By Chris Millikan
From lodgings at Oak Bay Guest House, my hubby Rick and I ramble daily through quiet Tudor-style neighborhoods and discover wondrous gardens.
Ada Beaven established Windsor Park Rose Garden in 1937 by donating over 500 roses.
Inside manicured hedges, we try telling time on the sundial and relax in scented serenity on a weathered stone bench. On at the next corner, we breathe herbal fragrances in a new scent garden. Looping through charming Oak Bay Village and along the picturesque shoreline we locate another garden featuring 1.4 acres of native plants, also endowed by Ada.
Just beyond Oak Bay, we travel to the garden that love built, finding enchantment and inspiration. In 1920’s Paris, Peggy Pemberton-Carter and exiled Georgian Prince Nicholas Abkhazi fell madly in love; they married in 1946 and over 40 years transformed this rugged hillside into the exquisite Abkhazi Gardens. From their original summerhouse, we gaze over the passionate results of loving dedication. Lush landscapes swirl around ornamental evergreens, lofty century-old rhododendrons and towering Garry oaks. Coppery Japanese maples and weeping conifers tumble down rock-faces toward reflection pools; alpine flowers blossom profusely in rocky niches.
World-famous, the Butchart Gardens provides a worthwhile day trip from Victoria or Vancouver. For us it was just a short bus ride from Oak Bay. Open since 1904, this remarkable labour of love began with ton-after-ton of topsoil delivered by horse-cart from a nearby farm. Jenny Butchart gradually transformed her husband’s unsightly limestone quarry into this wonderful garden… where she sometimes even dangled from a boson’s chair to tuck ivy into high rocky crevices. Jenny’s family continues her vision.
The original sunken gardens tantalize our senses. Pathways loop around stately trees, ponds and flowerbeds dizzy with color: feathery pink spirea, fleshy begonias, trumpeting petunias, vibrant impatiens and graceful purple, white and blue delphiniums. An antique fountain sprays silvery strands above the spring-fed pond.
Following a dahlia border sprouting gigantic flower heads, we wander toward extensive perfumed Rose Gardens flaunting 250 flamboyant varieties. Another pathway leads us through the vermillion Torii gate into the tranquil Japanese Garden. Above, classic Italian Gardens offer formal arrays, bronze sculptures… and refreshing gelatos. Lastly, the Mediterranean Gardens simply dazzle with showy succulents and other water-wise plants, including luxuriant portulacas and palms.
Day tripping around beautiful gardens near Victoria definitely motivates us to improve our less disciplined floral borders!
Victoria Garden Links:
About the Author:
Chris Millikan is a freelance writer/photographer living near Vancouver, BC. As a former teacher and elementary school principal, Chris now presents articles as an inviting ‘curriculum’ depicting the joys of travel. Many BC community newspapers, Open Road Driver Magazine and Senior Living Magazine regularly publish her articles; In-flight Magazines, the Vancouver Sun and Province have also featured her stories. As BC Association of Travel Writers Vice President, she supports colleagues’ aspirations. And traveling off the beaten track with writer/photographer partner and hubby Rick, their published tales reflect great adventures. Their 2009 Kalama Award acknowledged an array of their stories reflecting the rich culture of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
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