Local nature enthusiast James Wilson tweeted ‘One of the biggest and most floriferous Magnolias in Ottawa is this Merrill Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’) is on the horticulture grounds at Algonquin College. It is 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It is in full bloom today.’. Oooh, gotta check that out!
Then I thought of another wonderful bunch of Magnolias in the Arboretum. So, for lovers of these wonderful smelling flowers, here’s a 10km bike route starting from the amazing display in the Arboretum to the Merrill Magnolia at Algonquin College. The ride is almost entirely along multi-use pathways.
The Arboretum magnolias are just off the gravel path at the northern end of the Arboretum near Prince of Wales Drive.
After checking out the beautiful display in the Arboretum, I followed the gravel road that heads up the hill alongside Prince of Wales Drive. The gravel along this dirt road is usually packed, but can be a bit unpredictable throughout the year. Alternatively one could cross Prince of Wales at the signalised pedestrian lights and ride along the paved shoulder/unprotected bike lane along Prince of Wales, as noted by the purple line on the map, but car and truck traffic along Prince of Wales is pretty speedy as it’s a popular commute route.
From the traffic circle at the top of the hill I headed west along the National Capital Commission (NCC) Scenic Driveway. Unfortunately the Experimental Farm Pathway only starts a few hundred meters along the NCC Scenic Driveway, just in front of the big red barn, and there is no shoulder or bike lane along the section between the traffic circle and the barn. However the sidewalks are paved.
After riding a short distance along the pathway beyond the barn I turned onto quiet Morningside Lane and then west again along equally pleasant Cow Lane that cuts through fields on either side.
Then it’s back onto the pathway, on the other side of Ash Lane.
One confounding little spot for those travelling along the Experimental Farm Pathway for the first time is the continuation of the pathway across Fisher Avenue. This is because the path on the west side of Fisher is not alligned with the path on the east side. Instead it starts a short distance north, and is very poorly indicated or noticeable from the east side.
Beyond this little navigational mess the Experimental Farm Pathway continues merrilly through a myriad of wonderful landscapes, all the way to Woodroffe Avenue.
Across Woodroffe the path takes on a different name – the Pinecrest Creek Pathway – which I followed for a short distance down a hill around a curve before taking the exit that traverses the Transitway.
Once across the transitway the path curls up and under Baseline Road. I got off the path at College Ave and headed over the bridge towards Woodroffe Avenue. Unfortunately there are no bike lanes over this bridge but the sidewalks are extra wide.
the Algonquin College horticulture grounds are right across Woodroffe on the southeast corner of Woodroffe and College Avenue, but there isn’t even a sidewalk, let alone a bike lane or paved shoulder along College Avenue to get you to the horticulural grounds official entrance. Traffic along this short stretch of College Ave is often speedy as drivers take the wide curve coming off the 6 lane Woodroffe Ave. Fortunately there is no fence blocking access onto the horticultural grounds so I rode along a short stretch of grass directly from the corner of Woodroffe & College to the very nice brick path that meanders through the horticultural gardens. UPDATE – April 2021: There is presently construction fencing around the site so you will need to continue straight along College Ave until you get to the wonderful magnolia tree on the right, which isn’t blocked off by fencing.
I followed this path around to the east side of the green houses, where sits the glorious Merrill Magnolia.
I highly reccomend checking out this multi-sensory beauty. The gentleman on site said there may be a week left of bloom as long as there is no overnight frost before then. Sheer coincidence, that gentleman happened to be James Wilson, who’s initial tweet inspired this ride! Turns out James teaches horticulture at the college and was just starting a class when I arrived.
One can also follow this same route throughout the summer to visit the Horticultural grounds which are quite beautiful.