Laburnum in VanDusen, alive with the sound of bees - May 2005Vancouver's wet climate and mild temperatures produce some of the most lush, botanically diverse gardens in North America. Because of these conditions, Vancouver's gardens are vibrant and green year round. This is unlike elsewhere in Canada where you'd normally only seek gardens in the spring and summer months. Vancouver's mild temperatures mean that you can visit the local gardens even in the middle of winter and you'll still have plenty of things to see.
You can guarantee that almost every tourist coming to Vancouver knows about Stanley Park. And you'd be surprised at how many tourists come to Vancouver, only to spend their entire time travelling the six hour round trip to see Victoria's Butchart Gardens. But for those garden loving individuals, there is actually another garden here in Vancouver which is equally worthwhile but it often flies under the tourist radar. That garden, dear reader, is VanDusen Botanical Garden.
VanDusen Botanical Garden (called "VanDusen Gardens" or "VanDusen" by locals) is my favourite garden in Vancouver, and it has to be the one of the city's most impressive as far as botanical gardens go. Formerly a golf course up until 1960, it opened its doors as a botanical garden in 1975.
Though not as famous as Butchart Gardens, it's about the same size but is cheaper and has a fraction of the crowds. It's also convenient to get to as it's located a 12 minute (5 km) drive south of downtown Vancouver - nestled on a massive 55 acre city block in the gorgeous, the prestigious, and the disgustingly pricey residential neighbourhood of Shaughnessy.
If you enjoy horticulture, botany and meandering through tranquil gardens, you'll want to seriously consider a visit to VanDusen. Organized into 55 unique themes, it's more than just pretty flowers. In a way, the garden is set up to be a living museum - every plant, flower, tree, fern is meticulously labeled by its genus and species. It's not just beautiful - it's educational! You'll want at least 2 hours here to give it justice. And don't forget the hedge maze!
Entering the hedge maze - May 2005
In terms of dining, VanDusen has a reputable gourmet restaurant aptly called Shaughnessy for those looking at making a special event out of the visit. They also have a beautiful gift shop. But VanDusen almost acts as a surrogate community centre for the Vancouver community, hosting plant sales, plant shows, car shows, cultural displays, botany/horticulture classes, flower-arranging classes, lectures - you name it.
This is even more true in December when they host the annual Festival of Lights Christmas light display - the busiest time you'll ever experience at VanDusen! But outside of Christmas time, VanDusen offers a surprisingly quiet environment.