Thursday, August 27, 2015

VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver, BC

VanDusen Botanical Garden (VBG) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada may well be the loveliest public garden you’ve never seen. I almost didn’t visit either on our recent Pacific Northwest trip, but then I read this description in Donald Olson’s book The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour (Timber Press, 2014):

No question about it: Vancouver’s 55-acre VanDusen Botanical Garden is one of the great gardens of the Pacific Northwest. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the great gardens of the world. Beautifully designed, impeccably maintained, with endlessly fascinating plant material and lots of intriguing outdoor sculpture, it’s a place that will enchant every garden and garden lover.

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0155

Established in 1975 in a leafy neighborhood in southeast Vancouver not far from the University of British Columbia campus, VBG was considered one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets. That changed in 2011 when the ultramodern, award-winning and LEED Platinum-certified visitor center opened its door, taking VBG into the 21st century and beyond. If you’re interested in green/sustainable architecture, I recommend this article about the VBG Visitor Center.

The approach from the parking lot is via a foot bridge. Soon you see the visitor center’s dramatically undulating roof supported by massive wood pillars. The walls of the building are concrete and rammed earth.

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0001

Bridge to the VBG Visitor Center

The roofs of the visitor center are actually planted with grasses and bulbs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good view of the top, but the underside of the entrance roof is stunning as it is—as is the interior. I can’t think of another public garden that has such a dramatic visitor center.

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0154

Visitor Center exterior

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0151

Visitor Center interior

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0005

Visitor Center from inside the garden

VanDusen Botanical Garden is on the site of a former golf course, which in turn was located on land owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). In 1971, eleven years after the golf course moved, the city of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia purchased the land with financial assistance from lumber magnate W. J. VanDusen, and VanDusen Botanical Garden officially opened its doors in 1975. Now it is home to 250,000 plants from 7,500 taxa from all over the world. They all seem to thrive in Vancouver’s mild oceanic climate with moderate temperatures (zone 8b, although there are warmer microclimates) and approx. 45 inches (1100 mm) of rain a year.

I wandered through the garden in a counter-clockwise fashion, starting at the Visitor Center. You may want to follow along on this map. I’ll identify plants to the best of my knowledge. In other words, if there was a label, I photographed it so I know what the plant is. Aside from plant IDs, I’ll try to keep my commentary to a minimum so you can enjoy the photos.

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_pond_pano

Livingston Lake

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0011

Reeds along the shore of Livingston Lake

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0015

“Confidence” by Michael Dennis (red cedar sculpture)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0019

Eastern North America section

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0018

Glimpse of Cypress Pond through the trees

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0022

Bridge across Cypress Pond. The trees on the left and right are bald cypresses (Taxodium distichum ‘Pendens’)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0033

Cypress Pond

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0034

Water lilies in Cypress Pond

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0030

Rain drops! Yes, it was actually starting to drizzle although it never amounted to much. I was worried about my camera, but I simply kept wiping it dry with my T-shirt.

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0039

Heron Lake

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0038

Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and bamboo

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0044_Sciadopitys-verticillata

Umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0040

Gunnera across Heron Lake

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0042

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) of all shapes, sizes and colors

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0047

Variegated boxelders (Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’) flanking a large clump of Petasites japonicus

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0046

Petasites japonicus

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0051

Brunnera macrophylla, all-green and variegated

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0056

Astilbe chinensis ‘Vision in White’

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0055_Astilbe-chinensis-Vision-in-White

Sorry, I don’t know what hosta cultivar this is

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0058

Dried Flower Arrangers’ Garden

150628_Vancouver_Vandusen_cutting_garden_pano

Dried Flower Arrangers’ Garden

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0069

Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemonti)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0070_taiwania-cryptomerioides

Coffin tree (Taiwania cryptomerioides)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0072

Vignette in the Sino-Himalayan section

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0084

Path through the Sino-Himalayan section

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0079_Cercidiphyllum-japonicum-f.-pendulum

Weeping katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping')

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0083

Weeping katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping') and waterfall

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0091

Fern dell

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0093

Fern dell

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0110

Alma VanDusen Garden, Alma being the wife of lumber magnate W. J. VanDusen who donated $1 million to buy the land for the VBG

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0097

Indian rhubarb (Darmera peltata)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0101

Indian rhubarb (Darmera peltata); the yellow flowers are from a ligularia (not sure which species)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0114

The delphinium in the background are in the Alma VanDusen Garden

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0118

Gunnera sp. at Meadow Pond #1

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0116

Near Meadow Pond #1

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0107

Bottlebrush (Callistemon sp.)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0108

Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0120

Meadow Pond #2

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0121_oplopanax-horridus

Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0124

Orangebark stewartia (Stewartia monodelpha), a beautiful tree native to Japan and Korea

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0123

Korean Pavillion, donated to VBG by the government of Korea after the Expo 86 World’s Fair in Vancouver

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0126

Hydrangeas—ho hum for many, lovely in my eyes

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0128

Hosta ‘First Frost’

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0134_Catalpa-bignonioides-Aurea

Golden catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’)

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0133

Hostas mixing with tropical foliage plants

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0132

Bananas

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0131

Even an Agave attenuata old enough to have formed a trunk! This was a big surprise because this agave species is one of the wimpiest. VGB must have a very mild microclimate (Vancouver, BC is in zone 8b).

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0136

Succulent bowls

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0148

The wooden building in the upper left of the photo above is Shaughnessy Restaurant

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0145

A nice place to sit

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0140

The yellow-flowering plants are lobster pot pitcher plants (Sarracenia psittacina), carnivorous plants found in the coastal plains from southern Georgia to southern Mississippi

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0139

The orange flowers behind the Sarracenia are an Inula species

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0141

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0144

Transitioning to ornamental grasses

150628_Vancouver_VandusenBG_0146

Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’

I’m very glad I visited VanDusen Botanical Garden and would highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area. I will cover the other botanical garden in Vancouver – University of British Columbia Botanical Garden – in another post, but I didn’t think it was quite as beautiful.

The drizzle continued on my drive back to our apartment on the campus of the University of British Columbia, about 20 minutes away, but it stopped later in the evening so there was a bit of color in the sky at sundown:

150628_Vancouver_eve_from_Spanish_Banks

View of downtown Vancouver from Spanish Banks

RELATED POSTS:

2015 Pacific Northwest trip index

12 comments:

  1. Lovely, so lush and green, and--green. Really green, amazingly green.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So much I could say, but I'll just remark: BEAUTIFUL! Everything looks PNW perfect -- except the bananas, which look out of place and wimpy IMO. I always wondered in what climate/conditions 'Karley Rose' looks good, and now I know. Also, your sunset photo is so nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, PNW perfect. But it seems the tropicalesque element is part of the PWN aesthetic as well even when the plants themselves aren't hardy. In the case of the VBG, I don't know if the bananas and other exotics are left out all winter. Somehow I doubt it.

      Delete
  3. Your photos are just similar enough to my memories that I feel like I've been there, yet different enough that I feel I need to go back. Having lived in Seattle for 10 years I think of Vancouver as a quick day trip. Sadly from Porltand its not that way. Heck with increased population and traffic it's probably not even that easy from Seattle anymore. Still, we must return, soon.

    Oh and that Agave attenuata is lifted in the fall. They were starting with the bananas (we visited in September) and I asked about the agaves. All are taken away to greenhouses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It took us almost five hours from Seattle to Vancouver. Our hotel was at SeaTac and getting to Seattle proper took 45 minutes. Then there was traffic through Bothell and Everett. And the wait at the border was well over an hour. It would be a long day trip now.

      Thanks for the info on the agaves and bananas. There goes my theory of the particularly mild microclimate at VBG.

      Delete
  4. The place does look beautiful with its lush planting and woodland feel. It feels like a relaxing place to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the kind of place where the cares and worries of everyday life just fall away as soon as you step through the door.

      Delete
  5. I'm so glad you didn't elect to bypass this garden, Gerhard. It's wonderful - more impressive than Butchart by far in my book. I've got to get up to the PNW.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree 100%. VanDusen was beautiful, serene, peaceful and quiet. I encountered maybe 50 people there vs. literally hundreds, possibly even thousands, at Butchart Gardens.

      Delete
  6. love the huge pots of pitcher plants. Great tour, Gerhard. Gunnera Across Lake Heron is an amazing photo. Really brings home the majestic presence of these plants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were so many memorable vignettes where everything came together perfectly. I would go back in a heartbeat.

      Delete