With well-preserved examples of early 20th-century Italian and Japanese gardens in a beautiful, Edwardian estate setting, it’s no surprise that the gardens at Royal Roads University were named one of Canada’s top 150 garden experiences.
But that doesn’t make it any less of an honour for university staff.
“There’s lots and lots of gardens in Canada and there’s lots of very beautiful ones,” said head gardener Barrie Agar. “It is an honour and due to the hard work of everybody working there. They’ve put in a lot of effort and they really care about the property.”
The university received the honour from the Canadian Garden Council, which is recognizing Canada’s best gardens in advance of the country’s sesquicentennial.
Five other Greater Victoria gardens made the list, including Butchart Gardens and the gardens at St. Anne’s Academy and Government House.
Royal Roads tourism and hospitality management professor Brian White says it’s the international composition of the garden, which encompasses traditions from Great Britain in concert with the Japanese and Italian gardens, that makes it especially unique.
“It’s an unusual combination. It’s something that we don’t have elsewhere in British Columbia,” White said. He later added, “I think we can give credit to our gardeners here for having maintained a strong connectivity to the original spirit for an Edwardian garden.”
The castle and forested seaside trails tend to draw large numbers of visitors to the campus grounds, but White believes word is starting to spread about a garden that could still be considered a hidden gem for audiences beyond the West Shore.
“It’s fairly recently that Royal Roads has started paying attention to the gardens as a critical element in its relationship with the community and also in terms of the university’s interest in prioritizing the gardens,” he said. White also noted that the gardens benefit the school’s growing number of students by giving them a tranquil place to walk or meditate in between their studies.
Meanwhile, Agar is expecting a bit of an odd year around the garden thanks to some unseasonably cold February and March temperatures.
“The daffodils are slow to come out … we’re definitely behind,” she said. That delay could lead to some exciting and unique pairings of flowers and colours, she added. “If it ordinarily blooms mid-February and it doesn’t bloom until the end of March, I usually find by that time that things that were going to bloom mid-April will do that anyway … everything seems to come at once.”