Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
With a long growing season, mild temperatures, and a healthy amount of rainfall, British Columbia is a gardener’s paradise. In Victoria, The Butchart Gardens is a must for many visitors. Ranked by USA Today, CNN, and National Geographic as one of the top display gardens in the world, it covers 22 hectares (55 acres) with over a million bedding plants in some 900 varieties.
While the gardens are indeed impressive, there are many other beautiful landscapes to explore in BC. Below, we’ve highlighted 10 must-visit gardens in Victoria and Vancouver, as profiled by Gardens British Columbia.
This indoor tropical jungle features interactions with 6,000 free-flying butterflies, tropical birds, tortoises, ducks, flamingos, geckos, iguanas, and more. The warm, humid environment contains biodiverse plants native to tropical rainforests with a carefully planned combination of trees, bushes, vines, and creepers. A new Insectarium houses insects and invertebrates from around the world in a jungle-like setting. The garden is located in Brentwood Bay north of Victoria, five minutes from The Butchart Gardens.
One of Canada’s best collections of rhododendrons can be found at the University of Victoria. The garden contains over 4,000 different trees and shrubs with more than 1,500 rhododendron and azalea plants, including 200 collected rhododendron species, and a spectacular range of companion plants.
One of Canada’s top gardens, this property features four hectares (nine acres) of demonstration gardens, a hands-on Children’s Garden, and the largest outdoor bonsai garden in Canada. An additional 40 hectares (100 acres) of conservation park is home to endangered plant species and many native bird species.
Created in 1946 by Prince and Princess Abkhazi, this sophisticated heritage garden is known for its impressive trees and dramatic site. A lovely on-site tearoom makes use of ingredients grown in the garden.
Located at Royal Roads University, a 25-minute drive from downtown Victoria, this Edwardian estate has spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The site features a formal rose garden that follows Edwardian design as well as Japanese and Italian gardens. It also boasts 15 km (9 mi) of walking and hiking trails through old-growth forest, a protected migratory bird sanctuary, and a historic First Nations’ site.
At 152 metres (498 feet) above sea level, this park offers the highest point in Vancouver with lovely green views. The 52-hectare (128-acre) park includes a landscaped quarry garden, the arboretum with exotic and native trees, and the Bloedel Conservatory.
Located under a glass dome at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, the Conservatory contains three climatic zones: Tropical, Subtropical, and Desert. It is home to more than 500 varieties of plants from around the world as well as more than 200 free-flying exotic birds.
Both gardens are located within the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus. The botanical garden features internationally recognized collections of magnolias and maples. Highlights include an Asian garden with over 400 kinds of rhododendrons, an alpine garden, a rainforest garden, and a herb food garden. A unique attraction is the Greenheart TreeWalk eco-adventure, which provides a unique perspective from suspended walkways and tree platforms high above the forest floor. Nitobe Garden is ranked consistently in the top 5 Japanese Gardens in North America. A traditional tea and stroll garden, it features a ceremonial teahouse.
This elegant landscape spans 22 hectares (55 acres) with plant species representing ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean, from Louisiana swamps to the Pacific Northwest. Cherry blossoms shower the property in spring.
Located in Vancouver’s Chinatown, this classical Chinese garden is modelled after the garden home of a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) scholar. With its asymmetrical arrangement of rocks and plants, winding paths and corridors, and courtyard vistas, the garden emulates the rhythms of nature in the midst of the busy city.
About half a dozen gardens can be found throughout Vancouver’s iconic park. These include the Stanley Park Rose Garden, which boasts over 3,500 rose bushes and an arbour supporting climbing roses and clematis. Floral display beds provide flowering bulb displays from March to May. The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden has an extensive collection of hybrid rhododendron and azalea plants; it’s at its peak during the first two weeks of May.
For a directory of gardens in BC and garden-based itineraries, see Gardens British Columbia.
Opening image: Nitobe Memorial Garden. Photo: Destination Canada
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