A Gardener's Delight...
gardens, nurseries and seed companies on Vancouver Island
On Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, gardening is a year round endeavour. Enhanced by a sub-Mediterranean climate that keeps the winters mild and the summers warm, gardeners are able to indulge their grand passion here. From captivating display gardens and historic grounds to organic farms, specialty nurseries and seed producers, the islands are a mecca for those who have—or hope to acquire—a green thumb.
Vancouver Island is home to a delightful collection of display gardens the grande dame of them all being Butchart Gardens in the Brentwood Bay area, near Victoria. Lovingly shaped and nurtured for over a century, the 55 acres (22hectares) of public garden area allows visitors to explore a variety of themes and seasonal displays. With hundreds of thousands of bulbs making their dramatic appearance in Spring, the evening light shows of the Summer season, the changing colours in the Japanese Garden each Autumn, the evergreen shrubs, trees and architectural features of the Winter and the magical displays that twinkle during December make Butchart Gardens a pleasure to visit any time of year.
Located on the grounds of the University of Victoria, Finnerty Gardens houses one of Canada’s best collections of rhododendrons and azaleas in Canada with more than 1500 planted throughout the 6.5-acre (2.6 hectare) site. Also in the Victoria area, Abkhazi Gardens, is protected and maintained by The Land Conservancy of BC. The life’s work of Prince and Princess Abkhazi who began creating the garden to surround their home in 1946, the garden is a stunning example of west coast design utilizing the natural features and plants of the property to full advantage with Garry oaks, carpet of naturalized bulbs, Japanese maples and rhododendrons flowing throughout.
In Qualicum Beach, another historically significant garden has played host to royalty. Visited by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and the Princess Diana, Milner Gardens and Woodland is operated by Vancouver Island University with the tireless assistance of a small army of local volunteers. Paths meander throughout the 70-acre (28 hectare) property that runs along an Oceanside bluff overlooking the Strait of Georgia and is sheltered from the elements by an ancient Douglas Fir forest. The heritage home, once owned by the garden’s patron & designer Veronica Milner, has been converted into a lovely tea house from which to savour this coastal oasis.
For more information on other Island show gardens check out Tourism Vancouver Island’s Garden Trail Guide available online.
Several Island communities have taken part in Communities in Bloom competitions. In 2009, Campbell River attained five bloom status and was a National Finalist. Port McNeill earned two blooms, while the District of Sooke captured three. In 2006, the City of Parksville was a National Winner while in 2004 the Town of Qualicum Beach achieved five blooms as a National Winner.
Islanders can be forgiven for their garden obsession given that pretty much everything grows here. Even palm trees make an appearance in Island gardens. For those of you hoping to take home a little bit of Island flora, there are also a number of plant and seed companies on Vancouver Island.
Salt Spring Seeds has been involved in the seed saving movement for over 23 years, preserving biodiversity through the growing of heritage varieties of plants and saving seeds for future generations. As genetically modified plants, terminator seeds and other mass agricultural practices continue to grow, the company’s owner notes that it is crucial for us to allow plants to grow, adapt and flourish in a natural environment. They offer seeds for a wide variety of food and medicinal plants and have a self-confessed obsession with heirloom tomatoes that you will be ever so happy about when you taste the results!
At Two Wings Farm they have been growing and testing heritage and heirloom vegetables for the fresh food market since 1986. All seeds are grown and gathered from their BC certified organic farm in Victoria. A seemingly endless list of heirloom tomatoes, lettuces, greens, beans and peppers can be found and purchased on their website or in person at the farm.
So if you are interested in all things green and growing, make your way to this verdant paradise we call Vancouver Island.
Milner Gardens & Woodland
Communities in Bloom
Salt Spring Seeds
Two Wings Farm
Water… Vancouver Island is surrounded by it and continues to be shaped by it. Fresh water lakes, rivers, and streams crisscross the landscape. We live in the middle of a temperate rainforest after all and water is plentiful, fresh and clean here. Essential to life, we also have the pleasure of seeking out water for recreational activities. Swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing, kayaking and rafting are all popular sports available to residents and visitors interested in getting out to explore and enjoy the great outdoors.
If you are looking for an adventure while on Vancouver Island, an afternoon of whitewater rafting or kayaking will leave you soaked, but exhilarated! For those of you already kitted out and involved in river kayaking, a trip to the Island will reward you with a plentiful supply of fast flowing destinations. As always, local knowledge can make all the difference… so ask around, join in an online forum and find out where and when to put-in and take-out and what to watch out for, besides our fabulous scenery and wildlife.
In the south Island, try out the Gordon River near Port Renfrew. The mid-section is the steepest and offers some of the hardest drops on this classic run. Up-Island near Duncan, the scenic and winding route of the Cowichan River offers kayaking opportunities for intermediate level paddlers and guided beginners. Oyster River moves swiftly and has waves and eddies for practicing your skills. Up north, Gold River is designated from Class II-IV and provides areas of continuous rapids, rock gardens and challenges suitable for advanced kayakers.
For most of us, the best way to enjoy some time in the company of whitewater is during a river raft tour. Destiny River Adventures, based in Campbell River, is a tenured and fully licensed tour operator offering half-day river floats, multi-day wilderness adventures and even a quintessentially west coast day of rafting & snorkeling with the salmon during the legendary run of these wild Pacific beauties from late July through to October. With knowledgeable guides and all your safety gear supplied, a rafting tour can provide the thrill of a lifetime with from the central north offering the best opportunities for these energetic outings. Rafting companies offer a variety of experiences from a fairly gentle float along the Cowichan to a real thrill ride along the Nimpkish—rated Class III-IV in the upper section. Wherever you raft or kayak on Vancouver Islands and the Gulf Islands we’ll throw in some of the finest west coast scenery to be had and the chance to see bears, elk, deer, eagles, and other wildlife as you float (or rip) by.
Class I — Easy
Class II — Novice
Class III — Intermediate
Class IV — Advanced
Class V — Extreme
*International scale. Levels are based on normal water flows. High water or low water levels can affect class ratings.
Some links to your Vancouver Island river adventure…
Destiny River Adventures
Kindred Spirit Kayak Company
spotlight on Gabriola Island.
Gabriola Island is one of the most accessible of the lovely Gulf Islands tucked along the coast of the larger Vancouver Island. Reached by a 20-minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo to the BC Ferries terminal at Descanso Bay, the island has been known as “Petroglyph Island” for the more than seventy known rock carvings that have been etched in the sandstone rockfaces and boulders.
Because of the sacred and fragile nature of many of these carvings, the Gabriola Museum encourages visitors to enjoy the replicas housed on the museum grounds, from which rubbings may be made. While you are there, check out their displays and spend some time learning a bit more about the rich history of the area.
The early creative expressions by the First Nations peoples—who have called Gabriola Island home for over two thousand years—must have been “calling out” to fellow creative spirits to join them as the island is also known as “Isle of the Arts.” Over 200 of the 4000 residents who currently call Gabriola home are also artists and artisans. Studios, tours, and festivals give visitors up close and personal access to artists working in a wide variety of media, from paint and photography to glass, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, and textiles.
A lovely spot for a weekend away, Gabriola Island provides a picturesque rural setting with quiet beaches, safe harbours and a strong sense of community. If you are planning to stay, check out their charming B&Bs and lodges, moor your sailboat in Silva Bay, or pitch a tent at Descanso Bay Regional Park. Venture along the shoreline in a sea kayak, spend an afternoon exploring one of the three provincial parks on the island and take some time to relax and experience some real Island time.
A few links to help you check out the Island vibe…
Gabriola Chamber of Commerce
Gabriola Sands Park
Gabriola Info – Ferry Cam etc.
Arts & Culture
Gabriola Arts Council
Poetry Gabriola Society
B&B Association Listing
Page’s Resort & Marina
During the winter and early spring months, before the season for local berries and fruit arrives, Canadian cooks have long relied on apples to satisfy our craving for warm, and comforting desserts.
Canadian Apple Pudding
4 cups peeled and sliced apples
2/3 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. raisins
1 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. butter, melted
½ c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring apples and maple syrup to boil in a saucepan; simmer until softened (about 3 minutes). Stir in raisins. Pour into greased 8” square baking pan.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
In another bowl whisk together milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients mixture just until combined.
Drop batter by large spoonfuls onto apples in the baking pan.
Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.
The Ceremonial Home of All British Columbians
By Rosemary Neering
Photographs by Tony Owen
Published by SonoNis (2007)
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Built in the 1860s, Government House was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1899 and again in 1957. Though the present building is comparatively young, it and the grounds that surround it represent a long and distinguished tradition. They were declared a National Historic Site in 2003. In keeping with the House's new status, this book pays tribute to its long history and the role of its primary resident, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Filled with anecdote and description, and richly illustrated with historic and contemporary photographs, this book reveals the life and times of British Columbia's Government House, its gardens and grounds, and the events that truly make this House a home to British Columbia and the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosemary Neering is the award-winning author of countless books on history and travel in Canada, including works on Canadian women and Canadian pioneers. Her award-winning books include Down the Road: Journeys through Small-Town British Columbia and Wild West Women: Travellers, Adventurers and Rebels, as well as a variety of guides to and histories of British Columbia. Although Rosemary was born in England, she grew up in Brantford, Ontario, and moved to British Columbia at the age of nineteen. Rosemary enjoys traveling throughout Canada, Europe and South America. When she's at home in Victoria, she likes gardening, playing tennis and spending time with her cat Cayambe.
An Edible Journey: Exploring the Islands' Fine Foods, Farms and Vineyards
By Elizabeth Levinson
Published by Heritage House Publishing (2003)
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Tag along with forager and food writer extraordinaire Elizabeth Levinson on a lively personal tour of her favourite food producers, specialty shops and eating establishments. This is a delightful and informative journey of discovery that takes the reader to some of the most charming corners of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. She shows us where to find the most delicious edibles, what to do with them when we've got them, and how to have fun along the way. An Edible Journey also offers spectacular recipes that Elizabeth has collected en route, some created especially for this book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A long-time resident of Victoria BC, Elizabeth Levinson is an inexhaustible hunter-gatherer of fresh, organic foods. She writes features and a regular monthly column for Focus magazine in Victoria.
Explorers of the Infinite: The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes
By Maria Coffey
Published by Tarcher (Penguin Group)
FROM THE PUBLISHER
In Explorers of the Infinite, award-winning outdoors journalist and lifelong adventure sports devotee Maria Coffey probes the mystical and paranormal experiences of mountaineers, snowboarders, surfers, and more. She reviews cutting-edge science, and consults the history of philosophy and spirituality to answer the question: Could the state of intense “aliveness” that is the allure of extreme sports for so many actually be a route to a connection with the beyond? Coffey investigates the scientific explanations for mystical phenomena, ranging from simple explanations to theories from consciousness studies and quantum physics, and leaves us wondering where science ends and spirituality begins. An energetic, you-are-there look at the spiritual lives of extreme athletes, Explorers of the Infinite asks why extreme athletes take the risks that allow them to push the limits of consciousness, what they encounter there, and what we can learn from them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Coffey is an outdoors journalist whose first book, Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow, was serialized in Outside magazine and awarded the prestigious Jon Whyte Award for Mountain Literature. A native of England, Maria now lives on Vancouver Island, where she and her husband run an adventure sea-kayaking business.
Island Moments from Our Readers
My wife, Linda, and I had the best vacation we have ever had in our 35 years of marriage. And it was staying on the Vancouver Island. We stayed at the Two Eagles Lodge B&B, which offers an incredible view from their 12 waterfront acres and Hosts, Carolyn & Steve Touhey, who were such great tour guides. We were planning only to stay on the island for a week, but we had some much fun that we extended our stay for 18 days!!! There were so much to see and do that we couldn't do it in a week. We covered the whole island, saw just about everything you could do, but want to come back.
It was so exciting to the see such grand paradise. I thought I was on Discovery Channel with so much wildlife--eagles, bear, elk, deer, whales, (went on whale watching boat, plus took sea plane ride over whales), otter, mink, dolphin, seals, and sea lions. We even saw a cougar cross the road. We went to several museums and many visitors’ attractions, including Butchart Gardens. I also got to swim with the salmon, accompanied by Steve and Carolyn who helped out by getting wets suits to be able to swim in the river with them. That was exciting. We also swam on the West coast of the Island in the ocean, returning from every day’s adventures to stay in our beautiful oceanfront room at Two Eagles Lodge, after a soak in the hot tub.
The B&B was such a grand place to stay. It’s in such a nice location being centrally located on the East shore of the island, facing Denman Island. You can see the mountains on the mainland from the front porch where we sat around the fire nearly every night, watching incredible sunsets glisten pink on the water. We even ate Dungeness crabs “Maryland-style” on the deck, with Carolyn and Steve making every guest feel like part of their family. The homestyle breakfasts were great ways to start the day, too.
I've been to many places in the world, but I'll always say the best place I''ve ever been is on Vancouver Island. Since I been back home in Maryland, I’ve shown some of my many pictures of the Island to friends, and several have gone there to stay at Two Eagles Lodge B&B. They enjoyed it just as much as Linda & I did. We can’t wait to go back.
Glenn & Linda