I thought we knew this city! Ruth & I have been to Vancouver many times, and we assumed that we had seen its major attractions. Ha! Any great city has undiscovered gems. Ruth’s friend Barbara told us about being there and going to a garden in early summer that literally overwhelmed her, but she couldn’t remember its name. We asked about it at the Vancouver Visitor Centre. “Sounds like VanDusen,” we were told. Van what?
Approaching its entrance the next morning, I read, “VanDusen Botanical Garden is home to 7,500…unique species and varieties arranged in 50 distinct collections.” Below this info were 5 examples of what was currently blooming, including a splendid Delphinium so large that it was rather impossible to photograph.
Put simply, Van Dusen is a 5 Compass garden because of its stunning plant diversity. I knew this as soon as I entered the Fragrance Garden and was overwhelmed, like Barbara, at a collision of scents from both rare and familiar plants.
This 55 acre wonderment at the corner of Oak Street and 37th Avenue south of downtown was a golf course until the 1970s. That’s why its center is still called the Great Lawn. With the province, the city, and W.J. VanDusen sharing the cost of the land, it officially opened in 1975. On either side of the Great Lawn were varied gardens full of surprises. We especially liked the Southern Hemisphere plants, the Australia and New Zealand Garden, the full-bloom dogwoods (especially Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood), and the riot of purplish/pink and blue Delphiniums. But the Elizabethan hedge maze provided the most fun.
VanDusen is opened 12 months a year, and the tree of the month of June was the Monarch birch, the largest of this species and a Japanese native rarely seen outside Japan. It was in the Sino-Himalayan Garden. I hope the Strawberry tree, a west European native, is tree-of-the-month when you are there. It’s apricot-tasting fruit, which causes mild intoxication when overripe, is used in pharmaceuticals.
VanDusen’s Visitor Centre dates from 2011. Its design inspired by the orchid leaf fits right into the landscape. Two restaurants are on the premises. Ruth raved about the Moroccan chicken soup.