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The Public Rhododendron Gardens of Vancouver Island

by Ian E. Efford

Paperback; 144 pages; 8.66" x 11.02"

Chapter on Hybrids by Alan Campbell
Photography Editor: Susan Lightburn

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Vancouver Island is one of the few areas, outside of the Himalayas, where rhododendrons grow exceptionally well. They were first planted in Victoria at the end of the 1800s and today we have many beautiful rhododendron gardens throughout the island with an ever growing diversity of colour. From very early on, some gardeners began to hybridize and their efforts are reviewed and photographs provided of many of the best known hybrids.

For the average gardener or tourist, public gardens and parks are readily accessible places to see rhododendrons. This book describes nearly 30 public gardens and parks which have collections of rhododendrons. They differ widely; some are public parks, some are focused on the horticulture and have identification labels on each plants, and still others have the rhododendrons growing in almost wild forest conditions.

There are about 150 photographs of the gardens and of named rhododendrons. All except a handful have been taken by the garden owners or rhododendron enthusiasts.

The reader will gain an understanding of rhododendrons on the island, and an enthusiasm to visit some of the parks and gardens and glimpse the reason so many gardeners love this interesting genus.

Maps are included for each area showing the location of gardens and of other interesting features along the route.

Overall, the book is a source of information and a tour book for gardeners or for anyone who might like a guide when visiting the island.


The Author, Ian E. Efford was educated in zoology, ecology and oceanography. He spent 15 years as a professor of ecology at the University of British Columbia where he directed an international programme studying lake productivity. He then joined the Canadian federal government to direct its programmes in energy conservation and renewable energy. After leaving the government, he became a consultant on science policy and international development, particularly in Africa. He has a scientific interest in all plants, particularly in rhododendrons, and irises, and in propagation from seeds and cuttings. He is past-president of the Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society. 

The chapter on island hybrids was written by Alan Campbell. He and his wife, Sandy, have a beautiful garden in Shawnigan Lake where Alan grows a wide range of rhododendrons. He has a keen interest in the hybridizers of Vancouver Island and their hybrids. After some years of research and many interviews he has written summaries that make the information available for anyone interested. Alan is past-president of the Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden. 

Photography Editor: Susan Lightburn is an amateur photographer who lives with her husband, Art, a keen rhododendron grower. Their garden, in Nanoose, on the island’s eastern shore, has been under development for 28 years. Susan has a passion for photographing rhododendrons and several of her rhododendron pictures have been published in the ARS Journal. She is a Director of the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society and is on the Social Committee.

The Public Rhododendrons Gardens of Vancouver Island

Book Review

Whether you fancy a stroll through the garden of a princess or perhaps a whole day to explore Canada's most famous garden … or a few pleasant hours to savour the delights of an Italian garden surrounding a castle … or you just want information on interesting garden spots on Vancouver Island, this is the book for you.

Part travelogue, part garden book, this manual is full of fascinating historical information about Vancouver Island, its gardens, history and place in the world of rhododendrons. From the capital city of Victoria – known internationally as a city of gardens – and the pastoral beauty of the Saanich Peninsula, this book will take you over the Malahat and up island to the Cowichan Valley, the mid-island picturesque small coastal towns of Ladysmith and Qualicum Beach, then across to the wild west coast and Tofino, and finally to the northern reaches of the island and Courtenay, Campbell River and beyond. You will be transported through pictures and maps of this lovely island whether in your armchair or car.

Among other things, you will learn about the native rhododendrons on Vancouver Island, the legacy of horticultural pioneers who hybridized in such quaint and sometimes isolated places as Cowichan Lake, Royston, Gabriola Island, Courtenay and Ucluelet.

You will be amazed by the beauty of Finnerty Gardens, Abkhazi Garden, Towner Crest and Point Ellice House. And you will be delighted that all the information you need to visit these places is contained within this book – directions, contact information, websites and addresses.

Author Ian Efford – ecologist, conservationist and now full time rhododendron and iris enthusiast - offers a glimpse into choice gardens of Vancouver Island that feature rhododendrons. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, here is a guide to a side of our island not on the usual tourist route.

Both beautiful and practical, this book provides an overview of each garden, key features to explore, and clear directions on how to get to the garden. It is at once a pictorial and practical guide for anyone who loves beautiful gardens.

Linda Derkach, President
Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society
Qualicum Beach, BC


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