“In fact, over the past six years, the majority of the work in the garden has been done by volunteers,” boasts Patterson. “They’ve been really amazing. One of our volunteers from Mexico even created the map of the garden that visitors use on the self-guided tour.”
A small collection of donated species rhododendrons occupies part of the garden. One cultivar, ‘George Fraser’, is named after a local rhododendron grower, and is a cross of the West Coast native Rhododendron macrophyllum and the East Coast native R. maximum. Other species include R. rex and R. sinogrande, both of which sport 50-centimetre-long leaves.
Patterson’s pride and joy, the giant Himalayan lilies (Cardiocrinum giganteum), towers in another part of TBG. The lilies send up thick, 2.5- to three-metre-tall spikes with up to 20 creamy white 15- to 30-centimetre-long trumpet flowers—and grow at a rate of about 30 centimetres per week. Their strong fragrance is reminiscent of a blend of cinnamon and frangipani. The plants can take up to seven years to bloom; TBG’s bloomed in just two.
In the Tropical Garden, visitors will find rice paper plant (Tetrapanax papyrifer), Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) and taro (Colocasia esculenta). But plants aren’t the only treasures found at TBG. A gazebo, along with other structures built by local artisan Jan Janzen, provides visual contrast to the foliage and offers much-welcomed shelter on a rainy day. A number of large, wooden sculptures by artist Michael Dennis also grace the property. Over in the Children’s Garden, young ones will be delighted to find a fort tucked away in the woods. Just above the high-tide line sits an 11-metre, double-ended salmon trawler, the Evian, an exhibit created to help visitors understand and appreciate the West Coast salmon fishing industry.
Future themed gardens will also educate visitors beyond basic botany. Four cultural-historical gardens and exhibits are currently being developed. When completed, they will teach about the peoples who have settled and left their mark in Clayoquot Sound: the First Nations, the European settlers from the turn of the century, the Japanese fishing community and the 1970s-era hippies. Tofino Botanical Gardens is within a 20-minute walk or cycle of most of the community’s accommodations. In typical West Coast fashion, canoe and kayak arrivals are encouraged (best at medium to high tide).
If you go:
Tofino Botanical Gardens is located at 1084 Pacific Rim Highway in Tofino, B.C. For opening times and admission fees, call 250/725-1220 or visit www.tbgf.org.