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Vancouver - Last Day

The Horticulture Center of the Pacific. Our last day of gardens on Vancouver Island turned out to be a high point.  We started the day at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.  This educational garden is maintained by 10 month student interns who learn how to garden as a trade before spreading out to work in the many gardens around Vancouver Island (Victoria touts itself as "City of Gardens").  The gardens were quite lovely with about 30 theme gardens from bogs to Japanese gardens, vegetables, and fuchsia collections.  The garden art was quite nice throughout the grounds.DSC_7085

The luscious bog garden.

Iron Allium christophii flowers at the Hort. Center of the Pacific.

The final garden was The Butchart Gardens, a must-see for any visitor to the island.  The hanging baskets, color plantings, and general exuberance of the gardens make this a great place to visit for both gardeners and non-gardeners alike.  I appreciated some of the more understated areas like the Japanese Garden where moss and ferns gave a serene, green look.DSC_7132

Brilliant hanging baskets are everywhere.

Bright color in the Quarry Garden at Butchart.

Apparently tours are not allowed at Butchart Gardens (they even explicitly prohibit guided tours on the tickets) but the JC Raulston name once again paid off.  We were given a private tour by Rick Gordon who has been working at Butchart for 30 years.  Despite his length of service, this was Rick's very first tour - which he led excellently I should add.  He told us that they will give maybe 10 or so guided tours a year.  We even got to peak into the greenhouses where they produce their fantastic plants.

A serene break from all the exuberant color.

Massive maidenhair ferns in the Japanese Garden.

Our Great 70 Degree British Columbia Getaway has been a phenomenal trip with a great group of people, exquisite gardens, and knowledgeable guides.  I can't wait for the next trip.

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A great trip with a great group.

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Vancouver - Day 5

Thanlictrum delavayi anchoring one end of a Government House Border. The bustling harbor just outside our hotel starts early in the morning much like our crew.  Seaplanes were getting ready for tourists, sailboats were heading out, and ferries were preparing for crowds.  We left for Hatley Castle Gardens on what is now the grounds of the Royal Roads University.  The house was originally built by the man who owned all the coal mines on the island who decided he needed a castle.  It was eventually sold to the Canadian navy who used it as a naval academy before it ultimately turned into a university.

Hatley Castle

Barrie showing us around Hatley Castle.

Our guide Barrie, the head gardener, was a wealth of information about the house and grounds.  There were incredibly well-maintained and interesting formal gardens, a Japanese garden, rose and walled gardens and woodland ferneries.  The diversity was really quite nice and while some of the gardens are in need of renovation, the majority were quite beautiful and filled with fantastic plants.

Part of the sub-tropical border.

A formal Italianate garden at Abkhazi.

After a quick lunch we were on our way to the Abkhazi Garden which is a wonderful oasis in a surburban neighborhood.  The house and garden are built among and on solid stone outcrops where paths and plants blend seamlessly with the rock.  The garden combines 100 year-old rhododendron with unusual plants from around the world including new cultivars and unusual species.

Nancy and Claire exploring Abkhazi.

A pond nestled into the rock outcrop at Abkhazi.

The winding turf lawn at Abkhazi represents the Yangtze river.

Our plan was to finish the day at Beacon Hill Park, a public park near our hotel.  Based on a tip from a couple of Abkhazi volunteers, we instead headed to Government House - the residence of the Lieutenant Governor, the official representative of England when she (or he) is in town.  The grounds are open to the public and were simply spectacular.  The house is on top of a hill over Victoria and has lush borders, rock gardens, herb and rose gardens, and quite a few acres of endangered Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystem.

One of the lovely borders at Government House.

Part of the dry garden at Government House.
Part of the dry garden at Government House.

A newly planted heath garden below the rock garden.


Vancouver - Day 4

The 500' ferry to Vancouver Island. We were up early to make it to the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island and on to Victoria, our base for the next several days.  The ferry ride is an amazing trip with incredible views as you weave between rocky islands covered with madrone (Arbutus menziesii) and conifers.  The ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay is about 550' feet long and holds over 2000 people and 400 cars so it isn't a small vessel and seems much too big to wind its way between the islands.  Despite a constant look-out no whales, otters, or seals were seen.

Part of the narrow passage for the ferry.


Nice view.

This was one of our few free afternoons so after we arrived at the hotel a bit before lunch, folks split up to explore Victoria, visit some provincial parks, and even golf.  Unfortunately a free afternoon means I get to sit in a hotel room and do work.  Whale watching is on the agenda for later for some of the group but I will get to continue to do work.  I suppose the view of the harbor makes up for it.

The view of the harbor outside my window - not bad.

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Vancouver - Day 3

Part of a great art display at Van Dusen called Touch Wood. Day 3 of the JC Raulston Arboretum excursion to British Columbia lived up to the high bar set by our first couple of days with incredible gardens and fantastic tours.  We started early with a visit to Van Dusen Botanical Garden.  On my last trip to the area (almost a decade ago now!) this garden really blew me away.  There were some big changes including a 22 million dollar, LEED certified visitor center.  Beryl, curator for Van Dusen, took us on a tour of the grounds with some of her colleagues and treated us to a 2 hour in-depth look at the collections.  The grounds were spectacular, much as I remembered them.  The mixed borders of perennials and subtropicals were especially showy.

Barred owl at Van Dusen.

Beryl, the curator at Van Dusen, gave a fantastic tour with a couple of colleagues.

The heath surprised me with flowers in August.


A lovely container at Van Dusen.

The dome of the Bloedel Conservatory.

After a quick lunch we headed the short distance to Queen Elizabeth Park and Bloedel Conservatory.  Vancouver has way more than its fair share of parks and botanic gardens and our 2 garden visits were only a half mile apart.  The tour of the conservatory was given by a parks intern named Dan.  Dan had not been working in the conservatory for long but gave a great tour anyway.  The internship program is a highly competitive one that lasts 4 years giving the interns a chance to work throughout the parks system.

The obligatory Gunnera shot that us east coasters can't resist.

The surrounding Queen Elizabeth Park has a great arboretum but their quarry garden is the real showstopper.  Since it can be viewed from above.  The colorful annuals, perennials, and conifers combine combine for a breathtaking display.

The color and texture is great.

The incredible quarry garden at Queen Elizabeth Park viewed from above.

I'm not sure the bike dates to the Ming dynasty.

The final garden for the day was the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Museum.  Unlike the other gardens, our guide was not a plants-person instead Sue explained to us the life in a Ming dynasty (~1350-1750) scholar's household.

Our guide Sue was fascinating describing the symbolism of the garden and house.

Perhaps my favorite thing Sue told us was an old Chinese proverb:

If you want to be happy for 1 hour, get drunk.

If you want to be happy for 1 year, get married.

If you want to be happy for a lifetime, get a garden.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden is surrounded by the city.

Stone, plants, water, and man-made structures are the four elements of a classical Ming dynasty garden.

Since we were already in Chinatown, a dinner at a dim sum restaurant was a no-brainer.  The Jade Dynasty served us a mountain of dim sum, barbequed duck, Chinese broccoli, mushrooms, and beef with tangerine rind.  A fantastic end to a great day.

Dried gecko in Chinatown - no, they don't eat it like a lollypop, it is used to make a tea.

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