Late March, Victoria, British Columbia: it's spring, I guess?

It's spring break for daughter #2 (last year of high school) so we're visiting daughter #1 in Victoria, British Columbia. This is one of the truly sublime spots on the west coast of North America, so it's not a hardship.

Late March is the middle of spring according to my internal clock. Not so in Victoria. While it's in Canada's banana belt (zone 8b), this winter brought far more snow than usual, and plants are slower to wake up and get going. In a "normal" year (whatever that means these days) I would have expected the rhododendrons to be in full bloom; this year they're just starting.

I'm pretty good at going with the flow, so I quickly let go of the mental images I'd come with and am simply enjoying what there is to see. Fortunately, I brought a hoodie that's warm enough to keep me comfy. But I still shiver every time I see a particularly hardy local in shorts and T-shirt when it's in the upper 40s (9 or 10°C).

This post is a collection of photos from the first three days of our visit. We made it to Butchart Gardens on Monday, and I'll have a separate post about that (this time it was less in-your-face-color, more backbone structure and texture).

Our first plant-related stop was at Finnerty Gardens on the campus of the University of Victoria. Check out this post from early April 2016; no such floral splendor this time, at least not yet. But there were enough early-blooming rhododendrons to make me happy.

Rhododendron 'Cindy Louise'

Some rhododendron species have a copper-colored velvety fuzz on the underside of the leaves called "indumentum"

Hazel catkins

Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)

Sasa veitchii (foreground) and Phyllostachys bambusoides

NOID camellia with particularly showy flowers

Tulip magnolia

Helleborus galorus

Another favorite plant spot is Government House. This is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, the representative of the British monarch in British Columbia. The 36 acres of grounds are open to the public and include several gardens. This is a beautiful location with panoramic views of Victoria and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the body of water that separates Vancouver Island from Washington State in the U.S.

Euphorbia myrsinites is everywhere, as is Euphorbia characias, the upright shrubby spurge with yellow flowers

This grevillea was a surprise; I also saw some callistemon

Cotoneaster horizontalis is a popular plant for rock gardens. It's easy to see why!

Proof that there's an agave somewhere, even at Government House! In fact, there are several in this photo.

A larger specimen of Agave americana enjoying a great view

Daffodils galore 

Rhododendron 'Iona Campagnolo'

Random shots from various spots in the greater Victoria area:

Downtown Victoria

University of Victoria campus

Summit Park is a jewel in Saanich, on the east side of Victoria. Even many locals don't know it's there. It has one of the largest remaining stands of Garry oak (Quercus garryana) left in Greater Victoria. While Garry oak grows as far south as Los Angeles County, it's particularly stunning in southeastern Vancouver Island. 

See the bird in the sky on the left? It's one of two bald eagles we saw this morning.

In some parts of Victoria the houses are nestled into stands of Garry oaks. This house in Oak Bay is particularly picturesque: 

The house next door not only has Garry oaks but also a huge rock outcropping typical of Victoria:

I expect not all homeowners are fond of these rock outcroppings, but I think they look fantastic:

A propos of nothing, here's a photo of two weeping Alaskan cedars (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'), which appear to be very popular both in public and residential landscaping. Seeing how I'm drawn to odd plants, I really want to like them. However, I can't help but think of ghosts with suspect intentions skulking about in the dark.

Weeping Alaska cedars on the University of Victoria campus

And finally a couple of really rad reflections. These photos were taken at Swan Lake, a nature sanctuary in Saanich: 

 More in the days to come!

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  1. I think the camellia is Jury's Yellow.

  2. Rhododendrons in full bloom in March? Wow. Around there that's a May thing. And I love that there are agaves, yay!

    So glad you got up to Victoria, I bet Laura enjoyed seeing you all.

  3. Yes it is definitely a late spring this year. I guess you need to be a tourist to really explore as I have never heard of Summit Park or Swan Lake even though I spent every summer there visiting my grandparents. Will have to check them out on our next visit. Have you explored Gowland Todd Provincial Park? It is in behind Butchart's and was part of the original cement works. It still has remnant plants from workers gardens.

  4. Lots to admire even if it wasn't what you expected. I love the shots of the oak branches again the blue sky and the clouds reflected in the lake. I concur with Jane's ID of the Camellia and your assessment of the lurking cedars.


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