Garden Plan

Some background on the creation / expansion / vision of what is now Brueckner Rhododendron Garden, a public garden in the City of Mississauga (map).  Where suggestions / vision have been implemented, there are links to photographs and more information within this site.

From the files of David Culham, Chair, BRGSC:

The City of Mississauga's original intent in transforming a shore-front park [on Lake Ontario] into the Rhododendron Garden included preserving the horticultural uniqueness of Dr. Brueckner’s collection of various special hybrid rhododendron and azaleas through documentation, mapping and gardening maintenance. Ultimately, the variety of rhododendrons should spread across the whole of the site.

As well, the City's intent always included creating a special floral garden rather than an exclusively Rhododendron Park (see peony garden and rose garden.) Thus changing the name to 'Garden' represents more than a name change: It represents a concept change in the nature of the space itself.

The Waterfront Parks Strategy statement ("the power of water and place") is exemplified by the Garden's unique combination of acidic soils, evergreen-defused light canopy, and moderating influence of the Lake.

In their blooming season of May and June, the rhododendrons and azaleas become the floral highlight, the centerpiece of the Garden. However, their waxy, lush greenery becomes a backdrop for other compatible flowers throughout the growing season. In a sense, the spectacular blooms of Spring represent a visual celebration of the warm summer to come.

This Garden should present a visual celebration in all seasons, and be available in all seasons for passive use of all residents and tourists in keeping with the Waterfront Parks Strategy.The Garden should recognize the natural flow of through traffic of cyclists and pedestrians created by the Waterfront Trail as well as recognize the natural need for shore-front picnics, sun bathing, inline skating, photography for weddings, family events and picnics etc.

However, the space is a Garden not a Park. All uses are subservient to the dominant use of a Garden and the passive experiences compatible with it.  All plants and trees must be compatible with rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion flowers.

Tourism Potential
The City had some idea of the tourist potential in February 1991, when Peter Neubauer, vice president Colour Your World, requested a garden tour in regard to the national conference of the Horticultural Rhododendron Society of Canada (May 31, 1991).

Also, 1997 planning documents stressed the Garden's potential as a tourist attraction linking other Gardens such as the Mississauga Garden (now Riverwood Conservancy), Rosette McCain Garden (Scarborough, ON), Garloch Garden (Oakville, ON) and the Royal Botanical Gardens (Burlington, ON).

The Rhododendron Garden presents a special focal point and environment linking the waterfront parks system by the Waterfront Trail (see Waterfront Trail construction).

Volunteer, Financing
  • Given the need to prudently utilize limited financial resources, the concept of the Rhododendron Garden should flexibly include ongoing citizen participation in design, in maintenance, and in the acquisition of flower stock.
  • The City structures citizen participation through the Rhododendron Garden Stewardship programme (BRGSC): see Volunteer. Stewardship action and advisory participation in implementing the vision is an important adjunct to the role of the Master Gardener and other related City staff.
  • An opportunity exists for students to accumulate their required volunteer hours in the Garden performing such tasks as deadheading spent rhododendron blossoms, weeding, pruning, and even studying the plants.

The vision is that Mississauga shall create a year-round garden of striking floral beauty focused upon the scientific and floral significance of the Brueckner Rhododendron and Azaleas collection, with the active assistance of citizen volunteers.

Further thoughts for planning
Any plan or plans for the Garden must recognize the uniqueness of the physical space. The 1997 document recognizes the parking zone, the Tecumseh Creek or riparian zone, the garden zone, the multi-purpose zone, the shore-beach zone.

  • I suggest that the City designate within the Garden, the new Waterfront Trail with a special zone with a different characterization from the other existing hard surface trails within the Garden.
  • I also suggest that City consider the space east of Tecumseh Creek and south of the Lakeshore-Parking zone as a separate subset of the Garden zone.
  • Similarly, I recognize the space east of Tecumseh Creek, south of the nursery and eastward to the Garden pedestrian and cycling entrance as a subset of the Garden zone for planning and implementation of the Garden vision. Each zone requires a plan that is compatible with and adds to the overall Garden concept.
  • The Lakeshore-Parking zone is limited at present to the existing parking space and vehicular access to Lakeshore Road West. The 1997 document refers to the need to soften the hard surfaces and to control the storm water access to the stream. The new Waterfront Trail presents an additional pedestrian and cyclist access requiring special integration within the Parking zone.
  • The City must broaden this zone extending to the whole of the Lakeshore Road frontage. The Garden requires a new pictorial integration with the visual context throughout the zone. At present, there is very little physically or visually presence of the Garden concept from the Lakeshore Road.

Signage: There is little integration of the Garden space east and west of the Tecumseh Creek. Signage is inadequate on both sides of Tecumseh Creek and indistinct from other Parks, adding to the easy existing confusion. There is a need to heighten the sense of 'arrival' for pedestrians, drivers, cyclists and rollerbladers as they approach the Garden from the east or west along the Lakeshore Road and in particular once they turn into the Garden.

Floral colour must assert the Garden presence in the way that sand and swimmers announce the presence when entering a beach environment. There is a need to visually separate the car park from the contemplative space of the Garden.

Waterfront Trail Zone:
The new Waterfront Trail zone through the Garden presents new opportunities to add to the evolving Garden. While recognizing the Waterfront Trail activity, the Garden in this zone must assert its visual presence to the cyclist and pedestrian while recognizing and phasing into the Tecumseh Creek-Riparian zone. On its western flank, the Garden must present floral vistas and greenery that arrest the eye and invites a respite from the pressing journey. 

The first priority in this zone should be the addition of new rhododendron and azaleas where possible and desirable along the Trail. Where the Gardeners rule these out, the City must consider associated floral displays, shrubs, and plants compatible with the Tecumseh Creek environment on the eastern portion.

The physical presence of the Trail can demark the transition to the interior Garden. This zone presents the primary visual and functional interface with the people of the through traffic inviting a mood change and an awareness of this special Garden place.

The Tecumseh Creek Riparian zone is an important spatial separator between the other Garden zones, and adds the important opportunity of incorporating water elements in the garden and further naturalization in the future.

Changes or additions such as small ponds, drainage works etc, however, could present great expenses that potentially draw away from creating the immediate presence of the Garden.  The City best delay any redevelopment here until the better establishment of the visual presence and evolving character of the floral Garden.

The City may best plan this zone with the future of the poorly drained and wet areas of the eastern Garden zone.

The West Garden zone presently occupies the space south of the parking lot and east of Tecumseh Creek, north of the shore zone.

However, the Garden eventually must spatially occupy two other sub-zones: the lands south of the Lakeshore Parking zone and east of the Creek, which I call the East Garden zone, as well as the lands adjacent to the nursery, which for want of a better label, I call the South Garden zone, on either side of the Waterfront Trail as it emerges in the south and east.

The re-direction of through traffic in bikes and pedestrians along the new Waterfront Trail opens up the possibility of changing the existing hard surface paths through the existing Garden.

Other than the existing paved paths, the Garden does not define the pedestrian movements.  This is referenced in the Lakefront Parks Strategy. Satisfying natural travel patterns, the existing paths should remain as two functional pieces, but resurfaced so that they enhance the Garden concept.

Hard surfaced paths also present access by vehicle in poor weather for Garden work. The Garden should recognize a hierarchy of paths with all other paths defined in grass and edges of the floral beds.

The grass paths lead visitors through the floral displays presenting a special arrival to each of the special environments.  Better definition may reduce careless but injurious intrusion of people and dogs.

There is great opportunity for expanded rhododendron beds in the more elevated slopes in the presently wet grassed area south of the comfort station.  There is also great opportunity in the arc of southern grassed and ever greened south facing slopes down towards the shore front zone.  There is opportunity west of the parking lot.

We need to establish a presence in the East Garden zone in our planning if not in actual first priority plantings. This is especially so along the potentially resurfaced Garden paths.  There is great opportunity for staff and citizen stewards to image the recreation of this space as Garden. The planting of future shade canopy in this zone is a priority in my view.

The South Garden zone requires attention. The presence of the Waterfront Trail east of the Creek near the nursery and the Shore-Beach zone requires some immediate definition of this space as Garden.

Staff agreed already that new signage and flower beds are required at this eastern entrance.  New flower beds will emerge along the Waterfront Trail but redefinition of the whole space is required as Garden.

The City should eliminate reference to a multi-purpose zone as the concept is incompatible with a Garden. Potential activity may naturally occur minimally along the Waterfront Trail. However, passive activity or contemplative spots are natural to a Garden.

The Garden needs to present small spaces for spontaneous activity such as small scale picnics, sun bathing, photography of scenery, family and wedding events, quiet contemplation and conversations etc with appropriate furniture, planned vistas, and the interplay of flowers and grassed paths.

In the long term, the Garden needs to incorporate the Shore Beach zone with suitable plantings and structural material that recognizes this important space.

The 1997 planning document alludes to expansion of different garden elements: Carolinian; Wetland; Shoreline; and shade gardens. It alludes to more defined garden beds phasing into more natural more flexible vegetative space near the Creek.  In my view, the very concept of the Garden in this space requires immediate floral development and definition thereby reducing the existing confusion.

The City must consider how it presents spatially the Rhododendron story of varied plants across the Garden. Rhododendrons and azaleas, in my suggestion, must feature in all zones if possible. The Garden needs presence in all zones with different elements creating a unified Garden space that becomes an important destination for our citizens as well as tourist drawn from afar.
David Culham April 21, 2008

July 2011: As I post this documentation of how the Garden's grown, I am amazed at how much progress has been made, and how many improvements have come to pass in such a short time. I started to post links to all the blog pages with pictures and information about these improvements and enhancements, but ultimately, there were too many!  Browse through the archives (right sidebar) and see what you can find.

Thanks to David Culham and the members of the BRGSC, and to City staff, especially Head Gardener, Para Kanp, who have worked to make the Garden vision come true. 

But, as with any garden, the work is never done, and the growing continues.

 Rhododendrons in Full Bloom Spring 2012