Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vancouver - 3rd time lucky!

We finally made it! At the third attempt we made our long-planned but brief trip to Canada. This was first planned two years ago but had to be cancelled when a running injury reduced me to a hobbling invalid with a cane! The rescheduled trip should have been last winter but again had to be postponed as it clashed with Philip's interview for Citizenship. The USA 'department of whatever' wouldn't consider being out of the country a suitable reason to alter it! We rescheduled again.

The autumn chill of Vancouver was a surprise after the late summer heat of Palm Springs - a drop from around 35C (96F) to 16C (60F) after a three hour flight was challenging to the system and wardrobe but we had packed warm clothes, so survived the arctic onslaught. I had particularly hoped to get some good autumn colour pictures but the low light on most days rather limited this. Although I have many thousands of good garden pictures, being away in Palm Springs in the autumn and winter means that I do not get the opportunity to capture these two seasons. Its a tough life missing the British autumn and winter!

Maples in a brief sunny moment

Lots of grass plantings in landscaped areas - flowering well in the dry autumn air
It was a pleasant few days but having a nasty cold rather reduced my energy and interest and Philip's patience! (He's a nurse but when off duty ...) We didn't perhaps do as much as we intended. A planned trip to the summit of Grouse Mountain via the aerial tramway was abandoned due to heavy cloud so at least one day was lost to 'mouching'! Vancouver is well endowed with parks, gardens, open spaces and trees. Stanley Park, linked to the Downtown peninsula extends to 1000acres (400ha) and much of the waterfront has landscaped gardens with trees, grass and sculpture. There are dozens of other neighbourhood parks. In addition I don't think I have ever seen so many roof gardens and patches of 'aerial planting' on buildings.

Just one of many roof gardens we saw
Queen Elizabeth Park is situated a few stops down the subway from Downtown where we were staying and at one of the highest points of Vancouver. The 94 acres were first developed into a park in the 1930s and it was named after Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother during the Royal visit in 1939. (King George was at that time King of Canada and Elizabeth was his consort.) The land had previously been quarried for stone, so was scarred with two huge quarries which were developed into gardens in the 1950's. The more formal gardens are surrounded by a huge arboretum, various walks and recreation areas. The quarry gardens are good but in a traditional 'parks' style and being autumn, the change from summer to spring bedding was taking place. Remaining summer flowers were mingling with autumn tints, all on a very misty morning. It was quite ethereal walking through the mist to find curtains of vivid red Parthenocissus draping the quarry walls.

The large quarry garden and the Bloedel Conservatory in the misty distance

Parthenocissus quinquefolia - is it?

Bit of everything, trees, shrubs, conifers, herbaceous, aquatic and bedding - very parksy! And note the 'keep off the grass' railings

Beautiful rock strata reminding us of the origins of the garden

I just loved this muted mix of autumn colours

Celebration Plaza at the centre of the gardens and at the highest point, features  seven Tai Chi arbours, a dramatic dancing fountain and Henry's Moore's impressive 'Knife Edge - Two Piece' sculpture. Apologies for the almost monochromatic pictures due to the low light.

Henry Moore sculpture and dancing fountains
The Bloedel Conservatory

The sculpture was gifted by Prentice Bloedel as was the adjacent conservatory constructed in 1969 at a cost of $1M. The structure is not dissimilar to the great Biomes at the Eden Project, although the panels in the Bloedel Conservatory are triangular and those at Eden are hexagonal. The conservatory was threatened with closure in 2009 but was reprieved following fund raising by a Friends group and support from the nearby VanDusen Botanical Garden (more in next blog). The conservatory is lushly planted and maintained at a tropical temperature but the planting is confused and Alocasias are mingled with Brugmansias, cacti and charm chrysanthemums. It needs a good sort out and some interpretation. Over 100 species of tropical birds live, flying freely, within the conservatory. Again apologies for the poor pictures - none of the birds seemed willing to pose and face the camera!


Inside the conservatory
Great foliage combo - anyone know what the Alocasia is?

Costus pulverulentus which I wrongly named in a previous blog, this time in bloom.

Dichorisandra thyrsiflora - often called blue ginger but actually a relative of Tradescantia
Pachystachys lutea, a relative of the shrimp plant and same family as Acanthus

And the next post - wait for it - The Van Dusen Botanic Gardens - truly wonderful!


  1. Thanks for sharing this Ian! One rarely hears about the botanical attractions of Vancouver. The Henry Moore sculpture looks spectacular and the Bloedel Conservatory looks fantastic!