Each time we pass by a beautiful botanical garden while on vacation, I sigh.
When we had a family at home, we were always too busy to stop and if we did have time, I normally had 4 plus kids in tow and the idea of dragging them around a large flower garden didn’t seem like the best move.
However now that time is my own, I had the pleasure of visiting Vancouver’s massive VanDusen Gardens. I planned for the entire afternoon, packed up my rucksack with a hat, a water bottle, a snack and my giddiest attitude.
When my tour of the garden was complete, I thought about what elements had made it such a pleasurable experience, so here are my 7 Tips for enjoying a Botanical Garden.
1. Take your time.
I cannot stress this enough. To really soak in the experience, and appreciate the craftsmanship of the horticulturists, gardeners, groundskeeper’s and the many others who create the gardens, you’ll need enough time to focus in on each section of the park, read the information signs on your favourite shrubs, flowers and trees and revel in the wonder of nature. Also,wear quality shoes. You will likely regret wearing flip flops!
2. Learn about a new species.
We all have our favourites. I was drawn to the many hydrangea bushes of this garden like a moth to a flame, however I stopped to learn about many kinds of grasses and ornamental trees as well, and though a sequoia tree is not new to me, ( I have long admired the majestic Redwoods) there was a grove of sequoia’s that drew me forth. Their spires touched the sky and I felt very small standing in the shadow of their measure. I learned that the largest redwood still in existence is called General Sherman and he stands 274 ft tall with a girth of 79 feet. Adoring the sequoias so much, I bent down and collected a few cones from the shedding trees. What if I was able to grow my own sequoia? How long would it take to take root and subsequently grow into the monstrous hardwood before me? How many generations would it take? We’ll have to see as I plan to try this in the Autumn.
3. Go off the beaten path
Many large gardens have smaller , more remote trails that spiral along and away from the well-travelled pathways. Following one of these can sometimes lead to an unexpected surprise, like a waterfall or in this case, a grove where totem poles greeted those who chose to follow.
4. Practice photography.
A garden provides plenty of opportunity to practice your photography settings, and use a variety of lenses ( macro, prime, zoom). In the shot below, I was practicing using my settings at different shutter speeds in order to capture the water from the fountain. I tried very high shutter speeds, as well as slow ones, making the obvious manual adjustments to my aperture and ISO, however with today’s top-end phones, this can also be accomplished. In this shot, I decided that I wanted the water to blur somewhat and I chose a slow shutter speed. Had my neutral density filter been packed, I would have used that as well but that was not the case and I still ended up with a photo that I liked.
5. Challenge yourself.
You have the time right? Remember tip 1!! So, challenge yourself to remember 3 new species and their origins, or if you’re very brave, throw away the map and rely on your instincts and navigational skills to get you back to your starting point. Whatever challenge you set for yourself, it adds to your enjoyment of the day. My challenge here was to limit the number of “wrong turns” in a hedge maze. ( I have completed several mazes in past, and our family LOVES to do these, so being alone in my garden experience, I set up my own challenge.)
6. Admire the Artistry
Most large botanical gardens offer some sculpture or architecture throughout the experience. In this shot, I came across this large statue and admired the skills involved in creating this beast using wire materials and sheer talent.
7. Last of all, best of all, Stop and be Silent.
However you plan to do this, gardens offer us all the opportunity to sit and reflect, to admire and to wonder, and who doesn’t need a little of that?
If you have any tips to add, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!