Back in the summer of ’93, when I was a 17-year old idealist telling everyone I met to hug a tree, over 825 people were arrested for protesting the logging of Clayoquot Sound’s old growth forests. I caught wind of a trail-building project and immediately parked my tent in the bush so I could help build the Clayoquot Witness Trail, which allowed the public to access the forests we were trying to save and to experience Vancouver Island’s old growth rainforest first hand. It was an exciting, inspiring experience that proved to be life-changing.
I guess that’s partially why I feel such an affinity to this magical part of the world. Also, it’s just mind-blowingly gorgeous. But it’s also constantly under threat – from industry and tourism mainly. So I heartily commend the folks behind the Tofino Botanical Gardens. Essentially a series of gardens, such as the Children’s Garden, Kitchen Garden, Skunk Cabbage Walk, etc. set within a second-growth rainforest, the Gardens are dedicated “to the cultivation and display of plants native to the world’s coastal temperate rainforests, and to research and education programs to improve knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems of the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve.”
It’s an unusual garden, full of quirky folk art, old VW vans (the garden is loosely themed around the four main groups of Tofino settlers: the original Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, early (European) pioneer homesteaders, Japanese fishing families, and – hence the VW – hippies), boardwalk trails through the evergreens, and spectacular views, like this one, below, of the mudflats.
There is certainly a predominence of native plants, like the bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) above, however, plants that are not native to Vancouver Island yet are native to coastal temperate rainforests, like this gunnera, are also prevalent.
As an aside, the secret to keeping your husband happy during a garden visit is two fold. First, make sure there is a restaurant onsite that serves tasty food, like Sobo.
It’s also a good idea to make sure there is some interesting wildlife that he can pester. This will keep him busy for at least 10 minutes.