Thursday, October 18, 2012

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

The highlight of my Vancouver trip was my visit to the VanDusen Botanical Garden, all the more enjoyable as the heavy cloud eventually broke and I saw most of the garden bathed in autumn sunshine. The site was originally a golf course and became available in the late 1960's. Funding from various sources including WJ VanDusen, enabled purchase of the land and development started in 1971, with the garden opening to the public in 1975. Bearing in mind the relative youth of this 22 ha (55acre) garden, plantings appear very mature.

First view of the garden from the new entrance

Can't recall the theme of this colourful little garden
Lovely contrast this cool rocky stream bed - theme is Western N America
The garden is beautifully designed and divided into various plant collections and themed areas, boasting 11,500 accessioned plants, mostly well labelled in formal botanic garden style. It's a beautiful and very enjoyable garden but with a serious vision. There is a Master Gardener training scheme, a program of lectures, events and workshops and a horticultural library.  It is also good to see that unlike the Quarry Garden, reviewed in the previous blog, these gardens encourage us to 'Please walk on the grass!'

Its difficult to know where to start describing the garden. For UK gardeners it is probably more like a small Wisley than a formal botanic garden. I particularly enjoyed the Alma Van Dusen garden - very autumnal with sunflower seedheads, pampas and late asters. There was a good exotic border with all the usual lush and leafy stuff, plus a variegated pokeweed that I particularly liked. Sadly the 'autumn stroll' was closed due to construction works, although there were hints of autumn colour in various areas including some fine vibrant orange Rhus. The heather garden was very colourful (compare the sad offering at Compton Acres).

I fell in love with the stark shapes of these seedheads
Had to include some pampas but couldn't find any palms!

You guessed it - the exotic border
Phytolacca americana  'Silberstein' - love the contrast of foliage, stem colour and fruits
Fiery autumn tints on a Euphorbia but what is it - anyone help me out? (Identified as E. villosa - thanks Chad)

Fraxinus americana - possibly 'Autumn Purple'

Hamamelis 'Ruby Glow'

Rhus typhina 'Laciniata' - one of my favourite autumn colour plants

The heather garden - Callunas finishing and Ericas budding up for winter
There were still some brave autumn perennials and burnished grasses glowing in the afternoon sunshine. I sort of missed the black garden which I would like to have seen. On the day I visited the staff were clearing it, so it was partly dismantled but there were still some interesting plantings. I don't think it was particularly well sited being under trees - dark leaved plants always look best in bright sunshine. With collections of rhododendrons, camellias and witchhazels, to mention a few, I guess the garden also looks spectacular in spring. Winter colour was already evident with various coloured berries. Throughout the garden there was sculpture and other small details like the tubs of Sarracenia near the old entrance area.

Asters and Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' - great combination

Love the way the light catches these spiky leaves - can't remember what they were
Great tawny tints on these grasses - rarely seen it the wetter UK autumn

Callicarpa giraldiana - yes the berries are real, not plastic and last through the winter
Sorbus hupehensis 'Pink Pagoda' - great colour and the birds generally leave it  until they are really hungry!

Great contrast between the black Colocasia and the small leaved Lonicera 'Baggeson's Gold'

Colocasia - couldn't find a label but think its 'Mojito'

How can you not love these wonderful Cyclamen hederifolium 'Album'

Nerine bowdenii - great for a hot dry spot, here livening up some dying grasses

Sarracenia rubra - feeds on flies and small insects (Disagreement here - name comes from garden label but Chad identifies as S. leucophylla 'Red Form')

The Little Green Dress Project - some ephemeral art

This garden is well worth a visit and I guess at most seasons - do allow a full day to explore and don't bother to pack sandwiches. There is an excellent cafe, called Truffles! The food and coffee is good, although the service a little slow and disorganised, so don't leave it till you are gasping as I did! More information on the VanDusen Gardens here.

You might wonder why Philip hasn't been mentioned in the last two blogs but on this occasion, he opted to do his own thing rather than join me garden visiting -  no accounting for taste. He spent the day visiting the Apple store  and in an Irish pub, drinking Guinness and eating battered French Fries -  I'm sending him to get his cholesterol checked later this week!


  1. Great photos! I visited this fabulous garden about this same time two years ago. While we were there the exotics were coming out to be hauled away and protected for the winter. Thank you for the reminder that a late spring visit would be nice.

  2. I looked at the photos first before I read all the texts and was surprised how relatively 'young' this place is. You're right, it looks much more mature and established than its garden cultivated age. It is a gorgeous looking garden, a definite destination if you're a plant lover and within the area (even a special trip, looks like it's worth it!)

  3. Could the Euphorbia be E.villosa? There aren’t many that colour that well.

    The Sarracenia is S.leucophylla in a ‘red’ form. S.rubra is never so heavily ‘netted’ and the hood is not usually ‘frilly’.


    1. Thanks Chad - Sarracenia name came from garden's label but as we know they can sometimes be wrong!