Despite being a (mostly) fast-growing region, there are undoubtedly some serene places on the West Shore to pause, reflect and enjoy the peacefulness of nature. All the while escaping the sounds of construction, traffic jams and police sirens that become part of the urban routine.
And now that spring weather finally seems to have arrived, the community’s gardens – from that friendly neighbour’s modest array of front-porch planters to the historic expanse of gardens at Royal Roads University – are getting ready to fully bloom.
The Royal Roads garden recently earned a spot on the Canadian Garden Council’s top 150 list, a well-deserved honour for this horticultural gem that uniquely incorporates Japanese and Italian gardens within a British/Edwardian setting.
Amid Hatley Castle, the stunning views of the Esquimalt Lagoon and the Strait of Juan de Fuca beyond, and an extensive trail network through thick forest, it’s easy to forget about these transquil gardens that have mostly been kept intact since they were originally shaped in the early 20th century.
The annoyance of the Colwood Crawl, Donald Trump’s latest Twitter musings, and worrisome international incidents feel very far away when rustling leaves and chirping birds are the only soundtrack on a mid-morning stroll through the grounds.
In addition to the attractiveness of this meticulously manicured landscape, the history behind the garden is a fascinating one, with the Japanese Garden being the result of a Victoria-style arms race between two of the region’s first ladies, Jenny Butchart and Laura Dunsmuir.
If one had it, the other had to have it too. In contemporary terms, Butchart got a Beamer, so Dunsmuir had to have a Benz.
The seeds of those gardens might have been sown many decades ago, but the original architects merely had an idea of how the garden might look in the future, and likely never lived to see the property in its full glory.
A vision often doesn’t bloom until long after the planners’ death.
Let’s hope that 100 years from now, after another century of progress, we’ll still have such spaces for enjoyment and relaxation.