What to do now - Garden-Inspired Travel

Visit Victoria's Hatley park

Laura Langston
Photography by
Jeff Friesen

Stroll through a 260-hectare Edwardian estate with a Canadian twist.

Like all well-designed Japanese gardens, this one provides year-round interest. In winter, peeling bark from the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) can be seen etched against the sky. Also stunning is the rich, coppery red bark of the birch-bark tree (Prunus serrula) and the green and white stripes of the striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum). In spring, the magnolia trees bloom, and a bank of 'Pink Pearl' rhododendrons erupts into a mass of pinkish white. But no matter the time of year, make sure you see the rare dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), located near the rose garden. This deciduous conifer loses its needles in winter, revealing graceful branches and red bark, and opens with delicate green foliage in spring.

Late June is the best time to see the geometric rose garden, which is partly enclosed by stucco walls and contains an original sundial and bench. Many of the almost 200 roses flower then, including Austin English roses, hybrid teas, old-fashioned shrub roses and ramblers. "We have the Dunsmuirs' original rose list, but the only rose that survived is 'American Pillar', a rambler with carmine-pink flowers, gold stamens and a white eye," says Rutherford.

At Hatley Park, it's difficult to tell what's man-made and what isn't. A case in point is the English landscape garden in the lower lakes area, in the tradition of "Capability" Brown, an 18th-century English designer. Ornamental trees flourish here, including London plane trees (Platanus x hispanica syn. P. x acerifolia), English oaks (Quercus robur forma fastigiata) and an outstanding katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) from Japan. Enjoying both trees and water is a variety of wildlife: ducks and white swans, blue herons and eagles, mink, otters and, according to some reports, even the resident ghost, which is said to hover over the water periodically, searching for serenity.

The forest glen, just east of the castle, is more wild than cultivated. And it's the only area of the garden that fell into decline until it was reclaimed in the 1980s. "We found the rock steps and stone walls and dug it out," remembers Rutherford, "and the only plants left were clumps of bamboo, hellebores and a few rhododendrons."

Using the forest as a backdrop, the area around the bridges and waterfalls was originally planted up with rhododendrons, bamboos, primulas and other plants native to Nepal and Northern China. Rutherford and his crew added more rhodos and hellebores, as well as hardy geraniums, bellflowers, cyclamen and blue-eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna). They also introduced several trees, including a maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba) and a Korean fir (Abies koreana).

Visitors' notes
Location: Royal Roads University, 2005 Sooke Rd., Victoria, V9B 5Y2
Getting there: a 25-minute drive from downtown Victoria;
Victoria Regional Transit System: 250/382-6161; www.bctransit.com/regions/vic
Hours: open year-round;
daylight hours for garden
Fee: free entrance to garden, pay parking
Garden tours: self-guided
tours for groups can be booked
Castle tours: daily
For more information about tours call 250/391-2600,
ext. 4456; www.royalroads.ca
Channels/about rru/campus
Events: Victoria Flower and Garden Show, July 11, 12 and 13; the grounds are often used by movie production companies and are available for wedding ceremonies, receptions and photography; grounds fairly accessible to wheelchairs.

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