Garden History

History of the Government House Gardens

The Government House gardens were originally designed in 1911 by G.K. Maclean, a landscape architect from Vancouver. Following the 1957 fire Robert Savery, a British-born and educated landscape architect, updated the design of the gardens in the style of traditional English gardens. The gardens flourished throughout the 1960s and 1970s when up to 17 gardeners worked on the property, including a superintendent who lived onsite. The grounds were always well-maintained and many of the plants were grown in an onsite greenhouse. In the 1980s came a government austerity program and the number of staff gardeners fell to one. Even with regular maintenance by contractors, the gardens deteriorated.

In 1991, Lieutenant Governor David Lam (1988–1995) initiated the Garden Volunteer Program to enhance the existing gardens, create new gardens, and improve the maintenance of the Government House grounds for public use and enjoyment. Dr. Lam’s plans included the involvement of volunteers, the Friends of the Government House Gardens Society, who would maintain the gardens, raise funds and ensure the continuation of interest and support of the grounds. Subsequent Lieutenant Governors have all supported the work of the Friends and have each left enduring legacies of their time in office.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Lieutenant Governor Dr. David Lam at a dedication ceremony for the Government House gardens in 1994.

The Honourable Garde Gardom (1995-2001) encouraged increased access to the grounds with the Wheelchair Pathway Project. Mr. Gardom directed the Government House Foundation to raise funds to make the grounds more accessible by building new pathways, upgrading existing paths and building wheelchair accessible washrooms.

The Honourable Iona Campagnolo (2001-2007) was instrumental in a number of significant projects including opening the Terrace Gardens to the public; overseeing the placement of an explanatory lookout point southwest of Government House; opening a public access path through the Woodlands; and creating the Caledonia Cascade, a small waterfall and pond located on the east cliff of the Terraces.

The Honourable Steven Point (2007-2012) created a number of legacy projects on the Government House grounds. The Bandshell, located on the east lawn, is used for summer concerts and is adorned with a carving titled The Salmon People. The carving, by Steven Point and Chief Tony Hunt, depicts the story of the Salmon People’s journey up the Fraser River.

A summer concert at the Bandshell.

In 2012, under the direction of the Lieutenant Governor, the Government House Foundation commissioned Victoria-based sculptor Armando Barbon to create a bronze statue of Sir James Douglas, the “father of British Columbia”, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Bronze statue of Sir James Douglas

On the lawn adjacent to the Douglas Statue stands Hosaqami, a 24-foot totem pole carved by Chief Tony Hunt. Also funded by the Government House Foundation, Hosaqami is a replica of a pole carved by Chief Mungo Martin.

Hosaqami, a pole carved by Chief Tony Hunt and a replica of the original Hosaqami carved by Chief Mungo Martin, was raised in front of Government House, with the Honourable Ida Chong, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, and the Honourable Steven Point, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, in attendance.

Under the Honourable Judith Guichon (2012-2018), the gardens and woodlands of Government House were designated a NatureCanada Naturehood site: NatureHood is an initiative that inspires urban residents to connect with nature right where they live and to develop a long lasting relationship with nature.

The Honourable Judith Guichon unveiling the plaque denoting the Government House grounds a NatureCanada Naturehood site.

The Estate of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia is a designated national historic site. The variety of different landscapes, picturesque gardens , agricultural lands with an old mews, and valuable ecosystem of Garry oaks are all noted as special features, in particular, “the rich mosaic of picturesque, pastoral and natural landscapes [that lend] a distinctive quality to an estate that is a notable part of the history of British Columbia.”