Written and compiled by Fred Jaicks.
The University of British Columbia in Vancouver is the oldest university botanical garden in Canada. It was founded in the year 1916 by John Davidson, who was the first botanist of the province of British Columbia. The Vancouver Botanical Gardens was originally set up for the study of native flora in the province. Later on, the scope of the botanical garden’s activities extended to the conservation, education, and display of plants from various temperate regions around the world, including alpine, Asian, and native plants.
The UBC Botanical Gardens covers an area of about 44 hectares, and it has a collection of 8000 different plant species. It is divided into several main areas, which include the Native, Alpine, Asian, Food, Physic, and the Nitobe Memorial gardens. The Native Garden is a sloping coastal forest that measures approximately 4 hectares, and it has a wide variety of native plant species, including the Penstemon or ‘Purple Haze’, the Vaccinium Ovatum or ‘Thunderbird’, and the Arctostaphylos or ‘Vancouver Jade’. Other than the plants, visitors will also get the chance to see an interesting variety of insects and birds.
The E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden displays various categories of plants that belong to certain geographic regions around the world. Some of the plants that can be found in this garden are North American alpine species; plants from the meadows of Europe, such as gentians, pinks, veronicas, and thymes; flora of Australasia, which include white daisies and yew-like conifers; and plants from Argentina, Chile, Algeria, the Atlas Mountains, as well as the Drakensburg Mountains.
The Asian Garden is also known as the David C. Lam Garden. It features plant species from various parts of Asia, including Japan, China, Tibet, and Manchuria. Here, visitors will get to see centuries-old fir, cedar, and hemlock, as well as other interesting species such as paper-bark, snake-bark, rhododendrons, and Asian maples.
The Nitobe Memorial Garden is another garden that is dedicated to Asian flora. This two-hectare Japanese garden was built to honor Inazo Nitobe, who had contributed greatly to the good diplomatic relations between North America and Japan. The Nitobe Memorial Garden is known as one of the best Japanese tea gardens in North America, and it features a harmonious display of natural forms that include forests, islands, waterfalls, and rivers. Some of the plants that are found in this garden, such as the maples, iris, and azaleas, originated from Japan.
The Food Garden has a wide selection of food plants such as vegetables, fruits, and berries that are commonly found in the Pacific Northwest region. Here, you can watch experts prune the plants and ask them for pruning tips. The plants are all grown on raised beds to allow better viewing for children.
The Physic Garden features plant species that can be used for medicinal purposes. You will find plants such as cornflowers, hollyhock, yarrow, foxglove, hyacinth, digitoxin, and periwinkle. There are also English herbs that have been used for healing since the Medieval, Tudor, and Elizabethan times.
Visitors to the Vancouver Botanical Gardens will find something interest in the gardens any time of the year. However, if you want to see the plants in full bloom, it is best to visit during April and May. The months of September and October offer visitors the opportunity to view the colors of autumn and watch the harvesting of vegetables and fruits in the Food Garden.