garden tourism awardVancouver's temperate climate and soft, plentiful rains encourage exuberant growth throughout the Lower Mainland. Gardens, parks and green spaces can be found all around Vancouver, enhancing its already natural beauty of mountains and ocean.

Enjoy the exquisite splendor and relaxing retreat of the following Vancouver gardens:

See also Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island - internationally renowned and stunningly beautiful!

Bloedel Floral Conservatory & Queen Elizabeth Park

Location: 33rd Avenue and Cambie Street

Vancouver's Little Mountain, the city's highest point, is a 150-metre (500-foot) granite outcropping that, for years, was an industrial rock quarry. Now, it's a spectacular setting for a 52-hectare (130-acre) city park-and-garden complex.

It gets more than six million visitors a year - a number second only to the much larger Stanley Park. A lot of visitors arrive in wedding parties, as it's the location of choice for photographers with spectacular views and stunning natural surroundings.

The gardens were designed by Vancouver Park Board Deputy Superintendent Bill Livingstone and were opened in the 1960s. The park's centrepiece is the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, a huge bubble dome (officially a triodetic dome) and is the second largest dome greenhouse in the world.

The Conservatory, with more than 500 plants, is open daily (except December 25), with an emphasis on exotic plants and birds, which fly past as you wander its circular, winding paths. It was built with the help of a $1,250,000 donation by lumber magnate Prentice Bloedel in 1967.

Nearby, to the northwest, is the park's Arboretum, with one or two of nearly all native Canadian trees, plus some exotic specimens from around the world. Each tree has a tag with the proper botanical and common name.

North of the Conservatory is the North Quarry Garden, opened in 1961 to commemorate the City of Vancouver's 75th anniversary. It's a garden that specializes in plants that prefer dry conditions and its focus includes oriental horticulture. A small rose garden is located on the park's south-western perimeter. City gardeners plant hardy varieties of roses that require little upkeep.

Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research

Location: University of British Columbia

The oldest and one of the finest botanical gardens in Canada, the UBC Botanical Gardens is really five gardens in one. Each has a different theme and character. Spread over 28 hectares (70 acres), the gardens launch you on a trip around the botanical world.

The Asian Garden, nestled in a second-growth coastal forest of firs, cedars and hemlocks, has fragile magnolias and more than 400 varieties of brilliant rhododendrons - the largest collection in Canada. Climbing roses and flowering vines twine around the trees and the rare blue Himalayan poppy and giant Himalayan lily also bloom here.

The BC Native Garden, displaying more than 3,500 plants found in British Columbia, offers more than three hectares (eight acres) of diversity, encompassing water meadows, dunes, bogs and a desert.

The Alpine Garden lives up to the challenge of growing high-elevation plants at sea level. Specially imported soil, boulders and rocks give protection for vibrant, rare, low-growing, mountain plants from Australia, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Physick Garden re-creates a 16th-century monastic herb garden. The traditional plants, which grow in raised brick beds, are all used for medicinal purposes.

The Food Garden is an amazing example of efficient gardening. Tucked into a third of a hectare (.75 acre), it's a patchwork of a dozen raised beds and more than 180 fruit trees. The trees successfully grow a cornucopia of crops. Fruit and vegetables are harvested regularly and donated to the Salvation Army. Regular lectures, on everything from pruning to growing trees in tubs, are given for gardeners.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Location: 578 Carrall Street

If you've ever found yourself swamped by the mid-day, downtown madness and wished you could instantly escape to a world of pure, natural serenity, then you have a lot in common with the Ming Dynasty scholars of ancient China. As civil servants living and working in large cities in China, scholars built sanctuaries of nature - tranquil, garden homes guarded from busy sights and sounds of the city by high, solid, pure white walls. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a true retreat in the heart of Vancouver's bustling Chinatown.

This treasure of tranquility is all the more valued for its rarity - built at a cost of over $5.3 million in 1986, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden is the first, full-scale Classical Chinese Garden built outside China. All components of the Garden were carefully selected from nature or hand-built by skilled artisans in China. These 52 artisans brought with them all the materials and traditional tools needed to spend 13 months building this historical, architectural, and horticultural masterpiece in Vancouver.

Nitobe Memorial Garden

Location: University of British Columbia

This tranquil garden should be explored at leisure. It's named for Dr. Inazo Nitobe, a Japanese educator, scholar and international diplomat whose personal goal was "to become a bridge across the Pacific." Looking for his picture? His portrait appears on Japan's 5,000-yen bank note.

As you stroll along the garden's gently curving paths, note the care that went into the placement of every rock, tree and shrub: each element harmonizes with nature. Wander counter-clockwise, accompanied by the soothing sounds of the lake, waterfalls and tiny streams - the gardens move from a beginning through growth and change to an ending.

Native and imported plants and trees, azaleas, flowering cherry, irises and maples provide colour the year round.

Park and Tilford Gardens

Location: 440-333 Brooksbank Avenue
North Vancouver

These glorious gardens, created in 1968, are a popular place for summer weddings and it's easy to understand why. A choice of eight theme gardens provides the perfect setting-from a stunning display of roses to the cool formality of the White Garden.

The Display Garden features colourful spring bulbs and spreading annuals. The Oriental Garden showcases traditional bonsai trees and a tranquil pond and in the Native Garden, a footpath winds through a small, aromatic Pacific Coast forest.

There's also the Herb Garden and the shady Colonnade Garden, with its soothing rock pool and numerous other botanical delights. Located on the site of a former winery/distillery, which is now a shopping centre and movie studio complex, the gardens provide an escape from the hustle and bustle!

Beautiful light and seasonal displays can also be seen at the gardens over Christmas.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

Location: 5251 Oak Street

When the Shaughnessy Golf Club moved a few kilometres south in 1960, the aim was to turn the 22.25-hectare (55-acre) course into a posh subdivision of sprawling mansions.

The local community lobbied city and provincial governments, as well as the Vancouver Foundation, then led by W.J. Van Dusen, to buy the grounds and turn them into a botanical garden. The result: a world-class bed of flowers and a ranking among North America's top 10 gardens!

Set against the distant backdrop of the North Shore mountains, VanDusen Botanical Garden offers a series of small, specialized gardens within the framework of the main garden.

Among its famous flora are hundreds of variations of rhododrenons. In the spring, the garden's Rhododendron Walk blazes with colour. Nearby, the hexagonal Korean Pavilion is a focal point for the garden's Asian plant collection.

Sculptures abound on the lawns, under trees and between shrubs and several are in the Children's Garden, where a cherub presides over a wishing fountain. A latticework of paths wanders through 40 theme gardens-skirting lakes and ponds, crossing bridges and winding through stands of bamboo and giant redwoods.

There is a maze walled by 1,000 pyramidal cedars. Planted in 1981, the maze is a children's delight and a favoured location for local TV and movie producers needing a spooky setting.

Once you've seen all the flowers, the Shaughnessy Restaurant (5251 Oak Street 604.261.0011) is a nice spot in a serene garden atmosphere. The gardens are open every day except Christmas, starting at 10am it closes between 4pm and 8pm-dusk-depending on the season.



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