VanDusen Botanical Garden
The Garden is jointly operated by the City of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association, a charitable non-profit organization. Our two organizations have worked together for more than 40 years under a shared vision of making the Garden cherished locally and renowned internationally.
Numbered self-guided tours are plotted out by volunteers nearly every month for visitors to enjoy at their leisure. Click the links below for copies of current and past tours, as well as tours in other languages.
2023 Self-Guided Botanical Tours
May/June 2023: Rooted in North America
April 2023: Livingstone Lake and Heron Lake
Feb/March 2023: A Tribute to VanDusen Trees
2022 Self-Guided Botanical Tours
Winter 2022/23: Savouring The Seasons
September/October 2022: Native Plants and Their Benefits to Wildlife
July/August 2022: A Summer Stroll
May/June 2022: April Showers Bring Spring Flowers
April 2022: VanDusen’s Giants
Jan/Feb 2022: An Historical Walk Around the Garden
2021 Self Guided Botanical Tours
Winter 2021: Dressed for Winter
Sept/Oct 2021: Six Trees (And How They Got That Way)
July/August 2021: A Summer Stroll
June 2021: Edibles in the Garden
May 2021: A Pilgrimage
April 2021: An April Walk Through the Garden
February/March 2021: VanDusen’s Stately Stands of Trees
Alternative Language tours
+-VanDusen Visitor Centre
Our multi-award winning Visitor Centre was named Most Sustainable Building of the Year in 2014.
Featuring advanced technology, a green roof, and a beautiful orchid-inspired design, the building achieved LEED Platinum status in 2014. Designed by internationally renowned architects Busby, Perkins + Will, the Visitor Centre was also designed to target certification to the International Living Institute’s Living Building Challenge™ (LBC), and was one of the first buildings in Canada to be Living Building Challenge Petal certified. The VanDusen Visitor Centre achieved certification in the categories of Site, Materials, Health and Beauty.
Low carbon electricity is utilized for heating, cooling and domestic hot water heating, delivered using a high efficiency ground source heat pump system. A significant amount of renewable energy is generated through the solar photovoltaic panels and evacuated tube solar thermal panels. As no fossil fuels are used, greenhouse gas emissions are low.
The building was designed with a rainwater recycling system. On average, the building consumes approximately 1.4 million litres of water per year, with approximately 75% of that consumption supplied through rainwater collection and reuse.
Read more about the project here.
There’s always something ‘growing’ on in the Garden! Check out our bloom calendars for some examples of what you’ll see throughout the year.
The Elizabethan Maze
Mazes and labyrinths have fascinated people from before the dawn of history. The legendary labyrinth beneath the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete, in which the hero Theseus killed the Minotaur, is perhaps the best known of the early mazes. Other mazes were made by the people of northern Europe, perhaps to confuse evil spirits or symbolically thread the difficult path of life. The hedge maze reached its zenith in Renaissance England more as a device for entertainment than serious purpose. The most famous was built by Cardinal Wolsley at Hampton Court. The VanDusen maze is made of 3,000 pyramidal cedars, Thuja occidentalis ‘Fastigiata’, planted in the autumn of 1981. There is an observation terrace from which the less adventuresome visitor can view the maze.
This area has a landscape stylized on an oriental theme. The vertical outcroppings of rock symbolize “islands” in a dry lake. There is a practical reason for this design, because the site is the roof of the abandoned Point Grey reservoir. Lightweight volcanic rock is used, as the weight factor has to be considered. The area adjacent to the Stone Garden is the second highest point in Vancouver, the highest being Little Mountain in Queen Elizabeth Park.
This structure in the Heather Garden is built of local basaltic rock in a style compatible with the moorland theme of the surrounding landscape. Originally such a structure would have had a thatched roof of heather, but for reasons of safety and ease of maintenance, natural slate is used instead.
+-Art in the Garden
International Sculpture Symposium
VanDusen houses a collection of several sculptures, including fountains, sited throughout the Garden. Eleven larger stone sculptures were created at the Vancouver International Stone Sculpture Symposium, held here in 1975. Additional sculptures came to the Garden as gifts or were commissioned by VanDusen Botanical Garden Association (VBGA).
The Vancouver International Stone Sculpture Symposium
Hosted by Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr School of Art), under the direction of Gerhard Class, The Vancouver International Stone Sculpture Symposium invited 12 internationally-renowned artists to spend the summer of 1975 in the newly opened VanDusen Botanical Garden creating sculptures with the assistance of 24 students from the school. The artists were given a choice of site at the Garden and stone (either marble from Turkey and Iran or travertine from Turkey). Donated by Debro Construction Company, the stone arrived in Vancouver as ballast in ships.
The participating sculptors were Hiromi Akiyama (France/Japan), Joan Gambioli (Canada), Mathias Heitz (Austria), Olga Jancic (Yugoslavia), Wolfgang Kubach and Anna-Maria Wilmsen-Kubach (Germany), David Franklin Marshall (Canada), Michael Prentice (France/USA), ‘Piqtoukun’ David Ruben (Canada), Adolf Ryska (Poland), Jiro Sugawara (Italy/Japan) and Kiyoshi Takahashi (Japan).
Retired VanDusen Curator R. Roy Forster, O.C. commented on the role of the sculptures as “they give a monumental character of scale to the overall landscape. One definition of good garden sculpture is that once admired, it should blend and almost disappear in the landscape, not detracting one’s attention from the living collections. This may be the reason why abstract sculpture is sometimes more successful than the representational kind which may evoke images that impinge too much on the quiet flow of ideas that one likes to enjoy in a garden”.
VanDusen Botanical Garden is an ideal ecosystem for birds, offering plenty of water, trees, sheltered areas, open lawns and food sources. Just as some plants thrive in the shade while others require direct sun, birds also have specific needs. Robins explore open lawns hunting for worms, swallows perform aerial acrobatics to catch insects in flight, and song sparrows prefer hunting for bugs in fallen leaves in the sheltered underbrush.
Once a month, the Garden offers a Guided Bird Walk with Jeremy Gordon. It is free for Members or included in the Garden admission fee. For dates, times and details, please check the Events Calendar.
Download our VanDusen Bird Checklist>>
Please do not feed the birds!
The Garden is home to honey bee hives that each house between 35,000 to 50,000 bees. On average one hive will produce 60 pounds of honey in a season.
Our apiarists tend to the hives from spring through late autumn, when the hives are winterized and the bees are put to bed. The cycle starts again in the spring when the first blossoms appear.
Not surprisingly, our lushly planted 22 hectares (55 acres) offer a wide diversity of habitats well-suited to urban wildlife. With plenty of food and shelter, the Garden makes a perfect home for creatures such as squirrels, turtles, fish, coyotes and insects. While we admit they sometimes are pests (no one likes their freshly planted bulbs dug up by squirrels), they are also integral to the overall health and balance of the VanDusen ecosystem. In addition to pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds, urban wildlife is beneficial in the Garden in many other ways. Predatory insects prey on plant-eating insects, coyotes keep herbivores at bay, while the fish and turtles help keep the ponds in balance.
Please do not feed the animals!
Learn more about the wealth of research being conducted at VanDusen Botanical Garden over the last two years including a summary of VanDusen’s living collections and a list of new plant acquisitions.