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VanDusen Botanical Garden is in many ways one of the hidden treasures of bustling Vancouver. Fronting onto busy Oak Street (at 37th), the entrance to the 30-year-old garden barely gives a hint of the botanical riches that grow beyond the boundary hedge.

Traffic noises seem to fade away in the garden where plants and trees have matured and flourished over the decades. Home to 7,500 different kinds of plants, the 22-hectare (55-acre) site was purchased from Canadian Pacific Railway with shared funding from the City of Vancouver, the provincial government and the Vancouver Foundation, with a donation by W.J. VanDusen, after whom the garden was named. Since the garden was officially opened in 1975, the plants and trees have thrived: at this time of year a stroll along the shores of Heron Lake is a special experience, roses are nearing their peak bloom period and there are still a few blue poppies in the Meconopsis Dell. However, the infrastructure of the garden has not fared as well and is in need of renovation and expansion.

Five years ago the Vancouver Park Board and the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association undertook a visioning exercise. “We realized that demand on the Garden was quickly outstripping its resources and something needed to be done,” says garden director Jill Cherry. The visioning ultimately resulted in the development of a plan to expand the Garden’s audience, improve visitor experiences and add educational and other programming. The recently launched $20-million capital campaign Planting the Seed was developed to support these improvements and the campaign was given an early boost with a $1-million donation from the Vancouver Foundation.

Planned projects include the addition of 30,000 square feet of new facilities; a dramatic water garden at the entrance to raise the Garden’s profile along Oak Street; a greatly expanded Floral Hall with space flexibility for a variety of events; a lantern-roofed Great Hall to offer interactive exhibits and garden information; “Living Museum” gardens featuring sculpture, land art, landscape innovations, travelling exhibits, educational displays and new horticultural introductions; and a 7,000-square-foot free-standing glass and timber Garden Pavilion to house educational programs and provide a venue for weddings, horticultural shows and concerts.

“In an era where we wonder about the effects of global warming, where prairie is turning to desert and we are burning a hole in the ozone layer, the role of botanic gardens could not be more important,” says Cherry. “VanDusen Botanical Garden plays a vital role in preserving the planet’s biodiversity, educating the public about conservation and good plant practice while also introducing our young people to the beauty and wonder of nature.”

To find out more about the Planting the Seed campaign visit www.vandusengarden.org or call 604-257-8625.