Millstone River runs through a wonderful forest of mixed conifers and deciduous trees, and has two waterfalls. Photo by John Cox

Millstone River runs through a wonderful forest of mixed conifers and deciduous trees, and has two waterfalls. Photo by John Cox

Duchess of Dirt: A botanical hike of note

Leslie Cox

Special to The Record

There comes a time when a trip out of town is a healthy thing to do, even during COVID. Full disclosure, John and I are both double vaccinated. This was also only the fourth one-day trip we made outside the Comox Valley this year. Four trips out of 292 days to date.

No wonder John was going a bit squirrelly for some fresh photo-shoot material. So, I packed a picnic, a thermos of coffee, loaded Sadie into the van and off we set for Nanaimo… a city we have not visited for two whole years. (Is there such a term as “COVID recluse?” We may qualify.)

We headed straight for Bowen Park in the heart of Nanaimo, and more specifically, Millstone River, which meanders the entire length of the park. (Special note here – the river’s name is correctly “Millstone.” However, if you are looking for information on this park, you may find the river noted as “Millstream.” There is also one website that called it “Milestone River” but I put it down to a typo.)

The park itself is a total of 36 hectares in size with a wonderful forest of mixed conifers (some are old-growth) and deciduous trees, as well as an array of recreational amenities such as a swimming pool, tennis and volleyball courts, lawn bowling, horseshoe pit and more.

But John was focused on the fall colours in the forest and the two waterfalls to be found on the Millstone River. Sadie and I were mainly along for the hike and reluctantly, as additional photography subject matter. (In retaliation, I did take a few photos of the photographer himself when his back was turned.)

This time of year, the waterfalls are roaring after the recent rains and the day’s weather mix of sun and clouds radiated the autumn leaf colours to perfection. Thankfully, the fall winds had yet to completely denude the trees.

Not far from where we were hiking along the river is the Hailey Rhododendron Grove. This section of the park was established in 1975 when Mrs. Ellen Hailey donated 350 rhododendron varieties and cultivars from her own collection. It is stated there are rhodos in bloom in the grove from February through to July with the peak time being in May, of course. A spring wander through the grove is now on my bucket list.

As will be a return visit next spring to our very own Comox Valley Rhododendron Garden located at the main entrance to the Courtenay Airpark walkway. Filled with 130 rhododendrons, some hybridized by founding North Island Rhododendron Society member, Harry Wright, the spring floral display is always worth a detour visit between our town errands.

Watching the scenery speed past the van window on our return home from Bowen Park on Highway 19, I was struck by the fall colours that prevailed in the surrounding landscape beyond the boundaries of the road. Yes, I know. They are there to be seen every autumn. But how often do we actually ‘see’ them as we rush from appointment to grocery store to post office to dog food store? Very sad if we do not always appreciate the seasonal beauty around us. Thankfully, a day away with a fun picnic shared and a great Sadie-walk with photography opportunities opens our eyes to what we have in our own neighbourhood.

And in our own garden too! The sun came out and has highlighted the russets, oranges and yellows in the leaves on the Forthergilla gardenii shrub. How stunning it looks beside the fall reds on Cotinus ‘Grace’ nearby. There is much to be thankful for.

Interested in learning about stellar plants for your garden, improving your soil, pests and diseases? Email me at duchessofdirt@telus.net for details about these presentations.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca.

Comox Valleygardening

 

A photo taken from the kitchen window at the Cox home shows the array of fall colours, including the bright orange Fothergilla shrub. Photo by Leslie Cox

A photo taken from the kitchen window at the Cox home shows the array of fall colours, including the bright orange Fothergilla shrub. Photo by Leslie Cox