Playfair Park – “Ghost Garden of Greater Victoria”
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.
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.