Darren Heimbecker - Whistling Gardens Revisited


Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meetings start informally around 7:00pm and the meeting starts at 7:30pm. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!


Four years ago Darren dazzled us with his plans. They’re now a thriving reality, making the gardens a knockout destination for viewing rare evergreens and unusual plants.

Courtesy of the Whistling Gardens Facebook Page


How many of us can truly say we’ve achieved a life-long dream? Not the majority, I’ll wager, at least not if it is the behemoth vision Darren Heimbecker shared with us four years ago. Twenty-five years in the making, it took a lot of dreaming, planning, money, and most of all, hard work and sheer determination, to create Canada’s newest privately owned botanical garden. It proudly holds the designation of “Norfolk County’s Premiere Botanical Gardens”.

Today, Whistling Gardens is a reality that is breathtakingly unique in its mission, vision, and operation; that is garnering awards and accolades as a destination botanical garden from the Canadian and International Garden Tourism Awards, the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation, Norfolk County’s Amazing Places program, celebrity horticulturists, and even wedding planners. Yes! It was featured on W Network’s Say Yes to the Dress as a “perfect garden wedding” location.

As a tourist attraction, the gardens provide much more than beautiful garden beds. Besides the various themed gardens laid out across the sprawling 20 landscaped acres, there is also an aviary. It is home to the most exotic collection of fowl from dazzlingly coloured Golden and Reeves pheasants from China to Royal Mute swans. And though they are not known for their birdsong, the gardens are nonetheless serenaded by an increasing number of native birds which the garden habitat attracts. The presence of the birds has generated a partnership with a local birding photographer who helps to document them.

But birdsong is only one of the sources of aural stimulation at Whistling Gardens. “Inspired by Andre Le Notre’s 1634 design at the Palace of Versailles”, the Fountain Amphitheatre is Canada’s largest. Yet you won’t find opera singers pacing the stage or the three 80 ft. stone staircases that Darren built himself. The mammoth stone masterpiece is the stage for water fountain spectacles choreographed to Darren’s own original compositions which play twice daily.

The word “unique” is most fitting for Whistling Gardens, including, of course, its plant collection. Darren, with his particular penchant for conifers, has amassed the world’s largest public display, surpassing 2500 species, cultivars, and hybrids. For the purists among us there are over 450 rare or native Carolinian trees on the site and a woodland walk takes you through 165 Dawn redwoods. And the gardens have received a peony collection of over 900 varieties. Who knew there were so many?  Lots of folks, because the spring show is apparently drawing a lot of interest.

Nothing that is part of Darren Heimbecker’s dream garden adventure is short of grand! Indeed, there is little about Whistling Gardens that can’t be described with superlatives. But a picture is worth 1,000 adjectives, and Darren’s presentation this month on the dream that became Whistling Gardens must be seen to be believed. Don’t miss the show!

Maria Nunes

« Sue Arndt - Not Far From The Tree | Main | Parkdale Seedy Saturday - March 5, 2016, 11AM - 3PM »