Brown takes a walk in Vancouver's 'secret garden'
many people, VanDusen gardens in Vancouver, BC is one of the few
magical and tranquil havens to be found to escape from the noise
and stress of the city. But it is also be a place of adventure,
fantasy and learning
Where else in the city can you get lost in an Elizabethan Maze,
walk on a floating bridge, find turtles basking around lakes,
join in on a Scarecrow Festival or see the magnificent festival
of lights at Christmas?
Walking through the gardens is like stepping into a Monet painting, but
spiced intermittently with brilliant splashes of color. If you stroll
through the early morning autumn fog, you are blanketed in a cocoon of
quiet, like youve just trespassed on an abandoned movie set. So
many varieties of plants, flowers, trees and birds are basking in their
own world of perfect bliss; one almost feels guilty for disturbing it.
Gardeners are industriously snipping away in their own meditative state
sculpting giant leafy animal hedges that look as though they could effortlessly
dip down into the flowing ponds and take a drink. Then you enter different
sections of wide open spaces lined with armies of trees that are dropping
gold, red and orange leaves onto the perfectly manicured plush green lawns.
Wong, Public Relations Director of VanDusen Gardens is lucky enough
to absorb this spectacular scenery every day. She describes the
view from her office as like looking through a stained glass window.
"It is more than a garden, it is a living museum. People often
stop by on their way home from work before the long commute to Richmond
or White Rock to unwind."
In 1910 the gardens site was an acreage of stumps and bush. Owned
by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it was leased by the Shaughnessy
Golf Club from 1911 until 1960 when the golf club relocated. CN
wanted to put in a subdivision, but many citizens were strongly
opposed. In 1966, the VanDusen botanical Gardens Association was
formed to assist the Vancouver Park Board with saving the site.
The land was purchased with shared funding from the City of Vancouver,
the Government of British Columbia and the Vancouver Foundation
with a donation by WJ VanDusen. The Garden officially opened to
the public on August 30, 1975.
VanDusen is a living museum of plants gathered from around the globe.
Many have been saved from extinction in the wild because botanical gardens
provide a safe place for them to thrive. It is home to 7,500 different
kinds of plants assembled from six continents. The Elizabethan maze is
planted with 3,000 pyramidal cedars. More than 60 varieties of birds can
be seen at various times in the garden.
The site is leased out for functions such as the 'All British Car Meet',
art exhibitions and one year the cast of the long running British soap
'Coronation Street' were signing autographs here.
More than 100 courses a year take place from the accredited Master Gardener
Program to non-credit courses and weekend seminars.
In 2000, 155,586 people visited the Garden. "In the summer there
can be 1000 people at one time", says Nancy. "Its amazing
that there are 55 acres and it never feels packed. 75% are tourists and
25% are from the local community. There are 1,600 volunteers ranging in
age from 25-55. Often visitors come and end up wanting to volunteer. There
are 200 events, not produced by gardens itself, but we rent the space."
VanDusen Gardens is open daily from 10.am.
As the daylight length changes so does the closing time:
Current hours: Oct 1 to March 31 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Address: 5251 Oak Street at W 37th Ave (North West corner)
Admission rates - Winter
season (Oct 1 to March 31):
Adult (19-64) $5.00
Senior (65+) $3.50
Youth (13-180 $3.50
Child (6-12) $2.00
(2 adults + 2 people age 6-19)
Children under 6 free
Upcoming events in October:
12-27 Fourth annual Scarecrow Festival. Each scarecrow is created by a
class of lower mainland school children using recycled or recyclable materials.
Vote for favorite 10-4 daily. Sign up for programs on Oct 19 and 26. Call
604-257-8669 for more info on family adventure.
13-19 Sunday to Saturday Autumn Leaves. Special themed tours of
Japanese maples by Heron lake, sugar maples in the Canadian heritage garden
and the eastern woodland. Daily at 2 pm with an extra tour at 1 pm on
Sunday and Saturday. Free for members with garden admissions.
Special features to be seen this time of year: heathers, maples, eastern
American and gingko trees, autumn crocus, fatsia, rubekia, asters and
At the end of the tour, be sure to stop by the wonderful Shaughnessy Restaurant
for brunch or dinner. There's Californina style dining in the gardens.
Although at it's most spectacular in the summer as all the walls are opened
out for full viewing of the gardens it is a great winter spot and perfect
for that after meal stroll. Or if you only just have time for a brief
stop on the way home, as Nancy Wong says "The stillness and serenity
offer more relaxation than a Martini."
© Jenny Brown October 2002 - Actress/Dancer/Intern at Hackwriters
Wright will soon be The Happiest Fag in the World
a Vancouver personality on the up and coming list.
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