Japanese maples in fall colours at VanDusen Botanical Garden

Part 2 – An October Visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden

This is the second of two posts on my October visit to VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, B.C. For part one, which focuses on blooms, click here.

Even in fall, there is lots to keep a visitor interested at this garden The visitor centre is a good place to start; just before you enter there is a wonderful compressed concrete wall, with (and I really love this idea) a display showing you what’s blooming right now in the garden:

Close up:

Then the visitor centre, which houses a gift shop, cafe, washrooms, and, I presume, offices and ammenity space, is quite a cool building. It’s hard to do it justice, but this is a view from within the garden, looking back at the building:

Ok, on to the plants. I kept seeing this amazing shrub in various parts of the garden, and every time I thought it was a rose loaded with bright red rose hips. But it’s actually a Chinese Hawthorne (Crataegus pinnatifida), and every one was just loaded with fruit! This photo is just a close-up of one branch, but imagine a very large shrub covered completely with clusters like this. I expect these trees would be very popular with local birds too.

As expected the fall foliage throughout the garden was spectacular, especially in the Japanese Maples. I loved one walkway that made you feel like you were “in” the maples, looking out at the rest of the garden:

A little further on we were admiring the waterfall and noticed the beautiful red maple leaves scattered along one side. It was a postcard perfect Canadian scene!

Then (and hopefully this doesn’t spoil the experience for anyone) I said “Hey, wait a minute, there aren’t any maple trees, especially not red maples, in this part of the garden…”

Yes, it appears that garden gnomes collected red maple leaves from elsewhere and placed them on the waterfall to delight visitors. There’s a reason this garden looks great day in and day out. Remember that trick when you’re thinking your fall garden could use a pop of colour, just don’t let your neighbour catch you borrowing their leaves!

Besides colour, another way to make an impact in the garden is through different shapes and sizes of foliage. This view caught my eye and I think part of what makes it is how the gigantic leaves stand out from the more finely cut foliage, and differently shaded foliage, surrounding it:

It wasn’t until we went to the other side of the pond and got close that I truly appreciated the size of these leaves:

The leaves span the full height of my husband! I just had to know what the name of this plant was, so I dove into its depths to find the plant tag…

Giant rhubarb! The texture of the leaves is rough and thick like an animal hide–very fitting as google tells me that one of the common names for this plant is “Dinosaur food.”The leaves do feel like what I would imagine a dinosaur’s skin would be like, but the structure of the plant is quite similar to the rhubarb you and I would grow in our gardens.

During my previous winter visit to VanDusen I had noticed giant leaves piled up on the edges of the pond–right where these plants are, come to think of it–obviously placed there by the gardeners to protect plants underneath. I know understand, thanks to Google, that they were the Giant Rhubarb’s own leaves, cut and placed over top of it to protect it over the winter. Smart!

When I finally tore myself away from the rhubarb I enjoyed looking at the unique characteristics of some of VanDusen’s evergreen collection. These cones dripping with sap were really interesting.

Then I had to look way, way up when we came to the stand of redwoods. These trees are quite young compared to some of the famous groves in California and Oregon–those are true giants–but these are still impressive:

One of the things I really loved about the redwood grove at VanDusen is that there is a path right through them, so you can see them up close…

…which is truly fascinating.

And there’s a whole other plant colony living on the bark of the trees–a wonderful shaggy moss!

I took way more pictures of this than any of my dear readers likely have patience for, so I think I’ll end my little tour here. The short version of these two posts about my trip is that VanDusen is an awesome botanical garden, regardless of the time of year. I’m so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to visit it twice, and hope to return again. At least once in spring or summer would be great…






  1. Lynne Okita on September 20, 2022 at 5:17 am

    Thank you for this post about the VanDusen garden in October. I’ve been wondering what state the gardens are in during autumn in the Vancouver area – are leaves still on deciduous trees and shrubs? Are there any flowers? Your post has helped answer these questions and have helped me decide that the gardens are certainly worth visiting. I also love to know that there are people who enjoy looking at features of gardens that delight me too.

    • Jennifer on January 22, 2023 at 2:16 pm

      I am happy to hear that you enjoy touring gardens at this time of year too. I had a delightful time at VanDusen and would return again at any time of year.

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