Category Archives: Garden Sources

Trees and shrubs collected over a lifetime set to move to arboretum in Langley

Agrologist Les Clay with a euonymus plant on his Langley property on Oct. 28. This is one of dozens of trees that will be moved to an arboretum.

The way Les Clay explains it, the longtime Langley gardener and former nursery operator pretty much talked his way into starting the community’s arboretum.

It’s a good thing, too, because that is the ultimate destination for many of his prize azaleas, rhododendrons and Japanese maples collected over a lifetime.

Clay ran a 40-acre nursery in South Langley. With his wife Beverly, the couple developed a number of hybrid rhododendrons, including one called Langley Tranquility .

He said he was sitting and waiting for something to happen in the city park with officials that included the former mayors of both the City and Township of Langley.

Over the years, he told them, he had donated a number of plants to both the city and township.

“I was giving them a hard time because they weren’t looking after them properly,” he said.

Former Langley city mayor Marlene Grinnell said the city really didn’t have any facilities to handle plant material.

“After a few minutes, Marlene looked me in the eye and said: ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’

“So that’s how it all started.”

 Langley agrologist Les Clay with a Japanese maple tree on his Langley property on Oct. 28, 2020. This tree is one of dozens of trees that will be moved to an arboretum.

By 2010, the Township of Langley adopted a master plan for Derek Doubleday Arboretum . Last year, a two-storey log-post and beam interpretive centre opened in the park, located in the 21200 block of Fraser Highway. The arboretum is home for the Arboretum and Botanical Society of Langley and provides meeting space for other volunteer organizations.

At least 26 medium-sized trees and 22 mature shrubs will be moving from Clay’s home in Murrayville to the arboretum whose main purpose is to educate people about the cultural and environmental benefits of plants.

Clay said after downsizing his nursery in 2001 to one acre, he estimated that he moved about 500 rhododendrons and other plants onto his property.

He said his children are planning to build a house on the property where he can live with his daughter. Clay decided it was the right time to donate some of his plants to the arboretum.

“I’m donating a fair number of plants,” he said. “We’re in the process now of making arrangements to carry it out.”

Niall McGarvey, landscape design coordinator for the Township of Langley, said Clay is donating most of his yard to the arboretum.

“The idea is that it would be a legacy garden,” McGarvey said. “He has quite a few rare specimens that he grew basically from cuttings or seeds.”

McGarvey said Clay is donating a couple of fairly large Japanese maples that “are really spectacular.” If sold, he said, they could fetch as much as $15,000 each.

“He has quite a stunning collection,” McGarvey said. “They are all fairly rare plants and they’re all in really good condition.”

Brian Minter: Container gardening is convenient and easy

Osteospermum offer great cool season colour, and they come in many shades including white, yellow, purple and orange. Many of us are anxious to get fresh veggie greens or colour plants growing on our patios or balconies, but it has been an unseasonably late spring. Finally, as of a few days ago, we’re now getting some warmer day and nighttime temperatures. Today, container gardening is so popularity that it far surpasses traditional gardening. High-density living has been the driving force, but in many cases, containers are just a lot more convenient. For successful container growing, size matters. Small containers dry out too quickly when the weather turns hot, and unless you water several times a day, your plants will become stressed and will not perform well. The minimum size for both square and round pots should be at least 16 to 18 inches in diameter and in depth. This size provides enough critical soil mass to handle a single daily watering, unless it’s extremely hot. Rectangular containers need similar sizing.
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The Home Front: Down-to-earth

Water feature by Alchemie Landscape Architecture.

When someone is described as down-to-earth, it usually sounds like a compliment—grounded, equally so. Up-in-the-air, or flighty… less so. There seems to be a bit of universal acceptance that connecting with the earth is a good thing, which is perhaps why people love entertaining outdoors, weather permitting.

People often love the smell of earth, says landscape designer and master gardener Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design, who also teaches horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. And, she says, she and her colleagues have noticed a real uptick in the number of people growing their vegetables in Vancouver during these COVID months.

“It’s huge, absolutely huge! Flowers have been secondary. I was touching base with a couple of my nursery friends, and it was just nuts. Absolutely everybody has their own little


Brian Minter: Show your support for B.C.’s public gardens

VanDusen Garden Fountain in Livingston Lake.

If there was ever a time to support botanical and pleasure gardens in British Columbia, this is it.

Gone this year are the thousands of visitors from the United States and other countries around the world who came to B.C. to enjoy its natural beauty. Our public gardens are a big part of that experience.

As with so many businesses, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on tourism.

In the world of public gardens, the cost of maintaining them is relentless.  The constant maintenance — weeding, pruning, soil preparation, feeding, lawn mowing and the planting of annual and perennial colour — requires a great deal of labour and expense. This upkeep is quite disproportionate when compared to many other enterprises. The window for visiting gardens is also relatively short.

It is only recently that gardens have been permitted to reopen, and our summer will quickly disappear. Though several B.C. gardens are open year-round, the normally busy spring and summer months are largely what sustain these venues throughout the remainder of the year.

These factors combined mean that our province’s gardens would be greatly appreciative of your patronage this summer and fall. Their team members have been working hard to keep their gardens looking their best, and while some aspects of your visit may be different than before, you’re sure to feel the same sense of peace and enjoyment.

Many gardens require an online booking before arrival, so it is no longer a matter of just showing up.  Tickets can be purchased in advance online for several venues, or at the time of your visit for others, but please confirm before you head to your destination. Gift and plant shops, as well as restaurants, may or may not be open, depending on the situation at each garden.

Every garden is concerned about the safety of its team members and guests.  Social distancing is a huge factor, and the number of people allowed to visit at any one time will be monitored.

The 2m (6 feet) distancing protocol is an absolute must during this time; please ensure you respect this. Check each garden’s website for details or phone ahead for information.

These requirements reflect today’s new reality.  Thanks to the leadership of our current government and the guidance of our amazing health care professionals, notably provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 infection in North America.  We all need to keep doing our part by following these recommended guidelines, and that includes when we are visiting garden attractions.

Supporting the gardens in our province will also benefit us personally.  After being isolated and restricted for such a long time, surrounding ourselves with plants, trees and the beauty and colour of nature is, according to the World Health Organization, one of the best ways to relieve stress, improve our immune systems and benefit our overall health and well-being.

It is also a great opportunity for folks newly engaged in growing plants and food to see so many inspiring displays on how plants can be grown and cared for.

The need for our support of gardens now, as a community, cannot be overstated. They are among our leading provincial visitor attractions, and when this worldwide pandemic is behind us, tourism will be a key economic driver helping this province recover.

The following gardens are open to the public, but there may well be others in your region. Please take the time to review the details included on their individual websites pertaining to COVID-19 precautions and practices, because operating hours, entry details, service/amenity availability etc. will likely be impacted.

 Bloedel Conservatory. Francis Georgian / PNG

Bloedel Conservatory, Vancouver

Purchase tickets online in advance.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver

Purchase tickets online in advance.

 Nitobe Memorial garden at UBC.

UBC Botanical Garden (including the Greenheart TreeWalk), Nitobe Memorial Garden, Vancouver

Purchase tickets online in advance. The Shop in the Garden and Garden Centre is open, and UBC Botanical Garden will soon have more information available on booking small weddings.

VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver

Purchase tickets online in advance. While the gift shop may be closed, Truffles Café is open, and one person/household in the maze at a time, please.

 Butchart Gardens.

The Butchart Gardens, Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island

Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the time of your visit.

The Gardens at HCP, Victoria, Vancouver Island

Tickets can be purchased on arrival.

Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island

Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the time of your visit.

Hatley Park, Victoria, Vancouver Island

Tickets not required but admission is based on garden guest volume

Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island

Tickets can be purchased at the time of your visit.

Milner Gardens & Woodland in Qualicum Beach is working hard to be open soon, so visit , for further details. The Chilliwack Sunflower Festival is a go for this August as well, so visit for full details closer to that time.

More information on provincial gardens near you can be found at .


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Brian Minter: Versatile boxwoods come in sizes to suit every purpose

Clipped boxwood hedges are an excellent way to feature formal garden beds.

We see them everywhere —  as low or tall hedges, topiary specimens or in stylish containers gracing the entrances to some of the world’s most elegant hotels.

For centuries boxwoods have played an important role in gardens and landscapes. Used in old European parterres, they divided and framed stunning flower beds and were also used to create huge, meticulously pruned hedges and uniquely shaped garden features.

Native to many parts of the world, including southern England, northern Africa and Asia, historically boxwoods were reputed to offer a cure for epilepsy and toothaches.

Today, pharmacologists and herbalists agree that they have little, if any, medicinal value.  Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) contains alkaloids, making it toxic to horses, cattle and pigs if consumed in larger quantities.

The name boxwood comes from the fact that the wood was used to make decorative boxes. The wood has also been utilized to manufacture musical instruments like flutes, and chess pieces have been made from boxwood because it is relatively easy to carve.

Today, boxwoods are still widely used as low border plants to accent driveways, sidewalks and garden beds. Many different varieties are available, but it is a little challenging, even for nursery folks, to distinguish between them.

Because of their versatility, resilience and size range (depending on the type, they can grow from two to 20 feet, or 60 cm to 6 m), members of the boxwood family will always be important elements of many gardens. Buxus are tolerant of full hot sun to partial shade, and once established, they are quite drought tolerant.

The most widely planted boxwoods are the more compact varieties that stay reasonably low and require a minimum amount of pruning. The well-known dwarf English variety, Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ (zone 6), grows only two feet high by two feet wide (60 x 60 cm) and has been used for centuries for low borders and knot gardens. Its light green foliage matures to a glossy, deep green.

 Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ is popular for low borders. Photo credit: Minter Country Garden.

Buxus ‘Green Gem’ (zone 4) is a much hardier, low-growing (two feet by two feet, or 60 cm x 60 cm) variety.  It has smaller, glossy leaves and grows into a nicely rounded form. Low-growing and mounding (two feet by two feet, or 60 cm x 60 cm), B. ‘Calgary’ (cold rated as zone 3) is perhaps one of the hardiest varieties.

A little taller at three feet by four feet wide, ‘Green Velvet’ (zone 5), with its bright, glossy leaves, is a great choice for two reasons: it has a broad mounding habit, and it takes well to shearing.

A lesser known variety in B.C., slow growing ‘Buxus koreana’ (zone 3), has quite small leaves, making it far more resilient in very cold temperatures.  It can grow in areas where other varieties freeze.

A particularly attractive boxwood, ‘Green Beauty’ (zone 3) is very cold tolerant, and I love the fact that it holds its rich deep colour even in cold winters.  It grows about three feet tall and three feet wide (90 cm x 90 cm).

 ‘Green Beauty’ is a very cold tolerant boxwood. Photo credit: Minter Country Garden.

A taller, narrower variety (five feet by three feet, or 152 cm x 90 cm), ‘Green Mountain’ (zone 4) is ideal for slightly higher hedges, and it takes well to pruning.

With lustrous, rich, deep green foliage, Buxus sempervirens (zone 4) is one of the oldest and best-known boxwoods. Growing rather quickly, it can reach 20 feet (6 m) in height.  It is ideal for beautifully clipped garden specimens and is frequently topiaried into globes, pyramids and other enchanting shapes.  It prefers moist growing conditions and does poorly in dry, alkaline soils.

 Boxwoods are ideal for sculpting unique topiary forms. Picture credit: Minter Country Gardens

There are many variegated forms of boxwood, mostly in a soft creamy yellow/green blend.  Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’ (zone 5) is an excellent example of this coloration.  Growing up to six feet (1.8 m) and often seen shaped into a narrow cone, it will add vibrancy to any garden.

 Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’ adds vibrancy to any garden. Photo credit: Minter Country Garden.

Since small space gardens are today’s reality, more narrow forms of boxwood are becoming very popular.  One of my favourites is B. ‘Graham Blandy’ (zone 6).  Reaching up to 10 feet (3 m), its slender shape creates a stunning accent feature in both ground beds and containers.  It also works well as a privacy barrier on a patio.

In terms of modern design, small, rounded varieties set atop tall, narrow containers is very much today’s ‘in’ look.

The unfortunate downside of boxwood is its susceptibility to boxwood blight (the fungus Cylindrocladium buxicola).

Although relatively rare in B.C., it can cause rapid defoliation and the ultimate death of the plant. It spreads rather quickly and can destroy whole hedges. Warm, wet conditions with temperatures between 18 deg. C and 24 deg. C (65 F to 75 F) create the optimal situation for spreading this fungus.

It can also be transmitted by water and by moving hedging shears from one infected plant to others.  Use only a soaker hose when watering boxwoods and shear them on dry days when the temperature is below 18 deg. C (65 F).

One of the most at-risk varieties seems to be Buxus ‘Suffruticosa’, but others can be affected. The good news is that blight resistant varieties are currently in development and should be widely available within three to five years.

As trends and garden sizes change, boxwoods will continue to be one of the most versatile garden plants.

 Clipped boxwood hedges are an excellent way to feature formal garden beds. Photo credit: Minter Country Garden.


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