JARS v62n3 - Cowichan Valley Chapter Helps Develop Public Garden

Cowichan Valley Chapter Helps Develop Public Garden
Ingeborg Woodsworth
Lake Cowichan, British Columbia

The Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society, ARS District 1, has received an ARS Endowment Grant for the continued development of the Lake Cowichan Rhododendron Memorial Park.

Within the Cowichan Valley is the Town of Lake Cowichan, population approximately 2,800. Several members of the Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society are also members of Communities in Bloom, Lake Cowichan, and it is the combined efforts of these members who organized and planted Phase 1 and will continue to help with the upkeep of this garden.

We have begun Phase 1 (approx. 2 acres) of the Lake Cowichan Rhododendron Memorial Park garden project with original plants and some propagated species and hybrids. These come from the main core of rhododendrons and azaleas at the University of Victoria/Finnerty Gardens. They were originally transplanted to University of Victoria from the university"s Endowment Lands at Marble Bay near Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, BC. The Simpson family, who had cultivated rhododendrons with the Stoker family, endowed the property at Marble Bay, to the University of Victoria. This property is considered to be one of the cradles of the Pacific Coast for rhododendron hybrids. The history of these rhododendron plants, their origins and their propagation was published in spiral bound booklets and were available at the grand opening of the park during Lake Cowichan Heritage Days in May.

There is the potential of having five phases to this project. We have available to us land on both sides of Point Ideal Road, as well as the boulevards, in which to plant specimens. This property provides a very unique setting for rhododendron culture with its humidity, uneven ground and established trees. Phases 2-4 will encompass four manageable plots of the land, which with Phase 1 and 5 will make up the entirety of the park.

The timeline involved is ongoing as it is dependant on funding and availability of more plants offered by University of Victoria/Finnerty Gardens and others. The fifth phase will include Rhododendron macrophyllum at the Trans-Canada trail end in Lake Cowichan, which is located across the main road from the park. The challenge has been given to the Trans-Canada Trail Committee in Duncan, B.C., to meet us halfway on the trail between us with rhododendrons indigenous to the Pacific Coast area.

The objective of this memorial park is to provide a variety of different settings for this genus and a unique horticultural interest, not just to ARS District 1 members but also to international rhododendron enthusiasts who have already expressed interest. The garden will provide education on the local history and propagation of rhododendrons and azaleas. We have the opportunity to provide species that are no longer in culture. The propagation group within the local chapter of the ARS will document their findings as they cultivate new plants from seed and cuttings. Cuttings have already been requested from within and without this group, but the timing and availability will be decided as to when it is safe by the Advisory Committee of this park.

The Town of Lake Cowichan has designated parkland for the rhododendron garden with Beaver Creek running through it and has committed to the perpetuity of this project in the form of maintenance. This will preserve the continuity of history of these plants in our town and will provide ongoing education in many forms. Beaver Creek is a local site managed by the Lake Cowichan Salmonoid Enhancement Program Society.

Funding for this project has come from the Town of Lake Cowichan in the way of funds to cover the cost of transporting specimens. Also Lake Cowichan Communities in Bloom has given us support by providing an honorarium for labor and machinery. Local businesses donated materials necessary for the successful Grand Opening of Phase 1. The ARS grant funds will go towards necessary hard landscape, i.e., safety of existing footbridge and educational signage, which will bring to completion Phase 1.