Other cities are presently considering
outdoor flower and garden shows; Victoria, the City of Gardens, al-ready had
International Flower and Garden Show (or Festival) has an interesting past.
It began in 1984 when Mrs. Betty Campbell ran a small show in the Conference
Centre near The Fairmont Empress. It was later taken over by Mrs. Patricia
Abella who operated it at Juan de Fuca Arena in the nearby ‘bedroom suburb’
of Colwood, for eight years. In 1997 the show was purchased by Victoria
residents Lea and Ann Snyder. In 1999, Lea organized the first of his much
larger shows on the grounds of Royal Roads University (Hatley Park), also in
At top: an overall shot of the City of Victoria exhibit along with two of the ‘mystery shrub’, Sollya heterophylla; and four shots of Eryl Morton’s Gardens through the Ages, beginning with the Persian Garden, then the Monastery Garden, Eryl herself watering her Japanese Garden and the Apple and the Serpent. In the middle: the Gold Medal winning container designed by Aileen Headen, and the Silver Medal runner up, followed by John Derrick Jr.’s Gold Medal winning hanging basket, and his Elk Lake Garden Centre front entrance presentation. Author photos.
Below, two shots of Brentwood Bay Nurseries’ “Arid Arab” and one of the most intriguing plant labelling systems I’ve ever seen at a garden show--the concept of Peninsula Gravel Mart in their ‘Is that “GRASS” you’re growing’. Author photos.
The 2001, 2002 and 2003 shows were also held at these grounds and the shows
were wonderfully successful, in-creasing in size each year.
In late 2002 Lea and Ann Snyder decided that the show could grow and develop
even faster if it was operated by a non-profit society. Such a society was
formed (the Vancouver Island Flower & Garden Festival Society) with board
members representing a number of aspects of the horticultural/gardening
scene on Vancouver Island.
Following the 2003 show, a consensus formed among VIF&GFS Board members
that the show, though successful at Royal Roads University, could be much more
so if it was actually located within the City of Victoria. Sites were
examined by Lea and I, and Topaz Park stood out as the absolute best venue
due to its central location, avail-ability of public transit, lack of steep
hills, some parking and relative close proximity to other satellite
locations. This didn’t even take into account an enthusiastic parks
department (landlord) headed by Michael Leskiw, whose co-operation and good
will was most necessary.
Time did not allow for planning and production of a large show in 2004 so a
mini-show was held. Meanwhile the VIF&GFS, along with show co-ordinator
Lea Snyder, assisted by Jennifer Almeida and Lisa Koorbitoff, worked hard at
the planning of a new and even larger show in 2005. The dates were July 28 -
August 1, inaugurated by a special Opening Night Party on July 27, with
Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo in attendance.
The Vancouver Island Flower and Garden Show is a unique flower festival held
outdoors in a municipality that is known as the Garden City of North
America. While other flower shows are held indoors in or around March, and a
very few are held outdoors in June, the Victoria Festival is held
mid-summer--in late July at the time gardens are at their peak.
The festival is a multi-venue show with the main site, now Topaz Park,
virtually in the centre of Victoria, but other venues (such as Mayfair Mall
and Abkhazi Garden) are included to provide a much wider garden viewing and
learning experience for visitors.
At the Wednesday Opening Night Party I was pleased to join with Lea Snyder
in touring special guests, Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo and Mayor
Alan Lowe around the various gardens and commercial exhibits. Both were
interested in what we showed them as we did a walk-around prior to Her
Honour making an address to the party guests. The Lieutenant-Governor is an
avid gardener and she quite obviously enjoyed the walk, and her little chats
with both garden designers/installers, and commercial exhibitors.
The winning and gold-medal winner was a unique garden by Eryl and Lynn
Morton of Eryl Morton Garden Designs, Victoria. Eryl’s display, entitled “Gardens
Through The Ages”, was actually a series of gardens designed to illustrate
the theme of our Show, History of Gardens. In a circular
presentation, three gardens melded from one into an-other. I started at the
Persian Garden complete with a pool, fountains, large palms and banana
trees. Walking around the display clockwise one next encountered the
Monastery Garden, dominated by a huge Celtic cross and a Bronze nun. And
since the display was covering Gardens Through The Ages, part of the
Monastery Garden included a representation of the original Apple (complete
with an apple tree loaded with gorgeous red fruit) and doll-like Serpent!
The final of the three gardens was the Japanese Garden with Pagoda, bubble
fountain, lantern and typical bamboo fence. The three together was one of
the finest theme presentations I’ve ever seen in any garden show--indoor or
out. As the gold medal winner, Eryl and Lynn were presented with the David
Lam (former B.C. Lieutenant Governor) Rose Bowl.
When I asked Lynn Morton where they got the beautiful props for the garden
(Celtic cross etc.), he told me he and Eryl were at a Pacific Opera Victoria
presentation of the Donizetti opera, Lucie de Lammermoor and admired the
stage props which were arranged in a circular fashion so they could be used
on a revolving stage. They purchased the set and stored the props for some
Interestingly, while at the show, exhibitor Galey Farms, who operate a
Victoria area destination farm with corn maze and special Halloween display
etc., purchased the props to use in their Halloween display each year! Talk
The City of Victoria interpreted the theme History of Gardens in another
way with their display “The Victorian Garden” and it was the hands-down
silver-medal-winning garden. While Her Honour was touring it she asked about
a particular shrub that none of us in the party could identify for her. It
turned out to be a perennial/shrub/ twining/climber that is actually
evergreen. One of our Board members, Bryce Fradley, identified it for me. It
is called bluebell creeper (Sollya heterophylla)--a native of Western
Australia that seems to be hardy possibly only in California, so likely not
even here on Vancouver Island. It was named after British plant physiologist
Richard Horsman Solly in 1830. Though not hardy, we learned that the City of
Victoria is using it more or less as an annual in the crown prince of their
parks system--Beacon Hill Park. Other parks departments may well follow
Of course, there were not just display gardens at our Show, in addition
there were the smaller pocket gardens, containers, hanging baskets, flower
arrangements (both commercial and amateur), window box gardens and of course
As has been the case for the past few years, the container entries were
unique and unusual. The gold-medal winning chair was absolutely stunning!
John Derrick Jr. of Elk Lake Garden Centre (who also won the gold in the
competition for the best individual hanging basket) did a major presentation
at the Show’s entrance number one. It was an almost unending and continuous
line of huge 16” moss baskets each a little different. It made for a
dramatic entrance to say the least.
On the educational side, there was a speakers’ series in a nearby school’s
auditorium and a demonstration series right on the grounds in a large tent.
Speakers included David Tarrant, Brian Minter, Des Kennedy, Bill Granger and
In my eyes, there were three other particularly noteworthy gardens. Right
near the front of the show Robin Dening owner of Brentwood Bay Nurseries
Ltd. and his staff, along with Lea Snyder, collaborated to produce “Arid
Arab”. In their words: “Out of the desert rises a rare find, a lost Oasis
where nature has managed to harness a remembrance of what was once lush and
abundant land. A breath of Life in the ongoing arid struggle for survival
carrying nomads on their ongoing trek to their destinations.”
There were many palm trees (Trachycarpus fortunei), fine specimens of
at least four different lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), water lilies and
hyacinth and numerous reeds and grasses as well as an old camel resting his
weary limbs in a makeshift shelter, a mummy in the sand, and an old Arab
trader watched from his modern tent.
The second was called the Odzala Garden, and was inspired by a National
Geographic Special about the Odzala National Park in The Congo rainforest
basin. “These clearings in the rainforest are made by elephants pulling
down trees, uprooting shrubs and essentially planting desirable edibles
through seeds in their excrement. They also create the ponds by digging in
the mud to get at minerals and to have a place to bathe. The wondrous thing
about these clearings is the wildlife they attract, from gorillas to deer
and wild pigs. All of these animals benefit from the generations of labour
performed by the elephants. This is a distinct ecosystem--a garden. Seasons
ebb and flow and with them the floods that renew the land--land where the
massive tread of the elephants give a light touch to the glory of nature.”
The garden was designed and created by Perry Mickle of the Pacific
Horticulture College at Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, on the
outskirts of Victoria.
Finally Valerie Marcotte created the garden “Hortus Conclusus: In the Land
of the Troubadours”. It was a depiction of an informal medieval garden,
complete with wattle fences, harp and the sound of water. A small enclosed
gar-den, of which Valerie said, “a delightful place to spend time if you
lived in Europe in medieval times. It was often built as a smaller walled
area within the larger orchard, it was a kind of inner retreat from the
Valerie won the People’s Choice Award and gets to have the special People’s
Choice Show Garden Trophy for a year.
Congratulations to all who participated!
Subsequent to this year’s show I noted differences among members of the
Board of the Society, and resigned as both chairman and member in late 2005.
A new chairman has been appointed, and the Board has apparently made the
decision to hold the show only every other year, thus the next show is
proposed for 2007. Having worked closely with such shows as that of the
Garden Club of Toronto, Philadelphia Horticultural Society and the Chicago
Horticultural Society, I feel strongly that in order to be successful,
these shows must run annually, or potential attendees, both local and
tourists, forget about you.
Regardless, I wish the folks in Victoria, particularly Lea and Anne Snyder,
only the best for the future.