Planning a trip to Vancouver, BC any time soon? Vancouver a great city to visit, for food, culture, art, and music – and for the fantastic botanical gardens.

For a gardener or plant-lover, a trip to the area would not be complete without stops to VanDusen Botanical Garden and the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research.

The gardening climate in Vancouver, British Columbia – about 6.5 hours north of here – is similar to Portland’s, so there’s little horticultural "translation" to do (as in, "will this grow in Portland?") Chances are, what grows in Vancouver, BC, will grow in Portland, too. The main difference is that Portland can be hit with winter ice storms and can be hotter and dryer than Vancouver in summer.

So what’s to see at these gardens?

The UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research

Collections: The UBC Garden is affiliated with the university of British Columbia and is primarily focused on plant research and education. The 78-acre garden has a formidable collection of Asian plants in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. In recent years, paths have been developed displaying some of the plant explorers who brought Asian plants into Western horticulture. The other big draw of the Garden is the Alpine garden, displaying the flora of the world’s high-altitude regions, geographically organized. There’s also a significant edible garden – one of the best and largest public edible gardens I’ve seen, with fruit tree espaliers in addition to small fruit and vegetables – and a traditional medicinal plants ("Physik") garden. More details here.

Also associated with the UBC Garden is the Nitobe Memorial Garden is a traditional Japanese tea and strolling garden. It’s just a short drive from the entrance to the UBC Botanical Garden and is well worth visiting in its own right.

Time Required for a Visit: It takes an avid plantsperson about 4+ hours to comb through every trail and closely examine all the plantings, both new and old. For someone who just enjoys strolling through the easily-accessed areas, a comfortable pass through the main areas would take about 1.5 hours. Download garden maps here.

The Nitobe Garden can be seen in 40 minutes if you’re hurrying; but that sort of defeats the purpose. Give yourself a little more time, so you can sit on a bench for a while and soak in the way the designers used native plants to create a delicate filigree of ground covers, the soothing mosses and the delicate play of light through the canopy of maple leaves.

Hours and Directions here: (Garden and Shop at UBC Botanical Garden are open daily, 9:30 am to 5 pm.)

Cost: $8 (more details here).

VanDusen Botanical Garden

Collections: This garden has seen a huge overhaul in the past year with the building of the new visitors’ center. (Go here and click on "Capital Project".) There is now a restaurant and a cafe where you can take a break from an exhaustive prowl around the 55-acre garden.

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Some of the garden’s best features include a fragrance garden, heirloom vegetable gardens, lots of perennial beds, the rose gardens (a little less tortured and formal than Portland’s, but not by much), a very beautiful Laburnum tree arch, a lovely sculpture garden on a vast green lawn, and many more wild, winding paths leading through incredible tree and shrub collections, a heather garden and Southern Hemisphere collections.

Time Required for a Visit: An avid plantsperson would need closer to 5 hours to walk all the trails and really get to know the gardens… The restaurant and cafe can be visited to break up the trip into more manageable sections. A stroll through the main sights of the garden – say, the sculpture garden (passing by some perennial beds, rose gardens and the entry gardens on the way) could take as little as an hour. Many flowery gardens are close to the visitors’ center.

*Hours here (open hours depends on the time of year).

Directions here.

Cost: regular adult admission ranges from $7.75 to $10.75, depending on time of year. For more info, go here.