The bustling harbor just outside our hotel starts early in the morning much like our crew. Seaplanes were getting ready for tourists, sailboats were heading out, and ferries were preparing for crowds. We left for Hatley Castle Gardens on what is now the grounds of the Royal Roads University. The house was originally built by the man who owned all the coal mines on the island who decided he needed a castle. It was eventually sold to the Canadian navy who used it as a naval academy before it ultimately turned into a university.
Our guide Barrie, the head gardener, was a wealth of information about the house and grounds. There were incredibly well-maintained and interesting formal gardens, a Japanese garden, rose and walled gardens and woodland ferneries. The diversity was really quite nice and while some of the gardens are in need of renovation, the majority were quite beautiful and filled with fantastic plants.
After a quick lunch we were on our way to the Abkhazi Garden which is a wonderful oasis in a surburban neighborhood. The house and garden are built among and on solid stone outcrops where paths and plants blend seamlessly with the rock. The garden combines 100 year-old rhododendron with unusual plants from around the world including new cultivars and unusual species.
Our plan was to finish the day at Beacon Hill Park, a public park near our hotel. Based on a tip from a couple of Abkhazi volunteers, we instead headed to Government House – the residence of the Lieutenant Governor, the official representative of England when she (or he) is in town. The grounds are open to the public and were simply spectacular. The house is on top of a hill over Victoria and has lush borders, rock gardens, herb and rose gardens, and quite a few acres of endangered Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystem.