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Victoria's glorious gardens

© By Mike Keenan

Victoria British Columbia  Victoria British Columbia  Victoria British Columbia  Victoria British Columbia 

To escape the foul eastern April weather, we visited Victoria, British Columbia's gem of a capital, the "City of Gardens." Blessed with Canada's mildest climate, the lush gardens remarkably bloom there year-round and, to rub it in, the city boasts 1,000 signature flower baskets gracing downtown lampposts. The fragrance is omnipresent. They certainly know how to push the envelope with those of us who foolishly choose to live elsewhere. Every February, while most Canadians merrily shovel snow, Victorians count their flowers! The Annual Flower Count encourages green-thumbed citizens to report the number of blossoms in their flowerbeds or upon their fruit trees. The grand total is celebrated as a farewell to winter and welcome to early spring. Enthusiasm for this promotion is evident by the number of flowers counted - over 3.4-billion blossoms last year! That's a lot of blossoms! Where I reside, a similar joyful activity, after sending in a municipal tax installment, allows our citizens to count potholes, seemingly an empty task in comparison to Victoria.
     Just outside Victoria, I visited Butchart Gardens, fifty aromatic acres of flowers, fountains and footpaths. Their Sunken Gardens are most impressive, but I admired the Japanese Garden best. It slopes gently towards the sea, offering serenity and effortless beauty. The Rose Garden is spectaculaly dotted with 2,500 rose plants of mixed varieties, and the Italian Garden is magisterially presided over by a Florentine bronze sculpture of Mercury. Water lilies float lazilly in the ornate pool. One expects a camera crew to arrive with famed director, Bernardo Bertolucci.
     Next, I visited Victoria's Abkhazi Garden, a unique setting that appropriately symbolizes the enduring love of two people separated during WWII. Prince Nicolas Abkhazi was imprisoned in Germany and Peggy Pemberton-Carter in Shanghai, but like protagonists in a novel, they eventually reunited in Victoria to create "a garden that love built."
     The one-acre garden features native Garry oaks, ornamental evergreens, rhododendrons, rock and alpine plants, naturalized bulbs and Japanese maples and weeping conifers. The neat aspect of this operation, as with many Victoria gardens, is that a team of volunteers (working, one assumes, through love) maintain and keep the gardens up to snuff.

Victoria British Columbia  Victoria British Columbia  Victoria British Columbia

     The last gardens viewed were the Government House Gardens at the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Located in the historic Rockland district, the grounds are public, consisting of 35.6 acres of which 14 acres are ornamental gardens. The remainder is Garry Oak woodland. The grounds enjoy specatacular ocean and mountain views and 20 gardens occupy the site, ranging from an English country garden and a winter garden to a British Columbia native plant garden. Apparently, the L-G is known to tend the gardens.
     Besides gardens, the other highlight (literally) was the flight to Victoria from Vancouver in a Harbour Air DeHavilland DHC-Turbine Single Otter seaplane. Edging away from the dock in Vancouver, the engines rev, and in less than 30 seconds, water cascading off the floats, we bank sharply to view the Vancouver skyline, pass Stanley Park, the inner city emerald, the outskirts of Richmond and soon skim across a blanket of white puffy clouds obliterating everything below except the huge U.S. Olympic Mountains to the south while on my right, the Canadian mountain ranges loom, where in 2010, Olympic athletes will scurry down their slopes.
     Our pilot, Stephen Lane, merrily cruises above the Gulf islands spotting houses perched in idyllic settings upon rocky outcrops or carved into the woods, our speed, 140 knots, height, 4500 ft. Stephen confides that he has the best job in Canada, and I believe him, but upon reflection, the volunteer Victoria gardeners, many retired, are not faring too badly either.

Victoria British Columbia  Victoria British Columbia

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun. Click for Victoria, British Columbia Forecast

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
Abkhazi Garden: http://www.conservancy.bc.ca/content.asp?sectionack=abkhazi
Butchart Gardens: http://www.butchartgardens.com/
Government House Gardens: http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/
Harbour Air: http://www.harbour-air.com/home/index.php?id=28
Tourism Victoria: http://www.tourismvictoria.com/
Wikipedia: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria,_British_Columbia
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Victoria_(British_Columbia)

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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