The Kitty Coleman Woodland Garden is an exquisite pocket of beauty and tranquility tucked away just 15 minutes north of Courtenay. Anyone who appreciates any aspect of the natural world and peace and quiet would be well-advised to take the time to visit the stunning 24-acre garden – one man’s labour of love that attracts visitors from around the world.
The gardens have evolved under the caring hand and expertise of owner Bryan Zimmerman over the course of almost two decades. What started out as a chunk of untamed bush has flourished as he developed a meandering network of woodland trails, ponds, fountains, grassy meadows and unique accoutrements fashioned from natural elements like driftwood. There are rustic structures scattered over the property, artful installations of driftwood that is appreciated for its simple beauty and form, resting spots and bridges fashioned of – you guessed it – driftwood. A massive inukshuk fashioned of 1,700 horseshoes greets visitors near the entrance. Several ponds, waterways and Kitty Coleman Creek provide the water elements that add a serene aspect as visitors wander the pathways. There are a number of fountains, many of which also feature driftwood as their centerpiece.
Unlike more ‘civilized’ and highly-cultivated garden attractions, Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens pays homage to the natural and the wild. If you visit at the right time of year you will be treated to bursts of colour in the form of 3,500 rhododendrons. The beautiful pink, yellow, white and red blooms brighten the darker spots of the woodland, providing a visual feast for visitors. Lupines and irises also make an annual showing, bordering pathways and waterways. And, of course, all the native plants that the owner has had the good sense to leave well enough alone offer up their own charms and interest.
One of my favourite aspects of Kitty Coleman is the fact that it isn’t all dark woodland. Sun-splashed meadows, lawns and glades offer brightness and warmth as we wander the many pathways. There is a huge abundance of wildlife, highly variable depending on where you choose to stroll.
Because of the extensive network of pathways, it is easy to spend an entire day exploring the gardens and all they have to offer. Visitors often bring along a picnic lunch so as to be able to extend their stay and their discovery of this most lovely of environments. While the mulched pathways in the upper gardens are easily navigable and level, the trails leading down to Kitty Coleman Creek provide a bit more of a challenge for adventurers. It is a good idea to wear sturdy walking shoes, and take along a jacket – even in warm weather the woodland paths can be cool.
Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens is open year-round. It hosts a number of special events throughout the year, including artists and artisan festivals and annual family-oriented Christmas gatherings. Further information can be obtained at the gardens website:
Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens is located at 6183 Whittaker Road, Courtenay
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.7881094 Long. -125.0018414
N 49 47.287 W 125 00.110