I still had time to make a last visit somewhere but what did I want to see? The answer was quite easy. Years ago when I lived on the west coast I was a volunteer at Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. Since I have moved, Van Dusen has had some major structural changes. The visitor building and restaurant have been renovated and a second larger building installed. This was my chance to see those changes in person and revisits a garden that I loved for many years.
|Looking across the lily pads to the floating bridge|
|This reflecting pool used to the at the main entrance to the garden. |
Now this is a quiet spot where diners can look out and enjoy the view.
|The new building is, architecturally, a sight to see.|
While wandering through the garden that evening I was pleased to see families out and about enjoying picnics on the lawn. The new cafe sells a pass to families that includes garden entry and a loaded picnic basket. This is such a great idea and one of the things I have always liked about Van Dusen. This isn't an uptight garden where you aren't allowed to walk on the grass. It is quite the opposite, people are encouraged to walk on the grass and off the paths. It makes it feel like it is your own garden and is very welcoming.
|Membership is also encouraged and of |
good value if you live in the area,
One of the reasons for this more relaxed attitude is that the Van Dusen site was originally, from 1911 to 1960, the home of the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Links. The grass throughout the gardens was originally installed to be walked upon. In 1960 the golf lease expired and was not renewed. It took several years of debating within the community but in 1966 the City of Vancouver agreed to the property becoming a botanical garden. From 1971 to 1975 the Vancouver Park Board worked on transforming the golf course into the setting for a garden. A groundwork of lakes, streams and massive rock gardens were created for curator Roy Forster to step in. From 1972 to 1996 Roy Forster designed and oversaw the planting with Van Dusen officially opening for business in 1975.
|Sometimes just the perfect selection of rocks is all you need.|
Another aspect of Van Dusen that makes me smile is the weeds. Yes, you heard me right, weeds. Van Dusen is 55 acres big. Big enough that I could not see it all in my brief tour. Big enough to get lost in. And big enough that it's small staff of approximately a half dozen gardeners cannot possibly remove every weed or deadhead every flower. It did my heart good to see some bindweed creeping over a shrub or two. It gave me hope that despite my inability to get my own garden into shape there's other professional gardeners who suffer the same issues.
|This simple arrangement caught my eye|
There were other things that caught my eye this trip as well. I started out thinking I might look at various flower combinations but right away I was struck with how few flowering plants there were. You can specifically go looking for flower gardens, there is a rose garden and perennial bed among other things but when wandering generally I found that plant material and hardscaping were greater contributors to the overall look of this garden. Large trees, water features, rocks, various greenery and leaf shapes all jumped out at me. One interesting spot which really focusses on this type of gardening is the black and gold beds.
There are almost no flowers in this bed and yet the eye catching colours of foliage draw your eye. My excursion was a gentle reminder that it doesn't take bright blooms to create a beautiful garden. All that greenery is laid out in a very specific way though that makes it attractive.
|While the flowers are nice it's the bright gold of the sedum |
and blue of the grass that catches your eye.
Over and over again I noticed trees, paths and beds placed in such a way that they directed your eyes to take in a specific sight.
Although things are done on a grand scale here (I'll never have room enough for a lake or a labyrinth!) I still came away with lots of thoughts on my own garden. How various parts of the garden are divided up into smaller chunks, placement of focal points and use of paths. Not to mention this was a lovely trip down memory lane, thanks for joining me.