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Five must-see gardens in Canada

A look at inspirational and influential historical gardens across the country.

British Columbia

By Michael Lascelle

The romantic gardens
Vancouver Island, especially the Victoria region, seems to be a
hot spot for historic gardens. Two of these in particular display a romantic influence, due in part to the passion of the couples who inspired them.

hatley-2-227.jpgThe first of these, Hatley Park National Historic Site (shown above and at right), is celebrating its centennial. James Dunsmuir (former B.C. premier and lieutenant governor) and his wife, Laura, designed the landscape in an effort to create a grandiose Edwardian park of garden rooms, recreational spaces, farmland and forests around their impressive 40-room mansion, which they had built in 1908. This landscape includes a classic rose and Italian garden, along with a formal Japanese garden designed by Isaburo Kishida in 1909. The 565-acre property overlooking the Pacific Ocean was a military training college from 1940 to 1995, and since then has become home to Royal Roads University. Despite its age, the gardens, hard landscaping and mansion’s original charm and nuance remain. For more information, visit www.hatleypark.ca or call 866-241-0674.

The second spot is Abkhazi Garden, which was the life’s work of Georgian prince Nicolas Abkhazi and his great love, Peggy Pemberton-Carter. The one-acre site, built around glaciated rock slopes, features magnificent Garry oaks (Quercus garryana), gnarled, 100-year-old rhododendrons and sculpted azaleas. Designed to complement its many panoramic views, intricate garden paths offer glimpses of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Sooke Hills. Abkhazi Garden was saved from development in 2000, when the Land Conservancy (a non-profit, charitable land trust) purchased the property in order to ensure the future of this significant landscape. Visit conservancy.bc.ca or call 877-485-2422.


By Alison Beck

Prairie pioneers
In the Prairie provinces, the most significant gardens seem to be those created when newly arrived gardeners stopped trying to change their growing conditions to accommodate the plants they wanted to cultivate and began to plant specimens that would grow in the conditions they had. In fact, many hardy modern introductions enjoyed by Canadians were developed or discovered by these Prairie gardening pioneers.

Once such pioneer was William Roland Reader. From 1913 to 1942, Reader was Calgary’s superintendent of parks and cemeteries. Reader moved into a city-provided cottage and began to develop the surrounding bare hillside into what is now known as the Reader Rock Garden. He wanted to show people just what could be accomplished in the difficult growing conditions of the foothills. He was an avid plant collector and his garden grew to include 4,000 species, including shrubs such as western mountainash (Sorbus scopulina) and perennials such as fleabane (Erigeron caespitosus), all of which were documented in his unpublished book, The Hardy Herbaceous Perennial Garden.

honeywood.jpgThough unpublished, the book is a vital resource for the Reader Rock Garden Society, a group devoted to the restoration of the garden, which, thanks to them was re-opened to the public in 2006. For more information, visit limedesign.ab.careader or call 403-221-4500.

During the Great Depression, northern Saskatchewan teacher Dr. A.J. (Bert) Porter supplemented his income by selling mail-order nursery stock door to door. Unsold stock was planted at his farm in Honeywood, Saskatchewan, where he began hybridizing plants hardy for the Prairies. In 1934, Honeywood Nursery was established (shown above, at right) and became internationally know for hardy hybrids, particularly lilies. The nursery ceased operations in 1999 but was saved from being returned to farmland by a group of local citizens who purchased the nursery to develop it as a memorial garden. In 2007, the property was designated as Provincial Heritage Property. For more information, visit honeywood-lilies.ca or call 306-747-2275.

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