Sometime between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, I drove my family into Vancouver. We arrived at the VanDusen Botanical Garden shortly after 4:30 p.m. (opening) and found street parking several blocks away. The garden’s parking lot was chock full, and the lineup was three or four people wide and 400 feet long. Perhaps it was the light rain that was bringing people out, but to be clear, there were people everywhere.
The attraction? Not the garden plants but all the Christmas lights. I’m only guessing here but there had to be hundreds of thousands of lights put up over several acres of their garden. Volunteers must have spent long months hanging lights all over. That didn’t stop me from admiring the perfect yew hedges, and well-groomed rhododendrons, golden rain trees and golden chain trees. The evergreen plants always look good but in the spirit of the season all the plants, with or without leaves, were decorated. Some were outlined. Some were 3D. Lights for leaves and some even lights for fruit.
A grouping of weeping threadleaf cypress trees were underlit by three orange floodlights. The shape of the trees, their architecture, looked spectacular. Of course, I have all these plants around my house here; I just don’t have the energy to put up that many lights. Maybe if the weather’s good next November I will tackle a little more than the house.
Something else I noticed is that they had turned empty flowerbeds into great plantings of “holiday tulips”. Someone had painstakingly cut the ends off many hundreds or more clear plastic water bottles and trimmed the ends into the shape of petals. Old-fashioned Christmas lights were inserted into the mouth and electrical tape used to connect them all to two-foot bamboo stakes. Presto! In the dim light, these creations looked fantastic all clustered together.
For the kids, they had a gingerbread house in an enchanted forest, hot apple cider just down the path, dancing lights over the large pond set to lively music every hour or so and Christmas music in the background at other times — you name it. I’ll bet they do as well raising funds over the holiday season as they do with their real garden tours through any other season. After a couple of hours, it was time to make a quick getaway from the big city.
Another garden I see when I’m visiting my folks on the Coast is a little Buddhist temple up the street from where they live. Over the years, I’ve watched it grow from an empty half-acre backyard into quite the garden. Just this last year, they have added two small temples with the really cool curved rooflines. For years now, the monks have been growing bamboo and other hedges to create outdoor rooms. They have added some really spectacular statuary, big pieces and the whole effect is really quite stunning. It reminds me that my next foray into Vancouver should include a trip to the Classical Chinese Garden. Perhaps in 2012.
Thank you all for the support and encouragement over the last few years and I look forward to seeing you again this spring. Happy New Year!
Evan Davies owns Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.