The Government House grounds embrace 14.6 hectares (36 acres), including 8.9 hectares (22 acres) of a rare Garry Oak ecosystem, and 5.7 hectares (14 acres) of formal gardens. All formal garden areas are wheelchair accessible thanks to the efforts of the Government House Foundation, the Province of British Columbia and private donations. The Gardens are open from 9:00 am until sunset.
Design: The current Government House grounds were originally designed in 1911 by G.K. Maclean, a landscape architect from Vancouver. After the fire of 1957, Robert Savery, a British-born and educated landscaper, updated the design of the Government House Gardens. The new design was greatly influenced by the style of traditional English gardens.
Previous to the fire of 1957, the west-side landscape had only a few plots of hybrid tea roses in a lawn on a natural sloping grade, heavily surrounded by trees. However, Savery’s new landscape design changed the characteristics of the area and conditions were improved to allow roses and herbaceous perennials to grow.
1960s – 1991: The gardens flourished throughout the 1960s and 1970s when up to 17 gardeners worked on the property. The grounds were always well-maintained and many of the plants were grown in an onsite greenhouse. However, throughout the 1980s the number of staff gardeners fell to one and even with regular maintenance by contractors, the gardens deteriorated.
1991 – 2007: In 1991, the Honourable David Lam, Lieutenant Governor (1988–1995) initiated a garden volunteer program (which evolved into the Friends in 1992) to enhance the existing gardens, create new gardens, and improve the maintenance of the Government House grounds for public use and enjoyment. Dr. Lam’s plans were based on the involvement of volunteers who would maintain the gardens, raise funds and ensure the continuation of interest and support of the Government House grounds.
During his term of office, the Honourable Garde Gardom, Lieutenant Governor (1995–2001), encouraged increased access to the Government House grounds. Under his direction the Government House Foundation initiated a Wheelchair Pathway Project to make the gardens of Government House more accessible to all visitors.
In addition to encouraging and supporting the work the Friends, the Honourable Iona Campagnolo, Lieutenant Governor (2001–2007), was a volunteer with Terrace Garden team and maintained an area on the southeast side of the Terrace Gardens. Ms. Campagnolo was instrumental in a number of significant projects during her tenure including: opening the Terrace Gardens to the public in 2004; overseeing the placement of an explanatory lookout point southwest of Government House; facilitating the opening of a public access pathway through the Woodlands; and creating the Caledonia Cascade, a small, accessible waterfall and pond located on the east cliff of the Terraces both to provide a transitional area between the Terrace Gardens and the Woodlands and in honour of British Columbia’s 150th Anniversary.