Alders Plantation is actually named for a plantation-style home on the Mississippi riverbank north of New Orleans, but from the amount of planting on the property, one might well expect the name to be reflective of the gardens. Well known as a “must-stop” for gardening enthusiasts, Alders Plantation is described by many as the “mini-Butchart of Salt Spring”. The gardens have evolved over the 26-year life of the Plantation and now feature over 570 different species of trees and flowering shrubs with 2900+ plants that are all catalogued on maps and lists provided as reference material for our guests in the front room of the main house. Additionally, over 250 plants are identified with signage in the gardens.
Because of Salt Spring’s moderate climate, there is tremendous differentiation amongst the plants in colour, texture, size and variety. In addition to the native specimen conifers of western red cedar, Douglas and balsam fir, the Plantation has five varieties of pine, diadora cypress, four varieties of eucalyptus, brown yew, arbutus (known as Madrona in the USA), blue spruce, weeping Sequoia, plus California Redwood and Giant Sequoia. The California Redwood, planted in 1988 from seed that came from the Humboldt Grove near Fortuna, California, is now over 55 feet tall and has a diameter of 34 inches. There is now a second redwood that started in 2006 as an offspring – it came up from the shallow surface root and is now 8 feet tall. The two Giant Sequoias on the property were also planted by seed from the Sequoia groves in California. The oldest, planted in 2002, is now 26 feet in height. And there is one specimen of the only type of “deciduous conifer” known best for growing in its native Alaska – the western Larch.
In areas surrounding the upper ponds and babbling brook there are still remnants of a former orchard, with 11 specimen fruit trees that include three pear, three plum and five apple. The Plantation favorite is the Mutsu Apple, a late-bearing tree with apples growing to the size of small grapefruit and equally delicious as both an eating and cooking apple. Deciduous specimen trees include 20 Japanese Acers (maple); King Crimson maple, four varieties of saucer magnolia, weeping willow, birch and weeping birch, poplar and pink or silver-leafed dogwood.
Vines include Virginia creeper, 16 clematis including the evergreen armandii, honeysuckle, wisteria, wine-making grapes and kiwifruit.
Bulbs and tubers perhaps best define the annual show of flowers on the Plantation – from spring color arrays of tulips, snowdrops, blue bells, crocosia, allium, crocus and lilium to the fall flowering giant dahlias, of which the Plantation maintains 48 species. Grasses are another specialty with over 15 varieties growing throughout the beds and along the babbling brook that feeds the largest pond. The Plantation even features Gigantus Maximus – the largest non-bamboo grass — it grows to 12 feet and produces magnificent stalks.
Because Salt Spring is in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island, there is always something in bloom year-round. That said, this chart will help our guests pick their favourite time for a visit:
Jan-Feb: beds of snowdrops and autumn crocus, purple-beaded callicarpa profusion
Mar-Apr: 400+ Daffodils, early blooming tulips, saucer magnolia, lilies, marsh marigold
May-Jun: Wisteria, 1400+ tulips, iris, crocus, doronicum, allium, pear & apple trees
Jul-Aug: 50+ giant dahlias, summer annuals, lavatera, butterfly bush, water lilies
Sep-Oct: 50+ giant dahlias, late-blooming clematis, plus fall colors of willow, golden locust and maple
Nov-Dec: Autumn crocus, snowdrops, winter viburnum, witch hazel, callicarpa profusion