Vancouver has so many public gardens that we will not have seen them all, even though we have stayed here more than a month. Large and small, general and specialized, designed for display and for teaching, they are all beginning their lavish flowering as the sun stays out and the air warms up. Flowers
Today we drove back to the University of British Columbia to visit their botanical garden. We passed through Kitsilano -- a neighborhood of older homes and frequent small landscaped front yards full of daffodils and flowering trees, then through the large campus of the University, where we noticed several institutes for the study of paper and wood.
We began with a long walk through the Asian Garden; Asian Forest would have been a better name! We followed a meandering bark-covered trail, with numerous excursions on gravel and stepping-stone paths through the woods. We came across numerous signs describing specimen trees which were "rare in cultivation." They had been discovered when western botanists explored the area around western China. In some cases seeds had been imported more than fifty years ago but the first Canadian trees are just now reaching maturity. All of the shrubs as well, including many varieties of rhododendron, were imported from Asia.
A tunnel took us under the highway to a Food Garden, Arbour Garden, Physick Garden, Contemporary Garden, BC Native Garden, Alpine Garden, Winter Garden, and Pond, not to mention the good-sized greenhouses and potting sheds (which were off-limits.) Not mentioned on the map was the "garden" of sempervivens stuck in the niches between the rocks in the wall at the end of the tunnel -- almost a hundred different species! Alpine garden
We found peas, leeks, horseradish, lettuce, rhubarb and Swiss chard already growing in the Food Garden -- there were lots more places still available to plant seeds. Around the outside were fruit trees -- each one trimmed and trained to the nth degree in intriguing criss-cross designs of limbs.
In the Native Garden we learned that the beautiful yellow flower we had seen alongside mountain streams was really skunk cabbage. The Physick Garden is a replica of a 16th century Dutch monastery garden. And the Alpine garden contained plants found at high altitude on all continents; we think this is the first time we have seen flowers from Uzbekhistan!
The cool wet, frost-free Vancouver climate is outstanding for horticulture. When we see one of the plants we had raised in the desert growing 8 or 10 feet tall, we're amazed. This U.B.C. Botanical Garden was designed first of all for botany students, but is wonderful for visitors as well. We find ourselves more interested by the botanical gardens, with lots of unusual and interesting specimens, than the more manicured show gardens, though both kinds are definitely worth the visit. The tourist can't go wrong picking any Vancouver garden for a stop.