Friends of Government House Gardens Society

Victoria, British Columbia

2016 Perennial Plant Sale

poster for 2016 plant sale

View our plant catalogue on YouTube:

Plant Sale:

Tuesdays and Thursdays
9:00 am to noon
June, July and August
Government House Plant Nursery
next to the Tea Room

Come garden with us! 

Orientation for new Garden Volunteers will be held on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at 10am in Government House.

For further information contact Nairn at 250-744-4019 or

Transitions #2 – The Viburnum Hedge

The massive viburnum hedge to the east of the Victorian Rose Garden has been a topic of conversation at the Garden Management Committee for some time. It was overgrown, diseased and rife with blackberry canes and other undesirables. Originally a shelter for the rose garden, it now blocked the view and the sunshine from the east.

The Viburnum Hedge - little did it know.
The Viburnum Hedge – little did it know.

This spring both the will and the funds were present and Bartlett Tree Experts were hired to cut it down and remove the extensive root system.

Ah, that's better!
Ah, that’s better!

The area has been seeded with grass to provide better viewing access to both the Victorian Rose and Winter Gardens.

Transitions #1 – By the Duck Pond

The early spring this year gave us the opportunity to perform some major renovations in the gardens at the very beginning of the gardening season. Change is always interesting so the Friends website will try to capture the before, the during and the after in a series of blog posts called Transitions.

On the southern edge of the Duck Pond between Rockland 1 and Pearkes Peak there were a couple of beds overgrown with hypericum, cottoneaster and a kolkwitzia. Besides being out of control and impinging on the path, they blocked the western view of the pond and the bamboo grove. A local family wished to donate a crab apple tree and this became the impetus to renovate the area.

Duck Pond 1
Before the renovations

The roots were mighty, but the team of Pearkes Peak gardeners were mightier and here is the result.

Duck Pond 2
Ah, that’s better!


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New Residents in the Gardens

A couple of diminutive new residents were discovered this month in a Portuguese laurel in Pearkes Peak by the sharp eyes of Sharon Vermaning, Supervisor of that garden. The hummingbird nest measures about one and a half inches around (these condos are getting smaller all the time) and is populated by two tiny chicks whose long beaks can be seen poking out in the picture below.

And here is close-up shot from a slightly better angle (thanks to Sharon for holding the branch aside). Click on the pictures to see them in full size.



Akiko’s Gift

The following is a summary of an article written by Valerie Murray, Head Gardener of the Friends of Government House, which will appear in full in the upcoming edition of the Cary Bulletin.

In the summer of 2012 The Friends of Government House Gardens lost a long time volunteer with the death of Akiko Kamitakara. Akiko was a kind, generous and very humble individual who gave tirelessly to her community without attracting any attention to herself.

When Akiko died she left a bequest to the Friends of Government House and last fall we began to plan how we would direct some of these funds. The project that we had in mind was to give some shape and structure to the Woodland’s Lookout that we hope to use as a demonstration garden to encourage people to grow more native plants in their own gardens. Hardscape is usually one of the most expensive parts of any garden plan so it was felt that this was a good way Akiko’s gift could benefit our gardens.  We began looking for a set of stones anchored by a large upright piece to symbolize a small, strong Japanese woman.

The generosity and spirit of Akiko pervaded the entire project. The perfect stones were found by Larry Myers, a garden designer who was working on a construction project in the area with Ron Egli of Ron Egli Construction, who donated the stones and the use of a flatbed truck and crane to move and position them.

It all came together on July 31st with efforts of the Woodlands volunteers, Larry, and Ron. Below is a compressed view of the work that took place over a couple of hours.


“A Well-managed Lea”

Dr. Nancy Turner speaking to the Friends in the Maclure Room at Government House.

On the afternoon of March 3rd, Dr. Nancy Turner, a world renowned enthobiologist, delivered the first of this spring’s lectures to the Friends. Entitled “A Well-managed Lea”: First Peoples, Plants and the History of Victoria, Dr. Turner started the story with James Douglas’ mistaken observation upon his arrival to the island in 1841 that it was a “natural” landscape with plenty of potential for development. In fact, what he observed was a very sophisticated environment managed sustainably by the Lekwungen and other Straits Salish peoples to provide a variety of foods, medicines and building materials from more than 150 plants.

Dr. Turner and Her Honour, Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia who attended the lecture.

The lecture proceeded to detail just a few of the critical plants and complex processes used to cultivate and use them. Dr. Turner concluded by telling the well attended event that the Government House gardens remains a refugia for many of the culturally important species that are now quite rare, but played a critical role in the life of the First Nations of Vancouver Island.

This and the future lectures in the Friends Talks 2014 series was made possible by an energetic team of Friends volunteers consisting of Angela Newton, Susan Bartol-Drinker and Lynn Heenan assisted by Eileen Edgar’s phone team and Catherine Spencer distributing e-mails to the membership. Many thanks to Penny Tennenhouse and Jerymy Brownridge for the photographs and to Valerie Murray for her initial contact to Dr. Turner.

Dr. Turner being thanked with a small gift from the Friends by Valerie Murray, Horticultural Advisor to the Friends.
Dr. Turner being thanked with a small gift by Valerie Murray, Horticultural Advisor to the Friends.

A Few Changes


A new edition of the Cary Bulletin has been published today in advance of the start of the new gardening season. You’ll notice a few changes. First, the format reflects the design talents of the new editor Mary Anne Skill. As most of the Friends are now receiving the Bulletin electronically the new edition contains more colour, more pictures and should read very well on your computer or tablet screens. For those of you who prefer the print edition, fear not, it has been sent to our printer and will be mailed to you, as usual, very shortly.

Another change is that, from this edition forward, we are putting the electronic version of the Cary Bulletin in the public section of the website. A few changes were made for privacy protection to allow this. This will make the Bulletin easier to download and easier to pass along the link to friends and colleagues across Canada and around the world. Feel free to share it liberally.

You can find the Bulletin on a new page below the “The Friends” menu item or just click here.

Enjoy – and spread the word.


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