President Philip Steenkamp has announced that the Hatley Park Gardens at Royal Roads University will be permanently open to the public free of charge. The gardens have attracted tens of thousands of paid visitors year-round, and frequently appear on lists of top places to visit in Victoria, BC and Canada.
“The vast majority of the 565 acres of oceanfront, walking trails and old-growth forest that comprise Hatley Park National Historic Site have always been free for our neighbours and tourists to enjoy. Now the gates to the garden are open as well,” says Steenkamp.
“It’s a magnificent setting for people who learn, teach and work here. I’m delighted that more of our community will now get to enjoy the artistry of the gardeners and groundskeepers who care for our botanical and historical treasures.”
The 10-acre heritage gardens are nestled between century-old Hatley Castle and the biologically diverse Esquimalt Lagoon looking out to the Olympic Mountains.
“We have about 1,500 recorded plants,” says Royal Roads Head Gardener Barrie Agar, who has been with the university for 20 years. “From the venerable Douglas fir in the forest estimated to be 1000 years old to the 198 David Austins, Old Garden roses, musk roses, climbers and ramblers in the Rose Garden. Right now the 200 feet of herbaceous borders, traditional loggia and twisted Wisteria in the Italian Garden are quite spectacular. As is the cool, contemplative Japanese Garden with its blossom- and gazebo-mirrored lake.”
Guided tours of the gardens and castle continue to be available for a charge.