Doris Page Winter Garden
To showcase the potential for winter gardening in this area.
This woodland garden has a range of light exposures from full sun to full shade. The original silty marine clay (Saanichton) soil has been modified in most of the beds over the years.
Organic matter has been added in most beds, and coarse sand has been added to the beds below the pergola and the new beds above the Heather Garden. Much of the relatively heavy water demand is due to the presence of large trees and mature shrubs.
Bulbs and herbaceous plants are placed in the woodland setting, and shrubs and small trees are situated in more open locations. Blooming time extends from December to May, but the displays of foliage, berries, seeds, and bark provide year-round interest.
This garden offers opportunities for both repose and learning. Several benches and a pergola invite the visitor to relax and enjoy the beauty of the garden and adjacent wetlands. The individual beds in the garden have been arranged so that home gardeners can see a selection of plants that are suitable for their own gardening needs.
Any home gardener can use separate elements in this garden to advantage, but overall care of a garden anywhere close to this size and with this variety of plants is a major task. The “small but dedicated group of gardeners” that the sign says maintains the garden does many hours of routine maintenance work each week, and many members have specialized knowledge in different areas of gardening.
For example, the shrubs that display colored bark or berries discussed in the previous section require special, individual pruning techniques. Since this garden was established in 1985, three different volunteers have assumed responsibility for development and maintenance. There are a number of other volunteers, and two of them have been working in this garden since the beginning.
The garden was established in 1985 by Rolly Inglis, with funds from the Victoria Horticultural Society. It is named in honor of Doris Page, who spent decades demonstrating the potential for winter gardening in this climate. Many of the original plants came from her garden in Cordova Bay on the Saanich Peninsula. The garden was upgraded and expanded in 1999 and 2000 with funds from the Doris Page Memorial Fund.
This garden is developed and maintained in accordance with a partnership agreement between the Doris Page Partnership Group and the HCP. The VHS provides ongoing financial support. The Capital Regional District Water Department funded the water meter.
This garden includes over 500 different plant species and cultivars. Only a few of the outstanding favorites can be mentioned in this abbreviated description.
Doris Page introduced hellebores to the Victoria area, and these plants have always played a key role in this garden. Within the genus >Helleborus, many cultivars have been derived from four species available to gardeners.
Several are present in this garden, and the massed beds of Helleborus x hybridus seen here are the result of their self-seeding properties. The good news is that these plants produce a lot of viable seed. The bad news is that flower color does not breed true, and it takes several years for the seedlings to flower. Thus, to develop massed beds of strong color, it is necessary to wait patiently for plants to mature, then remove or relocate undesirable plants.
Winter bulbs comprise another important group of plants in this garden. Any winter gardener should start with the trustworthy snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii and G. nivalis) for vigorous green foliage and hanging bell white flowers in January and February. As the snowdrops fade, winter iris (Iris reticulata) will provide a subtle range of blue, purple, and violet blossoms. Bulbs from both of these species can be divided and used to develop massed beds of early flowers.
Of the many flowering shrubs, one whose perfume wafts across the garden is Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis), with the early yellow blossoms appearing before the first leaves. Another witch-hazel (Hamamelis intermedia ‘Jelena’) supplies fall foliage color in addition to early yellow-orange blossom.
Shrubs with colored bark and shrubs with berries are key elements in providing year-round interest in the Winter Garden. Our native red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) displays red twigs when young and can be used as a vigorous background for other plants. Striking red twigs are also characteristic of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ and Cornus sanguinea ‘Mid-Winter Fire.’ For yellow bark, use a yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’) or, for an autumn gold tone, the willow Salix ‘Flame.’
One of the most outstanding berried shrubs is beauty berry (Callicarpa bodinieri giraldii). This deciduous plant displays pinkish purple fall blossoms and clusters of small violet fruit that sometimes last through the winter. For a shrub that is outstanding year-round, try the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) with yellow blossoms in February, edible red berries through the summer, and striking autumn foliage.
Plants of interest in January include:
- Helleborus niger, H. orientalis, H. x hybridus, H. argutifolius and H. foetidus
- Viburnums tinus, x bodnantense, farreri, x burkwoodii (fragrant)
- Skimmia japonica
- Pieris japonica
- Sarcococca (fragrant)
- Hamamelis mollis (fragrant)
- Daphne odora “Rubra” (fragrant)
- Gaultheria mucronata (pink or white berries)
- Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
- Cornus stolonifera
- And masses of snowdrops, winter aconites and primulas