At first glance, you might be thinking that the purpose of this photograph is to highlight the minotaur sculpture. If so, you’d be wrong–he’s actually incidental to the image (and yes, he’s definitely a male) In fact, there are at least three botanical (garden) stories to tell with this image. To start off, though, it might be handy to see the Garden from above (via Google Maps) along with this perspective showing where the photograph was taken.
The first story dispels the myth that the Vancouver area of British Columbia is always lush and green. As you can tell from the brown grass, the region is subject to summer drought; these conditions occur every normal year. Although the scientific living collections are watered during times of drought, the lawns are left to brown as per our water use policy. Plans for future areas of the garden are being made with water conservation in mind, i.e., plant collections that are generally adapted to drought regimes.
Secondly, the band of cattails in the middle of the photograph is an area I call “the slough”, although it is more properly known as the cattail pond. Even though this area of the garden is being redeveloped, the cattail pond will be retained in a manner very similar to its present state. The cattail pond performs some ecosystem services, including filtration of run-off water from the university prior to deposit into Georgia Strait and curtailing the flow of run-off water (releasing it in a slow, steady stream instead of rapid, more eroding pulses).
The third story is that of the hill behind the pond. This is the site of the planned Carolinian Forest, an area that is partly a horticultural experiment. Conventional wisdom has suggested that plants from eastern North America do not perform well in the Pacific Northwest. Taking into consideration the number of close relationships between eastern North American and Asian plants, and UBC’s success with Asian plants, the horticulturists and curators at UBC think that conventional wisdom ought to be challenged. Although it can’t be seen in this photograph, one of the beds is already being prepared for a “demonstration forest” that will be used to illustrate the beauty of eastern North America and the potential of this new garden component to prospective donors.
Photography resource link: Bruce Percy’s Blog, thoughtful posts by photographer Bruce Percy.