Tuesday 24 April 2012

Coastal Hidden Gems: Ronning's Garden

The BC Coastal regions are rich with historical stories, thanks to the many unique characters and groups that have settled through-out the area over the past several hundred years (or further back in the case of our First Nations). Many of these areas are no longer inhabited, but if you know where to look the stories remain.

In 1910 a Norwegian man by the name of Bernt Ronning settled in the forests on the northwestern end of Vancouver Island. At this time there were almost 1,000 people living in the area, all trying to make a go of homesteading and surviving in this remote region. Most of them were of Scandinavian descent. The government of the time had promised a road from Cape Scott through to Port Hardy, but that never happened and so many of the settlers left after a few years. But not Ronning, who over the next 50 years made a living as a trapper and fisherman, and established an incredible exotic garden in the midst of the northern island wilderness.

According to an article written in the 1950s which is posted at the garden, Ronning used to order plants from nurseries all over the world and then hike them in to his place, sometimes taking a couple of days to get there. The 5 acres of gardens almost disappeared, until some locals decided to save what remained and reclaim the gardens from the surrounding forest. No buildings remain, but many of the plants are now giants, appearing oddly at home in the midst of the rainforest.
A giant Monkey Puzzle tree.

 To find Ronning's Garden, you take the gravel road to Cape Scott. The turn off is about 1.5 hours from Port Hardy, and is well marked by a wooden sign. From the marked parking area it is about a 15 minute walk to the gardens, where there is an information board posted to tell you about the plants and the work being done to rescue the gardens. 

Another BC hidden gem.

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