Mayne Island

Credit: Christina Symons

Pack your tools and adjust your watch, we’re heading to Mayne Island, B.C. It’s the perfect place to slow down and explore an eclectic set of Gulf Island gardens.

Drop your bags at the Tinkerer’s Bed and Breakfast and Garden. This idyllic retreat is steps from Miner’s Bay, a short drive from the Mayne Island ferry terminal at Village Bay. Your hosts Jurgen and Judith, “The Tinkerers,” have a wealth of knowledge to share about organic gardening, medicinal plants and herbal remedies. Wander the lovely, rustic grounds, or borrow a book from their expansive library and retire to a hammock in the shade. They also offer tool sharpening while you wait.

Farmers Market

Plan your trip for a weekend during July to Thanksgiving and join the locals at the charming Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. You’ll be impressed by the mix of cut flowers, crafts, baked goods, organic produce, meats and other local products.

Pick up a free map ( and take a tour around the island; it’s easy to navigate and the scenery ranges from rugged rocky shores to pastoral fields and forests. Gardening is a passion here and locals love to share their latest triumphs, especially growing exotic crops. Popping up along the way are many cob-built structures that punctuate the landscape with their earthy allure. Extra-special garden stops include Christina’s Garden, Oceanwood Country Inn, The Japanese Garden and Valhalla Gardens Nursery.

Christina's Garden, Mayne Island
Christina’s Garden

To get there: BC Ferries to Mayne Island leave regularly from Tsawwassen (on the Mainland) and Swartz Bay (on Vancouver Island) ferry terminals:

The Tinkerer’s Jurgen Engelhardt shares these tips to keep your garden tools in excellent shape:
After a round of pruning, take the time to clean and dry your tools, then apply a thin coating of rust inhibitor, such as WD-40.

It’s important to choose the right tool for the job: small hand pruners are no match for those big snarly blackberry brambles, and if used will result in them being “sprung,” rendering them useless.

Finally, pay attention to the quality of the cut. When branches don’t cut away evenly or look frayed or ragged, it’s time to find a professional sharpener. Or better yet, take a course to learn how to maintain your tools and have the pleasure of sharp tools every day

Olive toil

Mayne Islanders are olive growers

Many gardeners on B.C.’s coast are trying to grow culinary olives (Olea europaea, zone 8-10), and gardeners on Mayne Island are trumpeting success. If you wish to try, select a site that’s warm, high and dry. Choose small specimens (olives are a relatively new introduction to B.C. nursery stock so you’ll likely only find young plants) and they will be easier to establish.

Sandy, well-drained, fertile soil is best. Fruit will appear in late summer and needs an extended warm period to ripen. Olives grow well against a sunny wall, protected from wind, rain and frost.