Savouring the Seasons
Contributor: Volunteer Sunday Guides
Download a printable PDF Version here: Winter 2022 Self-Guided Tour
Welcome to VanDusen Garden in winter. Please take a Garden map to follow this self-guided tour along VanDusen’s Winter Walk and Autumn Stroll. Look for directional arrows and numbered signs.
To begin, exit right from the plaza and stay right. You’ll pass the “Three Carrera Marbles” (David Marshall, sculptor) before the first numbered sign on the right.
1 – Dull Oregon grape (Mahonia repens) spreads by underground rhizomes and is an excellent drought- and deer-resistant groundcover, native to western North America. Fragrant yellow flowers in spring, blue fruits in summer and the bronze colour its grey-green leaves turn with winter’s chill make this shrub attractive year-round. Notice the pinnate, symmetrical form of its compound leaves which have 5 to 7 leaflets on each. Go ahead to the next numbered sign on the right.
As you walk be aware of the flow of seasons surrounding you. Remnants of fruits may still hang from some branches. The patterns of leaf scars and swelling buds mark seasons past and to come. Some evergreen leaves may be burnished with burgundy or orange in response to winter cold. Notice the sounds of winter-foraging birds, the scents of late winter blooms, the textures of tree barks and twigs,
and the glistening of frost or raindrops.
2 – Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), planted here in 1974, grows upright spikes of small (parvi-) flowers (-flora), large rounded seed capsules, and large deciduous palmately- compound leaves. Not a single-trunked tree like most buckeyes and horse chestnuts, this native of Alabama and Georgia grows into a 2 to 4-meter suckering shrub. All parts of the plant are toxic. Continue down the path. At the intersection bear right, then look across the path at the tree with variegated leaves.
3 – Silver hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’) was planted in 1979. Known in cultivation since 1662, this “ferocious” cultivar of the English holly so beloved at Christmas not only has spines at the leaf margins but on the leaf surface itself. Hollies have separate male and female plants. This one is male so there is no concern about fruits and seeds being eaten and spread by birds in our local forests. Head back to the intersection and just past the utility box look right.
4 – Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) is a species of raspberry native to China, Korea, and Japan. It was named in 1872 by Russian botanist CJ Maximowicz who used “phoenico-” for the purplish colour and “–lasius” for the wooly look of the profuse glandular hairs on stems, racemes and calyxes that give the flower and fruit clusters a bristly look. Its leaves are tri-foliate and white felted beneath. It was introduced around 1876 to Europe and North America as an ornamental and for its potential in raspberry breeding. Continue along the paved path to an unusual tree with many upright stems.
5 – Japanese angelica tree (Aralia elata) is a multi-stemmed small tree native to north China, Japan and Korea and introduced around 1830 to Europe and eastern USA. It spreads by underground runners and bird-scattered seeds. It has spiny stems, large bi- and tri-pinnately compound leaves, creamy white flowers, and fruits that are small black drupes. In eastern Asia the young green shoots
are eaten in spring and called tara-no-me (タラの芽) in Japan and dureup (두릅) in Korea. Continue ahead, noticing assorted perennials lining the path, and stop at a group of hellebores.
6 – Hybrid hellebore (Helleborus x hybridus) of the Winter Jewels Series was developed by Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne at Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon. Their meticulous breeding program has created showy seed-grown single and double blooms in colours from apricot and pink to burgundy and black and in patterns from solids to speckled, veined or picotee. These attractive perennials are short-stemmed with palmate, often toothed, foliage. The two cultivars here are ‘Rose Quartz’ and ‘Cotton Candy’. Continue along to plantings of low growing grass-like ground covers.
7 – Lilyturf (Liriope muscari ‘Royal Purple’) is planted here just past another grass-like groundcover. Liriope is in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). It grows no more than 18 inches tall and is turf-like in looks but not well-adapted to foot traffic. It grows in clumps that spread slowly by short stolons. This cultivar is named for its upright spikes of deep purple blooms in late summer. Continue on to another popular edging plant with bolder, rounded leaves beside the junction.
8 – Elephant’s ears (Bergenia ‘Pink Dragonfly’) is a clump-forming all-season evergreen perennial whose leaves turn maroon or burgundy as temperatures drop. Its bright pink blooms of early spring may repeat in late summer. It is a member of the saxifrage family. Take the left fork at the junction.
9 – Pond cypress (Taxodium distichum var. imbricatum) is a smaller variety of the ancient genus of bald cypress trees. Native to SE USA, this deciduous conifer, planted in 1994, has lovely bark and coppery-red autumn colour. After its needles fall, its branches and twigs look nearly lifeless until their spurt of fresh spring growth. Proceed several metres ahead on the paved path and then look right.
10 – Red maple (Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’) is a female cultivar, introduced in 1961-62 by
Princeton Nursery. It features red petioles on its leaves, bright green foliage that holds long into fall, and crimson-red autumn colour. Planted in 1994, it now displays the furrowed and flaking bark of a mature red maple. The paired winged seeds of maples are called samaras,
nicknamed “helicopter seeds” for their twirling motion in the wind. This is the turnaround point for our tour. Please cross to the other side of the path for the next numbered sign.
11 – Pin oak (Quercus palustris) is native to eastern North America. It is a valued street tree for its narrow, single-trunked form and resilience to urban stresses. Lower branches arch down, mid- level are horizontal and higher branches angle up. The deciduous leaves are pointed, a trait of red oaks, and 3-6 inches long and have 5 to 7 lobes with a bristle on each. Now turn to retrace the route back to the Visitor Centre. Look across the lawn at 3 tall pines.
12 – Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is an evergreen conifer, a 5-needled white pine. These pines were significant in the history of eastern Canada and northeast USA. They were known as mast trees in colonial times of British shipbuilding. Continue a few steps further to stand beneath the next tree.
13 – White ash (Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Purple’) is a male selection of a magnificent eastern North American hardwood in the olive family. Ashes of Canada and USA are key species of both wild and urban forests. Several ashes are listed by IUCN as critically endangered due to invasive emerald ash borers, which have killed millions of trees in eastern North America and were confirmed in Oregon in 2022. To help slow the spread of EAB and give scientists time to develop mitigation strategies, individuals should take care NEVER to transport untreated firewood or waste wood. Continue back to the intersection and curve right.
14 – Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), also known as pepperidge or tupelo, is native from SE USA up to southern Ontario, and outstanding for the intense reds and purples of its fall foliage. Proceed on the paved path, go right at the fork, and look right for arrows to a small path.
15 – Butternut (Juglans cinerea) near the right of the path is an endangered species native to eastern USA and Canada. It has alternate pinnate leaves with 11 to 17 leaflets, attractive ridged bark, and nuts that have been valued since precolonial times for their oiliness and mild, buttery flavour. Return to the paved path and go right to our last stop beside the intersection near the Visitor Centre.
16 – Oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Giant’) has large oak shaped leaves that turn from green to burgundy and large double flower panicles that turn crimson as summer wanes. Some flowers and leaves may persist on the plant during winter dormancy, making it a plant for all seasons.
Thank you for visiting VanDusen Botanical Garden today.
Dust of Snow by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.