Growing up in Vancouver we spent endless summer evenings running around Queen Elizabeth Park. It is a gorgeous city park built in what used to be a rock quarry. It is free to walk around at any time for anyone. Mom would buy us a Dairy Queen soft ice cream cone and we would run wild up and down the paths and jump the stream by the waterfall. The colours and smells were spectacular.
I spent a beautiful day yesterday walking the paths of Butchart Gardens in Victoria with my friend. A stunning garden, also built-in what used to be a rock quarry. It was my friends treat to me for my birthday. We spent the evening before with other friends. They graciously shared their beautiful home. We had dinner together in a village restaurant and I was given the royal tour of the neighbourhood gardens and ocean side… I was shown a wonderful time.
Hard to imagine that I had never been to Butchart Gardens. The information brochure said the average time spent to walk around the gardens in 1.5 hours… AW and I spent 6.5 hours…. We visited the plant identification desk many times to ask questions. Countless questions for two inquisitive gardeners. Butchart doesn’t believe in labelling the plants in the garden beds. They prefer instead, to keep the gardens in the style of a private garden. There are plenty of staff on hand who are happy to put down their pruners and chat about their work. They will identify the plants, answer questions or give advice for a problem plant at home. I learned much about pruning from the expert in the rose garden.
The pathways were packed with tourists and it was very hot.. I felt pretty sorry for the little kids dragged out to, as I heard one mother explain “appreciate nature”. That poor kid is going to hate gardens for the rest of his life…. We often took time to sit in the shade and photograph a nearby dragon-fly or garden ornament. We even had an ice cream.
We escaped the heat at the end of the day in the air-conditioned gift store. There, we searched not for a T-shirt or Butchart Garden coffee cup ($36.00) but for the answer to one last question… We needed the plant name of a particularly successful flower in my garden which came out of a mixed seed package AW had given me at Christmas.
As we stood before all of the individual seed packages looking for the familiar pink flower a young man approached us. He was eighteen, clean-shaven and boasted a brand new short trimmed cut to his flaming red hair and a crisp new staff shirt. School ended last week and obviously launched this eager lad into his first week on the job in the garden store of Butchart Gardens. He had done his homework and was well prepared to answer any questions from the multi national tourists in the store. “Hello ladies” he said politely to us two grey haired women, “May I be of some help? ” AW replied “Yes we had a question about an annual seed package”.. “Oh”, red-haired peach skinned young man, thought to himself..” I know this one!!!” He turned eager to display his horticultural knowledge. Explaining to my friend who, I might say is one of the finest gardeners I have ever known and been gardening since well, since a while, he said “An annual is a plant that dies in a year cycle and has to be replaced. It is different from a perennial…………” Aw interrupted him before he explained what a perennial is.. “Thank you so much ” she smiled..” I think we will just look over some of the packets ourselves and see what we can see.” He looked relieved to be released with a successful encounter with one of his first customers..
A wonderful older lady approached us after watching her protogee with a smile and offered assistance. She went to a great deal of trouble, searching lists of seed collection packets etc. to find us our answer. I left carrying two packets of Clarkia seeds.
I’m thinking, that like me, the eager red-headed lad was given a much more successful introduction to gardens and gardening by his parents than the poor boy I had seen dragged through the heat earlier in the day… I consider myself very lucky to have been introduced as I was, for it is one of the few pastimes which continues to give me great joy. I feel that red-haired young lad will also have a life time love of gardening ahead of him.. How could he not, when he already knows so
much about plants!!!