July 19, 2022
The Round Garden

Located about an hour west of Ottawa, Ont, in Lanark County, there is a garden with a remarkable story. Created in 1983, the Round Garden provides a unique way to experience nature.

By Gail Pope
Journalism Intern, Landscape Ontario

The Round Garden was created as a way for people with visual impairments to experience the beauty of plants through different senses, like touch and smell.

Mark Stiller, a member of the Civitan Club, is a dedicated contributor to the upkeep of the garden, which is situated in walking distance to two nursing homes. Stiller says it’s common to see nurses taking residents to the park to relax and enjoy the plants.

“My mum was one of the people that benefited from it,” Stiller explained. “She had Alzheimer's and she lost track of everything, so I would take her there and we would just sit there and talk away about things, but she would have some visual influence from all the greenery that’s there.”

The garden gets its name from its circular design. The garden beds are raised so people can easily touch and smell the plants without having to bend down. Stiller said there are a wide variety of flowers that were chosen specifically for their smells and textures. Annuals are replanted each year by the club.

“There is fountain grass and mixed herbs to give off those smells,” Stiller said. “Another box is filled with dusty millers and geraniums, which are a favourite of mine.”

Other sensory plants in the garden include: licorice, marigolds, petunias, snapdragons, gazanias, and more.

But plants are not all the garden has to offer. In the middle sits a large tree that provides shade and there are benches for people who want a place to sit and take in the serenity of the area. There is also a gazebo that has been there since the opening in 1983.

Stiller said not everything is in the best shape possible, with many of the wooden fixtures starting to show their age. He said the group would welcome volunteers with carpentry skills to lend a hand.

Lanark County owns the land and provides an annual budget for repairs. Most of the money goes toward maintenance, like tree trimming and weeding. Lanark County facilities coordinator, Jonathan Allen, said the county is proud to help with the upkeep.

“It’s just a gem,” Allen said. “There aren’t too many places you can take someone who has a visual impairment to go and smell the flowers and read the braille.”

Stiller said he is not alone in this project, and that the members of the Civitan Club have done an amazing job over the years to maintain this space. However, he hopes more can be done now that the restrictions of the pandemic are starting to ease and people are getting back outside. 

“For one or two people, it's a big job, and with more effort and more volunteerism, this place would flourish all the time.”

If you would like to learn more about the Round Garden and how to get involved, the link below.

The Round Garden Website