Vignettes from Victoria II

In Vignettes from Victoria 1 I mentioned that spring is very late this year. The Butchart Gardens blog says that the "floral calendar is almost a full month behind." But there is good news, too: "[B]ecause of this we are anticipating one of the most dynamic spring seasons ever." Maybe this will be true for the entire Pacific Northwest. A bit of payback for my long-suffering friends in Portland and points north.

Meanwhile, I keep discovering pockets of color all over Victoria. Originally a hospital, the venerable St Joseph Apartment Building on Humboldt St has several cherry trees that are in full bloom now. What a spectacular sight!

The forsythias aren't half bad either!

Government Street, Victoria's biggest shopping street, connects the Inner Harbour with Chinatown. It has a few flowering cherries, too, but the standout plants right now are dozens of European hornbeam trees (Carpinus betulus) in very large planters. They're in the very early stages of leaving out, but they still look like an oversized Q-tips to me. I don't mean this in a derogatory way. Quite the opposite. I'm fairly obsessed with them and took lots of photos.

On the left, you can see the Empress Hotel, on the right the British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Q-tip trees and the BC Parliament Buildings

Munro's Book, rated one of the top 10 bookstores in the world by National Geographic. Munro's Books was started in 1963 by eminent Canadian writer Alice Munro (winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature) and her then husband Jim.

Moving on to Chinatown, we're missing the majestic flowering cherry spectacle we enjoyed so much last year. But Victoria's Chinatown, the oldest in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco's, is a must-see destination at any time of year. Yes, there are plenty of tourist shops, but it looks like it's still home to a vibrant Chinese community.

Chinatown is the place to come when you have a craving for durian fruit. I still haven't worked up the courage to try it.

The entrance to Fan Tan Alley is so narrow that two people have a hard time passing each other unless they're very skinny. Fan Tan Alley houses a number of small shops.

Rook & Rose, one of daughter #1's favorite stores in downtown. Unfortunately, we were pressed for time but I hope to get a chance to go inside on a future trip. (Coincidentally, the Sansevieria trifasciata 'Bantel's Sensation' on the left is a plant I'd been looking for for a long time. I finally found a smaller one a few weeks ago at Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon, California.)

At first I didn't pay much attention to this building at the corner of Store and Pandora St but then I noticed the over-sized terracotta flower pots on either side of each balcony window. I wonder what people plant in them?

Look for one more "Vignettes from Victoria" post on Friday.


  1. All the photos are great, but that last one in particular is way cool. Thanks for the tour of Victoria.

  2. you sure are giving me a hankering to return to Victoria.

    1. You DO know that I secretly work for the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, right?

  3. Maybe you'll be there sometime when they're pruning those hornbeams -- that would be interesting!

    So is 2017 going to be all travel for you? If so, looking forward to seeing you again in person when you get to St. Louis. ;)

    1. Just trying to get as many trips in as I can. if I were a man of means and leisure, I'd travel a lot more.

      Some day I'll do another cross-country drive...

  4. The hornbeam trees are startlingly symmetrical! I assume that's natural - there's no arborist wandering the city trimming them with precision?

    1. I have no idea. The trees look much too symmetrical to grow that way. On the other hand, trimming them every year would be a big undertaking. I'll try to find out!


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