Personal blog of Derek and Margaret, now living in Dominica, W.I., founders of Ozone Zone – an Independent Canadian book publisher specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Archive for June, 2012

“Rhodos on the run” – Finnerty Gardens, Uvic, Victoria, Canada.

Finnerty gardens, UVic.When we have to move, we often take with us favourite plants from the garden. I remember  rhododendron “Anah Kruschke” travelling with us in a moving van, well secured  between futon and bamboo chairs. Transferring a few rhodos is not a big problem, but having to deal with an entire collection, including plants over 50 years old, is an enormous challenge.

The University of Victoria faced that challenge in 1974 when it received a notable collection of Rhododendron species from Jeanne Buchanan Simpson. She and her husband came to Cowichan Lake in 1912 and later bought a piece of land from the Stokers – amateur botanists, collectors of native and exotic plants. That land was full of fine plants – rhododendrons among them, mostly species. When Richard Stoker (brother of Bram Stoker, famous author of Dracula) died, the Simpsons bought their estate on Marble Bay and continued their work. Over the next 20 years, their garden grew to 200 varieties of rhododendrons, which was the largest collection in BC at that time.  By bequeathing the plants to the university – the Finnerty Gardens was born.

The new site for the garden was chosen at the south end of the university campus, onto which Rhododendrons were successfully transplanted with the efficient help of the Friends of University Gardens – a group of devoted volunteers. Unfortunately, rhodos didn’t like their new home, and they didn’t perform well. Therefore, in 1988 yet another move was decided for them: this time to a nearby space, 1.5 acres large, well drained and sheltered by native trees. More than three hundred plants made a trip, and this time their new home proved to be a happy one.

With plant donations coming from private people and nurseries, the garden continued to expand. In recent years, 126 plants made another heroic journey as a result of the second largest donation since Jeanne Simpson’s. They come from the Sooke garden of Dora and Bob Kreiss and contain stunning varieties of rare species, including amazing large-leafed rhodos with tea-cup sized flowers. The garden expanded in size and variety of plants, small and big, trees, shrubs, perennials. It now has such a rich mix of plants that we were dazzled, and enjoyed seeing some really rare treats. The generous 6-acres size of this garden brought to mind the fantastic Montreal Estate Gardens on St Vincent, one of the glorious gardens featured in our awarded coffee table book Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean.

It is much more than just a rhodo garden, with picturesque ponds and several garden sections having unique character and feel.  Countless plants came from various locations to find a good home here.

Walking through the Finnerty Gardens today looks like all the plants have always been always there: they are well established, robust in their growth, splendid in appearance. It is one of the most popular gardens in Victoria, and yet it is very intimate, full of secluded nooks and crannies.

Sitting on a bench in one of these secluded spots and looking up, we admired the rich tapestry of colour and foliage, often dramatic and bold. Towering native trees are often used here as support for climbing vines, which made us feel we are in a woodland garden.

After spending a couple of hours exploring around and enjoying the clever design making this garden feel bigger than it actually is,  we realized Finnerty  has all components of the finest gardens: a sense of mystery, balance between light and shade, rhythm of space and enclosure, and a great garden design emphasizing “ a sense of place.”


In our garden, “Anah Kruschke” is thriving in its new spot.

Thank you for your visit. if you like it – please Share it with your friends, or follow our blog.
Until next time! Cheers!

Written by Margaret Gajek (art historian/researcher/author and keen gardener)
Photographs – as always – by Derek Galon
Gardens are located at University of Victoria grounds, admission is free.

Playfair Park – “Ghost Garden of Greater Victoria”

Playfair Park, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada - feast of rhodos.Not too many people know about this garden, perhaps only locals and admirers of rhododendrons go there. It is not even listed on Victoria Horticultural Society’ website list of Local Public Gardens (one would think that such a list should be the most complete and impartial) – and yet this forgotten, colourful and interesting spot is a real jewel hidden in a quiet residential area of Saanich.

This small garden had really grand and unusual beginnings. It was planned long ago as part of a national arboretum in Canada – an ambitious project envisioned by Adam Szczawinski, Polish-born botanist who saved Thetis Lake from development. Szczawinski was a curator of botany at the Royal BC Museum, creator of an extensive BC plant collection housed at the museum’s herbarium, and at the University of Victoria. In 1956 he brought together a group of about ten people to form The Arboretum Society of the Pacific Norhwest. There was an official plan to set up a series of small areas in Victoria to display specific plants. Playfair Park was chosen as a first site for display of rhododendrons. However, after general election in Canada, it was decided by the new government that the best place for a national arboretum has to be Ottawa. Despite this disappointing news, a group of enthusiastic volunteers decided to complete work on the park.

The other end of Playfair park is full of mixed, attractive plants blooming all summer long.

What remains there today is still a glorious and beautiful display. The Camphor tree is one of the most spectacular in the garden, recognizable also by amazingly aromatic leaves. All the rhodos were planted under Garry Oak trees for protection from sun and wind. Today, some of the rhodos are up to majestic 8 meters tall, creating an impressive and colourful display. We walked under their arching branches looking at the magical carpet under our feet, made by their spent bloom.

What was once a dream about the arboretum it is now a splendid garden, as much worth a visit as other famous gardens of Victoria which do charge an entry fee. Beautiful, free to visit – but not on lists of Victoria fine gardens and sadly forgotten – a ghost garden, full of real beauty.

Thank you for reading, and as always – if you like it, please share – let others know about this beautiful garden.

Once more our blog brought us to our home town – Victoria, Canada. We are working on more posts from here, as well as a few posts from abroad. Stay tuned!
Until next time, cheers!
Derek and Margaret.

Playfair park can be accessed both from Quadra Rd. and Blenkinsop, with free parking near Union St.

More info about Adam Szczawinski

Post written by Margaret Gajek, author of our books Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean, and Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean, photos by me – Derek Galon.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – The House For An Art Lover, Glasgow, Scotland

While visiting Scotland last May, we wanted to see the newest jewel of architecture designed by legendary architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Margaret, being an art historian with decades of fascination with Mackintosh’ works, did put it high on our priority list for our trip. As many of you know, we are interested not only in gardens, but also in fine architecture. Our award-winning book Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean  can be the best proof of that. In our book we concentrated on tropical styles, but our interests in architecture go far behind that, and include works by the master of  Arts and Crafts period – Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Several amazing projects created in Glasgow and area by Charles Rennie Mackintosh are well known to visitors from all around the world. The House For an Art lover, however, is a rather new addition to his landmarks’ collection. In 1901 the design of House for an Art Lover won an international award for a modern architecture concept. Oddly enough, this fine design spent almost hundred years in the drawer, until it was put to life by dedicated Mackintosh experts just in recent decades. It was not only built using original plans, but parts of the design had to be actually created and added, as many details were not complete on the winning draft.

The work done on this house rings true to Mackintosh masterpieces and it was fantastic to see it. It is set in a beautiful park and garden. Every detail is made with real consideration to the Mackintosh’ style, and it is hard to imagine it was built recently and not by Mackintosh’ own team. Perhaps the decorative gesso panels in dining room stand out as slightly less authentic looking, perhaps done by a heavier hand. But it would be really difficult to design and create them with the same masterly perfection as amazing gesso works by Mackintosh or his wife, Margaret MacDonald. All in all, this is an amazing place to visit and to enjoy yet another Mackintosh masterpiece.
There is lots of info about the property on-line, therefore I will not repeat what is already known and said. I just would like to share with you a few photographs I took. I hope you enjoy. And – thank you to all dedicated people behind this project for making it happen. Let this precious jewel sparkle for many, many years to come.
Visit the House on-line for more info:
And, as always – if you like this post, please share it with your friends.
Thank you, stay tuned!

All photographs copyright Derek Galon, Ozone Zone Books.
No usage without written authorization.
Text by Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon, 

Milner Garden and Forest, Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada

We wanted to visit Milner Gardens on Vancouver Island for quite a while, but as it is advertised to have hundreds of rhododendrons – we waited for late spring to see it in its full glory. The whole estate on its 70 acres of land was created around 1930 by an influential family of General Noel Money. At the heart of the estate stands an attractively designed house, built in style of old Ceylon colonial buildings.  (This fine house instantly reminded us of Castle Grant and Sunbury Plantation House in Barbados – places we presented in our book Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean).

Soon after the house was finished, the whole estate was sold to Ray Milner of Edmonton as a summer house. When in mid-fifties Ray married Lady Veronica FitzGerald – a British aristocrat from very influential family – the works on their large garden begun. Lady Veronica knew many fine British and Irish gardeners including Sir Frederick Moore, developer of gardens at Mount Usher. Using his works as inspiration, she created her Wild Garden secluded in an old forest growth, and overseeing calm waters of Qualicum Beach area.

It surely was very impressive and grand garden concept.  The winding road comes through wild forest to suddenly enter colorful area of blooming trees and bushes, and then leads to open space with a picturesque house overlooking wide ocean shore. Lady Veronica – and artist and painter – used her garden as inspiration for her works, opening it often to host other artists. The garden also remembers many prestigious guests, including several members of British Royal Family. Wishing to preserve the beauty of her garden for future generations, before her death Veronica generously ceded it to Vancouver Island University with intention of opening it to general public.

Now it is open to visitors by a rather steep $10 admission, advertised as Ancient Forest and Garden – perhaps to attract more paying guests. While the forest surely is old and beautiful, it is located in generally forested area and just a short drive from the famous Cathedral Grove, where one can see much more impressive and older forest for no admission fee.  Similar forest can be also seen on many hikes on Vancouver Island – but forest or no forest – we were eager to see the garden. So, we went through the shadowed path winding between old trees, and in some five minutes arrived at the garden gate.  It really lives up to its name of Wild Garden, as it blends with forest quite significantly.  We enjoyed some beautiful, old rhododendrons growing between huge trees, including some rare and impressive big-leafed species. Garden path passed little pond and descended slowly towards the house covered with wisteria.

Scented azaleas and magnolia trees surround the beautiful colonial house welcoming us with typical colonial style impressive, wide stairs. It now serves as a special venue and a tea house. The view from the front of the house is truly magnificent. Wide ocean shore is visible over juicy-green lawn. Narrow paths and nooks surround the lawn creating charming hiding spots for enjoyment of visitors.

However, despite undisputed charm we couldn’t stop to feel a sense of neglect to this place, that hard to describe impression that “the days of glory are over”. Many little details suggested skimpy maintenance, some trees and rhodos seemed overgrown and in need of trimming.  Many spots would do with some weeding.  Despite several gates to “keep deer away” we noticed deer grazing just at the house between magnolia trees – which is the heart of the whole garden.  One can argue that a wild garden should be left alone and live its own life. Of course – it is right, but to some extent. And, if it feels like in need of maintenance – it often simply is. We hope our $10 per head will be put to good use, and the garden will be well preserved for future generations as it should. Still a beautiful place to visit, but would Lady Veronica FitsGerald-Milner approve its keeping?  We can only guess…

Garden’s Web site:

Thank you for stopping by, and as always – if you like this post – please share on Facebook or other media you use. See you again soon.

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