Larry Phillips

Ancient art takes root at Saanich garden

If the bucolic Horticulture Centre of the Pacific wasn’t tranquil enough, a new emerging garden is offering a new level of Zen.

If the bucolic Horticulture Centre of the Pacific wasn’t tranquil enough, a new emerging garden is offering a new level of Zen.

People attending the HCP’s annual Art and Music in Garden this weekend will have a sneak peek at the bonsai garden, so far featuring 33 meticulously handcrafted miniature trees, all of local species.

“It’s the only bonsai garden in Western Canada and its the largest in Canada by the number of trees,” said Roger Charles, executive director of HCP. “We have a full range of gardens here – a bonsai garden, a Mediterranean garden and a desert garden. The variety is as much to show what can be grown and to illustrate a variety of gardens found in the Pacific Rim.”

Vancouver Island Bonsai Society volunteers created the space next to the existing Japanese Garden last year, and have installed about half of what are finely crafted living works of art. If officially opens in September.

Art and Music in the Garden is the garden and land conservation society’s key fundraising event for the year, which usually provides $15,000 to $17,000 in hard cash for upkeep of the 44-hectare facility. HCP may see nearly $1 million in revenues  including with the school, but as a break-even, largely volunteer-run operation, it can be difficult to fund basic maintenance.

“Most donations tend to be project specific,” Charles said. “But from an operational point of view you’ve got to pay salaries, fix things like irrigation and do day-to-day maintenance. It’s not easy to raise money for that. The event is important for providing cash for the garden on a day-to-day basis.”

About 2,000 to 3,000 people come through the Saanich-based gardens over the weekend for the event, which as the name implies, has plenty of local artists and musicians donating their time, plus 30 classic collector cars and a beer tent. About 100 volunteers tidy up the gardens and get the event off the ground.

“This year artists signed up early. We’re having to turn artists away,” said Brian Groos, organizer of the art and music in garden. “They say it’s one of the best events they have in the summer. The opportunity to meet and talk with people is very important.

“This event shows how important the garden is for the community. And with all the sunny weather, the garden never looked so good.”

And in what has become a pivotal year for HCP, its new Mel Couvelier Pavilion is a few months away from completion.

Replacing an aging greenhouse that was destroyed by fire in February 2011, the cedar panelled, fir-framed timber pavilion will become a key revenue source for the gardens as a wedding and conference venue. The $1.5 million, 3,000-square-foot building is on time and on budget, Charles said.

“It’s rare for a building to look better than the drawings, but in this case it looks better. People are astounded how wonderful it is,” he said.

“It’s a big part of future revenue generation. Wedding bookings are up for next year. We’re charging more for the pleasure of having a wedding here, but the brides aren’t objecting.”

Art and Music in the Garden at HCP is Aug. 10 and 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 505 Quail Rd. See hcp.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

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