Tag Archives: Victoria BC

Beacon (Camas) Hill, Victoria BC

After the Indigenous Plant Walk the day before, my Airbnb hostess Kelly Kerr invited to show me around the Beacon Hill Park, a 200 acre mix of both natural areas, formal flower beds, but above all else the site is of great cultural significance to the Lekwungen People (now known as Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation). In fact, the City of Victoria has adopted 2017 as a Year of Reconciliation, and a traditional longhouse will be built on a hilltop site! When the British arrived they wrongly assumed that the open meadow landscape was “natural” and unused. In fact, the Lekwungen had cultivated and maintained these shrub-free grasslands for centuries. The meadows were worked to grow camas which was their most important root crop, as well as other edible wild plants. Both common and great camas (Camassia quamash and Camassia leichtlinii) were used. This habitat was reminiscent to the English of the ideal 19th century parkland landscape that they recognised from home and was instrumental in Victoria being founded at this site!
The Beacon Hill area was apparently “one of the most productive camas territories on Vancouver Island,” The Lekwungen people both harvested bulbs for their own use and also traded with other west coast peoples. Thankfully, it is now likely that these productive and butterfly rich grasslands will be gradually restored. The album of pictures were taken in the park and along the adjacent shoreline where native families would arrive in the past for the harvest. They would harvest the bulbs in summer when the seed heads were ripe. Only the largest bulbs were harvested and the others replanted. Invasion by shrubs was minimised by regular burning. Each family had its own designated area. The practice of farming natural areas in this way was commonly practiced around the world by native peoples.

The first shooting stars (Dodecatheon)

Lomatium utriculatum

Indigenous plant walk in Victoria BC

On 1st April 2017, I visited the Compost Education Centre in Victoria BC, Canada, where I’d enrolled on an indigenous plant walk around the grounds, lead by Ashley Cooper (Tsartlip First Nation) and is working to revitalize important cultural knowledge and practices in her community and beyond.
The centre has a small garden, but it is packed with many traditional and indigenous useful plants. It is a non-profit organization providing courses and workshops on organic gardening and composting in the Greater Victoria area (see https://www.compost.bc.ca). Here are a few pictures and a couple of videos of Ashley talking about camas and stinging nettle!
The coastal peoples harvested and semi-cultivated the wild stands of camas, both Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) which was commonest around Victoria and common camas (C. quamash). In Victoria, Beacon Hill (see separate post) was an important site as were small offshore islands, where soils weren’t deep over rock and hence easier to harvest (my garden is perfect in that respect!). The beds were divided into individual plots maintained over the generations by different families.
Camas is said to have often been the only source of carbohydrate in the past for these coastal peoples who mostly ate fish and meat. Each year, the plots were cleared of stones and were burned to maintain the meadows. The bulbs were steamed in earth pits to convert the inulin to easier digested carbohydrates.



After our visit to the Government House garden, Solara Goldwynn​ took me on a visit to an amazing inspiring ecohouse, gardens and perennials nursery in the Highlands area just outside of the city of Victoria (BC) where she and husband Tayler were living in a flat with owners Ann and Gord Baird

You can read much more about Ann and Gord on their web site at https://eco-sense.ca

Governor’s House Garden in Victoria BC

Continuing with another garden I visited in Victoria BC, Canada! My host Solara Goldwynn​  took me on a quick visit to the Government House Garden (from 1911) on 30th March 2017. The album shows a few pictures of the edimentals we found!
The garden web site is here: http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/gardens/history/default.html
Within the garden is some remnant Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) woodland, an endangered species rich habitat of which 95% has been lost.

Edibles in the Abkhazi Gardens in Victoria BC

The next garden I visited in Victoria BC on 1st April 2017! The Abkhazi Gardens were created by Prince Nicholas Abkhazi from Georgia and his wife from 1947, taken over by the Land Conservancy to protect the garden against property development.
With Kelly Kerr

Oak Bay Native Plant Garden

The owner of the Airbnb I was staying at in Victoria, BC kindly took me on a tour of gardens on 2nd April 2017! This was the first garden, a lot which was donated to the city and maintained for native plants by volunteers!
Thanks once again Kelly Kerr​!

Walk and talk at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific

So much has happened this year that I haven’t had time to blog about several places I’ve visited this year….with a bit more time now I’m returning to my great trip to Canada in March and Victoria, BC. Solara Goldwynn, a local Permaculture Landscape Designer (Hatchet & Seed) had arranged a program for me including a walk and talk gig at the Garden of the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, just 12 km from downtown Victoria! It’s a relatively young garden but full of interesting plants (far more interesting than the nearby world famous Butchart Gardens which doesn’t even merit a blog post!). It’s non-profit community focused garden with sustainable management practices. Here’s an album of pictures from the garden tour and talk – the participants preferred to stay inside and hear the whole lecture rather than going outside, so this album documents what we would have seen :)
Thanks to Solara Goldwynn for arranging this and great also to finally meet my friend Lara from Salt Spring Island!