The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth
Before you begin reading today I suggest you click on the soundtrack below and play it in the background.
Yesterday was my birthday. Dinner reservations weren’t until 9. I’d decided days before that I wanted to visit the Botanical Gardens at the University of British Columbia and so we did.
We drove under a cloudless sky, down 16th Avenue toward UBC, through the Endowment Lands, a large forest park with giant cedars and birch trees and trails for hiking. The gardens are a 20 minute drive from our home. We pulled into the parking lot, purchased our tickets and headed inside.
There are 8 gardens as well as the Nitobe Japanese Garden but you have to drive across campus and purchase separate tickets to see it. About an hour walk in total, we started in the Asian Garden. With the Salish Sea only 100 meters away, this coastal garden is planted with flowering shrubs, vines and evergreens. Being mid-summer though, most of this garden was green. We’ll have to go back in the Spring to see the Hydrangea and wild Rhododendron to bloom.
The Rainforest Garden feels like home. Boggy ground that lightly sinks underfoot takes you around a shallow pond surrounded by Rocky Mountain Maples and a grafted propagation of the original “Golden Spruce” which was the centre of a big controversy in British Columbian history. Considered sacred by the Haida people it was cut down in protest against the logging industry in 1997. The original stood in Port Clements.
A fat robin perched on a stump greeted us with his song. He seemed unphased even when I got up close for a photo. We walked further along the trails lined with different species of berries: Alaskan blueberry, dwarf blueberry, thin leaf huckleberry, velvet-leaf blueberry, oval-leaf blueberry, evergreen huckleberry, cranberry, red huckleberry, bog bilberry and lingonberry.
It was perfectly warm with a bit of a breeze. The winding path took us through the Carolinian Forest and the Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland Gardens. At the sign for the Moongate and Garden Pavillion we crossed under Marine Drive via a tunnel. On the other side a burst of colourful flowers greeted us. This is what I’d been expecting.
Up the stone steps and out of the comforting shade of the forest canopy we came to the Food and Physic Gardens. The first self explanatory. The second a medicinal apothecary housing valuable herbs, noxious weeds and deadly poisons. Kale, zucchini, ripe runner beans line raised beds in the Food Garden, a whimsical space buzzing with bumblebees and humming birds.
From my herbal studies I could recognize the purple echinacea flowers, bergamot, red Bee Balm and tall fennel. I thought how a handful of the fresh sage would taste so good with my chicken pot pie recipe.
I have a thing for the combination of purple with green so I really enjoyed the catmint, lavender and my favourite flowers Dutch Irises bordering the Physic Garden.
The dahlia’s pretty in pink and peach tones and this flower with ombre oranges fading to yellow reminded me of popsicles we’d eat in the summertime during my childhood.
We were starting to get hungry and planned to stop for lunch on the way home. I recognized some of the cacti in the Desert Garden. Mostly inside a greenhouse there are Hedgehog cacti covered in short needles, Prickly Pear and flowering Parodia.
There weren’t many people there yesterday. I think the families with children were mostly in the Tree Walk part of the garden with platforms high up in the forest connected by suspension bridges. We were happy to stroll the quiet grounds and sit on the memorial benches and listen to the birds and the wind through the trees.
On our way out we visited the gift shop filled with trinkets for gardeners, fresh local honey, hand milled soaps and seeds. I picked up a Spiced Rum candle and a set of laser cut coasters, something I’d been meaning to purchase for a while.
It was a relaxing afternoon and a great way to spend my birthday. The garden must change with each season so I’ll have to go again to capture it when the leaves turn orange or when the first snow falls.
I hope you enjoyed our walk through the Botanical Gardens today. https://botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/
Until next time.