Some botanical gardens in Vancouver are internationally famous, having become known for their massive collections of diligently arranged rare and native plants, their approaches to architecture and design, and their research and environmental conservation efforts. Some other gardens, however, are well-kept secrets, little known to visitors, tourists, and even portions of the Vancouver public.
What’s so great about botanical gardens?
A botanical garden is a great way to spend time in nature without leaving the city. There, you can fulfill the innate tendency that most people have to seek connections with organic life and with their natural environment. Moreover, in Vancouver, we’re lucky enough to experience some of the mildest fall and winter temperatures in the country, which allows for year-round operations and collections of non-native plant life that wouldn’t likely survive elsewhere in Canada.
Gardens are also known to be focal points for floral and horticultural exploration. They cultivate environments where rare foreign plants can be admired up close, pre-existing design strategies are re-evaluated, and landscape architecture, in its various worldly and historical forms, acts as a proven illustration of the capacity for the human spirit to find tangible ways to bridge gaps between itself and nature.
Here are a few of Vancouver’s botanical gardens that are worth visiting.
Queen Elizabeth Park & Bloedel Floral Conservatory
Location: 4600 Cambie Street, Vancouver
A massive horticultural undertaking in the heart of Vancouver, Queen Elizabeth Park has something for everyone. Acting as a high point for visitors (literally – the park sits 125 meters above sea level, making it the highest point in Vancouver), the park contains a broad variety of plants and floral displays year-round. The park itself is free to enter (the conservatory costs $6.90 for adults), and features a quarry garden, an arboretum with exotic and native trees, sculptures and statues, large recreational areas, a pitch & putt, lawn bowling, and, of course, the conservatory.
Built in 1969, Bloedel Conservatory is an exotic plant conservatory and bird sanctuary. It features different climate zones (desert, subtropical, and tropical) and hundreds of rare plants from around the world.
Location: 5251 Oak St., Vancouver
Built in 1970 in Vancouver’s high-end Shaughnessy neighbourhood, this world-famous 22 acre botanical garden places the entirety of its focus on garden construction, design, and maintenance (with little focus placed on research). It’s well known for its winter Festival of Lights, its serene atmosphere, and its astonishing variety of plants and cultivars – all laid out in sophisticated and pleasant designs.
VanDusen Gardens is open year round (except Christmas) and features over 7500 plant varieties, walking paths, wildlife, rolling landscapes, ponds and water features, a huge and colourful collection of nearly 1000 rhododendron cultivars, a heather garden, a fragrance garden, a cypress pond, a vegetable garden, a stand of giant sequoia trees, a Himalayan garden, and an Elizabethan hedge maze.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Location: 578 Carrall Street, Vancouver
A hidden jewel in the heart of Vancouver’s famous Chinatown district, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is well-known as a place of great tranquility, where it’s easy to get lost in the prudently-arranged regional plants, winding paths, lily ponds, decorative rock gardens, and ornate pavilions and pagodas that represent the architectural norms of Ming Dynasty-era Chinese tradition. This park is small and intimate – an urban haven designed to be a place of reflection and escape.
UBC Botanical Gardens and Centre for Plant Research
Location: 6804 SW Marine Drive, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
A garden that places its focus on education and research, UBC Botanical Garden was established in 1916 and is an excellent place to gather knowledge! Horticulture students can learn about complex topics such as plant adaptation, phytochemistry, and genomics, but the size of the garden makes it a great place for members of the general public to explore and learn as well.
Its coastal location makes it an outstanding spot for a BC rainforest garden, but it also features an Asian garden, an alpine garden, a Carolinian forest garden, a food garden, and more. It also features a Greenheart Treewalk, and exploratory hike that takes visitors across suspension bridges and platforms through some of BC’s massive douglas fir forests.
Park and Tilford Gardens
Location: 333 Brooksbank Avenue, North Vancouver
A very small, almost completely invisible garden located in a shopping mall in North Vancouver, Park and Tilford Gardens packs a rich, vibrant landscaping experience into a small area. At only 2 acres, this park splits nonetheless into 8 different themed gardens: display garden, magnolia garden and colonnade, white and yellow gardens, oriental garden, native garden, rose garden, and herb garden.
Butchart Gardens (Victoria)
Location: 800 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentwood Bay
Okay, so this one isn’t technically in Vancouver, but it’s impossible to make a list of Vancouver’s gardens without at least mentioning Butchart Gardens. Built on a former quarry but Jennie and Robert Butchart between 1904 and 1929, this massive park features a sunken garden where the quarry used to lie, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, an Italian garden, a Mediterannean garden, themed architecture, fountains, ponds, stores, carousels, and an entrance for boaters.
Arguably the most famous botanical garden in BC, Butchart Gardens is only a fifteen minute drive from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal and sees well over a million visitors per year.
We Love Botanical Gardens
At Para Space we love botanical gardens. We know that they’re more than just a place to look at plants – they’re a place to learn, to feel serene, to appreciate the subtleties of landscape design and architecture, and to reconnect with nature and with yourself.
What are some of your favourite botanical gardens? Leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you!