Golf course to garden…

Another day…another botanical garden.  I set out on the #10 Granville bus bright and early heading ‘uptown’ for the VanDusen Botanical Garden.  The UBC Botanical Garden I visited yesterday was somewhat remote from the hustle and bustle of town and, while having much diversity in plant life,  was very much focused on preserving the natural forested area and ecosystem.  I imagine it to be the epicenter of botany research and educational opportunities for both the university students and the community at large.  I admit to having expected to see many more of plants I have always associated with the Pacific Northwest such as hosta, oak leaf hydrangea, deciduous azaleas and dogwood and left having not really made the distinction between what has always grown in this geography and what modern gardeners have filled their landscape with for enough years that I just thought it was from here!  In contrast, VanDusen Botanical Garden is a much more structured and managed horticultural display with flowers, shrubs and trees from all over the world and presented in collections and plantings that are thought out far more carefully than Mother Nature ever would.  And it is smack in the middle of town, surrounded on all sides by homes and businesses.  It is equally as breathtaking as the UBC garden, just in a different way!

The 55 acre garden was part of an original 6,000 acre 1885 land grant from the Province of British Columbia to the Canadian Railroad system and made as an inducement to extend the railroad to Vancouver.  In the early 1900s a small portion of the land was developed as an exclusive residential area known as Shaughnessy.  A golf course was built as part of this development.  Years passed and although the area prospered with many beautiful,  large residences being built and still occupied,  the golf course was eventually abandoned.  In the late 1960s the desire to preserve the golf course land as public space with an eye toward a botanical garden, the Vancouver Foundation was formed.  The 55 acres was purchased and management of the project was placed in the hands of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.  The Garden was named after philanthropist J. W. VanDusen, then President of the Foundation and donor of 1/3 of the funds needed for the land purchase.  There are 46 plant collections and the areas are linked together in compatible landscape groupings.  The Garden also has a full schedule of adult and youth educational programs and offers professional development for teachers.  Add to that a beautiful gallery with rotating displays of botanical art, a wonderful library, a gift shop and great little lunch place!  Of special note is the new Visitor’s Center opened in 2011.  Its design, inspired by organic forms such as an orchid leaf, presents a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape.  It is also a “green” building which uses less energy, water and natural resources while producing less waste and creating a healthier indoor environment. Below you see an image of the Visitor’s Center and its unique door handles which appear to be made of branches of the Henry Lauder Walkingstick tree.

 Continuing on to the beautiful vista of Livingstone Lake and the  Cascadia Garden.

This wonderful conifer is espaliered over a structure about 30 feet in length and provides a shady entrance to the restaurant.



The Children’s Garden is home to several playful topiary critters–this one in its infancy.

Children's Garden sea serpent topiary

Photography nor words can do this vista of tulips and forget-me-nots justice as we pass through a formal garden area toward the Rhododendron Walk!


The Rhododendron Walk pairs the many species of this glorious shrub with companion shrubs, perennials, bulbs and ground covers. The walk has over 600 species and an even greater number of hybrids.  The Walk is generally at its peak in May but an unusually early and warm spring made this beautiful show just for me!

The Rhody Walk and several other areas in the Garden filled my giant hosta wishes.

I was in awe of the variety of trees, both deciduous, evergreen and conifers, that can be found amongst the various collections.  The Pacific Northwest has one of world’s greatest coniferous forests as here they are predominant over deciduous trees because their evergreen needles enable them to continue photosynthesis when deciduous trees are dormant.


So many photos left to choose from—here are a few more favorites plants that I was thrilled to see thriving in large colonies with amiable companions and a few that I have never even seen in person before.

If you click anywhere in the photos, you will be able to roll the cursor over the individual photos and see a caption with the plant’s common name. Let me know if this doesn’t work for you…first time trying this.

It was clear to me that this beautiful garden is not only a destination for travelers like me but also is a source of respite and relaxation for Vancouver natives.  In my wanderings I passed many groups of two or three folks just strolling and chatting, a lot of moms and grandparents with strollers,  artists sketching and photographers snapping away.  Vancouver residents are truly blessed to have this oasis of green (and every other color) right in their backyards.

Will close with this moment understood by gardeners everywhere……………………………


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