Both gardener Ruth and I loved the UBC Botanical Garden. We spent about 3 hours there, the time allowed for free parking if you choose the 2nd option on the meter. Ruth bought only one plant to try to grow, the blue poppy that this garden is famous for. Known to be temperamental but beautiful if you can coax it to bloom, the blue poppy is a challenge that Ruth accepted even though we could never get that lavender rose to bloom. We’ll see.
The University of British Columbia’s botanical garden is divided into 2 parts. The long and thin lower section basically has 3 attractions: it’s Asian, has more than 500 types of rhododendrons, and includes the Greenheart TreeWalk at its eastern end. Most of the plants in the Asian area, which is pretty much the whole lower section, were started from seeds collected in the wild. Because Vancouver has a mild maritime climate, maples grow especially well in the UBC area so this garden’s collection of maple tress is world class. They are liberally scattered here and spectacular to look at, so no one minds that the rhododendrons are not blooming in late fall. The TreeWalk was closed for the season when we were there and won’t reopen until April 1, 2020.
The upper garden is accessed through an Asian tunnel. The lady who greeted us and later sold the blue poppy seeds to Ruth told us not to miss the Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland Garden and the Carolinian Forest. Both are a feast for the senses at this time of year. The Garry Oak Area is under renovation. The only British Columbia native oak tree, Garry is threatened by invasive species and urbanization. Less than 5% of the Garry Oak ecosystem survives. First Nations people used fire to prevent the spread of other plants near them. The Carolinian Forest area has the highest plant diversity in Canada. There are 1,600 plant species including half of Canada’s tree species growing in the Carolinian. Many of the Carolinian trees are from eastern Canada and beautifully autumnal in late October.
Despite Canada’s 6 major mountain systems, many plants grow exceedingly well in British Columbia. When we moved to the Northwest, Ruth had to learn which flowers and trees grow well here, and she’s always warning people not to overplant and to avoid putting growing things too close to the house because native plants take over and grow like crazy since we get so much rain.
The Alpine Garden featuring mountain ecosystem plants from around the world was interesting, but not my favorite. That was the small Medieval Garden with its array of popular plants then like the cynara cardunculus. This plant in the artichoke family was used medievally to do 3 things: procure bodily lusts, fix livers damaged by poisons, and sweeten armpits. The borage seen below made Medievals courageous, and its flowers put in wine made both men and women “glad and merrie”.
I hope Ruth plants borage near her blue poppy.