Revelstoke’s heritage garden is a meditative in-town oasis

The "journey of discovery" began in 2001

Landscape architect Barb Johnstone-Davidson’s opening quotation in her speech at the official opening of the Revelstoke Museum’s Heritage Garden party on July 24 gathered together all the thoughts, hopes, dreams and aspirations for the project into a single verbal bouquet. “Cathy English and Liz Barker first contacted me in the fall of 2001 and our journey of discovery began,” Johnstone-Davidson went on to say. “A journey which included planning and design, fundraising and construction.” Initial credit for the project, Johnstone-Davidson noted, went to Barker. “Liz had planted the idea of a garden adjacent to the museum, similar to others she had seen at different locations, that would interpret Revelstoke’s ethnic and cultural heritage through historically accurate plants as well as historic artifacts, and artwork.” During the years from the project’s germination, through initial cultivation of concept plans and fundraising ideas, to the first plantings of flowerbeds and grafting of made-in-Revelstoke bricks salvaged from old demolished buildings, to this past summer’s first display blossoming for appreciative visitors, the basic premise for the Heritage Garden has always been to serve as a showcase for another aspect of Revelstoke’s history — its community gardens. “From the design point of view, the garden itself also represents a journey through what you may perceive as different garden rooms,” Johnstone-Davidson said, “with our departure point being the front garden gate.” The brick fence posts at the First Avenue gateway are built of bricks recycled from the old Canadian Pacific Railway station. Those at the rear entranceway consist of bricks salvaged from the old Queen Victoria Hospital building that was located downtown back in the 1960s. Details on the brick and wrought-iron fencing ties in with the exterior detail of the museum building itself and its past as Revelstoke’s federal building built early in the last century as both a post office and customs excise house. “The design intent of the front room of the garden was intended to reflect a Victoria residential perennial garden that could have been found in Revelstoke at the turn of the last century. In fact, many of the plants here in the garden can be traced to the gardens of some of our local pioneers.” The final design combination of raised planting beds and vertical elements like the fencing and the arbour aims at creating “layers of experience” for browsing visitors. “The cedar arbour is the focal point of the garden and is a visual connection that integrates the old post office building loading bay (now a wheelchair access route to the museum) with the garden. The arbour acts as a hallway that separates the front and the rear of the garden.” The arbour also serves as a reminder that the heritage garden is an organic project, one that will continue to grow over the years as new features are added in and existing ones “pruned” to match changing ideas and needs. Grape vines will some day change the “transparent” arbour to a shady walkway for visitors strolling towards the sections set off to display examples of Italian, Japanese and Chinese gardening representative of several ethnic groups that have contributed so much to the early and continuing development of Revelstoke. Sunflowers nod along the back fence, a common feature of many gardens around the community. More than anything else, perhaps, they represent the many local volunteers who day by day devoted time and effort to conceiving, building, and planting the heritage garden. They and their children will be its keepers and protectors in future. “It is our goal that this garden will further contribute to the sense of pride that our community already has, will provide a quiet retreat for solitude and reflection and will be a legacy that acts as a bridge to the past for future generations.”

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