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. At this time printed copies of the current month’s tour are not available due to COVID-19.
2020 / 2021 Self Guided Botanical Tours
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
Winter 2020/2021: Learning the Trees
Summer 2020: A Summer Stroll
Autumn 2020: Plants, Myths, Legends and Superstitions
February / March 2020: Waiting For Spring
2019 Self Guided Tours
December 2019: Plant Diversity of the Sino-Himalayan, Part 2
September 2019: What makes a Botanical Garden “Botanical”
May 2019: A Marvelous Medley Awaits You
April 2019: West Coast Wild
February & March 2019: The Weeping Trees
Winter 2018-19: Plant Diversity of the Sino-Himalayan, Part 1
Garden Stories are generously provided by volunteer guides using reliable internet resources or reproduced with permission and are reviewed by VanDusen Botanical Garden staff.
- +-Bloom Calendar
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.
This hexagonal pavilion in the colorful decorative style was a gift from the Korean people in 1986, at the conclusion of the World Exposition in Vancouver. *Note, the Pavilion is temporarily inaccessible and in need of repair, but visitors can still view it at the Great Lawn.
In July of 2005, the Pavilion underwent a restoration courtesy of the Korean business community with assistance from the Government of Korea. A team of three artisans, specialists in the ancient technique of dan cheong, were sent from Korea to undertake the project. The team was led by Hye In, a Buddhist monk and a National Living Treasure in Korea. Dan cheong is a surface decoration style specific to Korea. The technique is used primarily to decorate and prolong the life of wooden structures and involves staining the wood rather than painting over it. In this manner the natural grain and beauty of the wood becomes part of the design. Due to the absence of ancient buildings, the roots of dan cheong can only be traced back as far as the Three Kingdoms Period (57 B.C. – A.D. 668). In dan cheong only five basic colours are used – red, blue, yellow, black and white. How they are used and in what combinations are determined by four different pattern types (moroucho, byeoljihwa, bidanmuni and dandongmuni).
In the landscape, are some Korean native plants, including the national flower, Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus and the exquisite Abeliophyllum distichum, with white scented flowers in late winter.
Evergreen azaleas are a large and complex group of species and hybrids. Most of them are Asian in origin; many can be found in the vicinity of the Korean Pavilion. Some have double flowers such as ‘Rosebud’, others have profuse flowers carried on plants of interesting layered form, such as the purple Kirishima azalea, R. ‘Amoenum’, or the exquisite white R. kiusianum ‘Album’.
+-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.
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.