On September 15th of this year, Vancouver’s stunning Van Dusen Gardens held a gala party to preview its new 20 million dollar ‘Visitor’s Centre’ !! I was asked to ‘do’ the opening decor. Being an ex-florist , I couldn’t resist. I decided to pull out all the stops and do it as my personal vision…. bold (like the amazing building), botanical (giant gunnera leaves cut from the garden itself), and creative but wacky (like me). I called in two of my most-missed ex-employees, Tyler Merkel and Richard Sehmer to help the Southlands crew by donating their time to set it all up.
Brent and I made several trips to WALMART , eventually cleaning them out of beach balls at two locations. Staff (mostly Lawrence) spent days wrapping these in green moss back at the nursery. I envisioned a sort of ‘Blade Runner’ installation at the new building, with tumbling construction rubble and these very cool spheres and leaves. I was able to locate my favourite Heliconia flowers, which came from Costa Rica. These monstrous wonders are covered in orange/brown fur and hang downward in lobster-like clusters 18″ long. We included lit-up glass icicles from Seattle’s Barb Anderson for night drama. It all fell together quickly and looked great !
For the inside, some Van Dusen volunteers and I made carnation balls for the 17 cocktail tables. These are easy and fun to make, using a pre-soaked OASIS foam ball . Each ball takes about 40 carnations. When the night ended, we handed the balls out as Thank You’s’ to the volunteers.
I did all this because I love Van Dusen gardens. Yes, there are weeds. I wish they could afford more gardeners. I wish they weren’t run by the City. I wish they were not part of a union. Then the volunteers could weed, too. But the big picture is incredibly beautiful. It is impossible to believe that you are in the middle of the city when you look around the various areas, especially near the lake.
The original lay-out and ‘natural’ design only looks better and better as time goes on. I have seen countless public gardens, all over the U.S., Canada,Australia,New Zealand and much of Europe. To me, the most over-rated is Kew Gardens in England and the most under-rated is our own VanDusen right here in Vancouver. With this incredible new entrance building (designed by Peter Busby), VanDusen is now in full bloom!