s during a special event at Rideau Hall. The best time to see them is from June to the beginning of August.
This is another little secret flower spot in Ottawa, the historic Maplelawn Garden that I’ve written about before here. Come the end of June it’s in full bloom and a perfect little garden oasis. If you’re in the Westboro area of the city it’s worth wandering down to have a little walk around this little public garden.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the most of spring and summer in Ottawa while it’s in full bloom!