JARS v53n1 - Revisiting the Site of the Greig Nursery

Revisiting the Site of the Greig Nursery
Bill Dale
Sidney, British Columbia Canada

It was exactly 100 years since Mary Greig was born in 1897 (her husband Ted had been born five years before) when I traveled to Courtenay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in the spring of 1997. As I passed through the village of Royston I decided to stop and see what was still evident of the once thriving nursery of Ted and Mary Greig, who in 1970 were jointly given the ARS Gold Medal.

Very little was in evidence of their beautiful rhododendrons which were moved to Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. There were, however, several large trees still on their lot including a Stewartia pseudocamellia which today stands 57 feet (17m) high with a trunk 36 inches (90cm) in diameter below the four large branches reaching skyward.

The concrete pits in which the Greigs grew their alpines were still evident as were a few rhododendrons and other shrubs and Thalictrum which was blooming by the front door when I was there.

The one tree which dominated the yard, however, was an Acer griseum . This magnificent tree, planted in the early 1930s by the Greigs, also has several branches taking off from the main trunk not much above ground level. The branches reach a height of 41 feet (12m) with a spread of 39 feet. The branches take off about 3 feet (1m) above the ground level and below this point the main trunk measures 27 inches (68cm) in diameter. The limbs with their beautiful peeling bark dominated the garden and the old Greig home. This Acer griseum must be one of the largest around and I would like to hear of any larger. It stands beautiful and tall, a reminder of what a wonderful garden this was just a few years ago.

Acer griseum at the site of
the Ted and Mary Greig Nursery at Royston on Vancouver Island, B.C.
Dominating the site of the Ted and Mary Greig
Nursery at Royston on Vancouver Island, B.C.,
is an approximately 60-year-old Acer griseum .

In 1919 Ted Greig took his bride to their new home at Royston on Vancouver Island, where they lived the rest of their lives. They got into the rhododendron business in the 1930s when they bought stock from the Buchanan-Simpson nursery at Lake Cowichan. They were jointly given the ARS Gold Medal in 1966 for their contribution to the rhododendron world - the same year that Ted Greig died. When Mary was 70 years old her children gave her a special birthday present - a floor-to-ceiling window in her bedroom. In the cold days of early spring she was able to sit in her chair and look out over the garden at the Acer griseum with the early flowering rhododendrons and the cyclamen and yellow aconite around it announcing the arrival of spring. Mary Greig died at the age of 93 in the home where she had lived for over 70 years.

Bill Dale, a member of the Cowichan Valley Chapter, is a frequent contributor to the Journal.