Artisans displayed in woodland fantasy paradise

Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens provides a unique setting for an outdoor show such as this weekend's three-day, ninth annual Artisans' Festival.

THE FOUNTAINS OF Black Creek artist Douglas Walker will be only a small portion of the attractions at this weekend's Artisans' Festival at Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens.

Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens provides a unique setting for an outdoor show such as this weekend’s three-day, ninth annual Artisans’ Festival.

Located just off the Old Island Highway north of Courtenay, the 24-acre Gardens are a popular attraction and have won international acclaim.

This weekend’s festival runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6183 Whitaker Rd.

The festival is focused on presenting high-quality original works. Pottery, fine art, ceramics, carvings, furniture, weaving, jewelry, wrought iron and glass are just a few of the many works that are eligible for this juried show.

For example, Black Creek artist Douglas Walker is well known for creating unique water features and kinetic garden art sculptures using, among other things, discarded musical instruments, recycled copper, silver, brass and glass collectables.

His garden fountains and bird feeders are best described as whimsical, eclectic, humorous and certainly one-of-a-kind.

A master recycler, Walker blends and forms ordinary objects into finely-crafted garden sculptures.

WaterWorks Garden Sculptures can be found in collections thoughout Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe.

As a working artist, Walker is dedicated to producing work that will not only make a statement but demonstrate a timeless quality.

The setting for this weekend’s festival — as well as the Art in Bloom festival in the springtime — is Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens.

are an act of love, developed by one man in an effort to fulfill a dream to share with all.

Bryan Zimmerman’s Christmas Tree Farm and Santa’s Barn are well-known in the Comox Valley during the winter months.

Zimmerman always knew he lived in a beautiful spot, but it wasn’t until he began clearing out some of the thick brush on his 24 acres of forested land that he thought of a way to share it with others. Studying the interesting topography and unique layout gave him the idea for creating the woodland gardens.

Over the next two years, he began to build his wonderland dream, clearing the underbrush by hand to reveal a forest floor more beautiful than he had imagined.

Day by day, using his back and wheelbarrow, he laid over a mile of bark mulch paths meandering through the woods. Unwilling to disturb plant and tree root systems more than absolutely necessary or to use heavy equipment which would destroy the landscape, he dragged all brush and debris out manually.

The beauty of the gardens is that most of the forest’s natural finery has been left alone, embellished, but not overwhelmed by cultivation. The gardens are especially designed to showcase the most beautiful of all shrubs — the rhododendron.

Zimmerman has planted more than 3,000 rhododendrons of different varieties and sizes, as well as companion plants and cultivated trees, all blending into the breathtakingly beautiful natural surroundings.

To take a walk through this woodland garden gives one a feeling of peace and well-being.

In the upper area, Zimmerman has used the land contours to his advantage in the placing of several ponds. The serenity draws one to follow the soft cedar bark paths and the enticing trails that disappear into the woodlands.

Granite rocks from the valley mountains line the pathways. The filtered sunlight sparkling through the trees in an endless array of patterns lift your spirits. You inhale the sensual earthiness.

The placement of a rustic hand-built bench here and there adds charm, as well as providing the visitor with an opportunity to sit, meditate and listen to the birds.

In the background, Kitty Coleman Creek babbles fluidly on its winding way down to the Georgia Strait. A Polynesian-style gazebo built from tree poles provides a sheltered place to sit and ponder, watch the great blue heron fly overhead, observe birds at the feeders suspended around the gazebo, or even listen to sea lions barking from the mouth of the creek a few hundred yards away.

Licorice, deer, lady and sword ferns all proliferate, blending the wild with the cultivated. Looking closely, visitors will observe smaller natural flora such as sweet boxwood, broadleaf starflower, fawn lily, oregon grape, vanilla leaf and bleeding hearts on the forest floor.

In the lower, or hidden garden, woodland paths descend to travel along Kitty Coleman Creek, where a pair of wood ducks happily meander. The view of the creek through filtered light and overhanging trees is one that inspired a group of artists to ask permission to paint there.

Here, larger rhodos have been placed informally along the natural slope, giving the wanderer a surprising burst of colour. The idea is that anyone visiting will never see the same scenes twice.

Kitty Coleman Gardens are an evolving vision. Future plans include a natural Japanese garden, and a rhodo test garden.

• • •

Admission to the Artisans’ Festival is $8. For more information about the festival, visit www.woodlandgardens.ca or call 250-338-6901. The fax number is 250-338-6917.

To drive to the Kitty coleman Woodland Gardens, head north from Courtenay on Highway 19A, turn right on Coleman Road. left on Left Road and right onto Whitaker.

Visitor amenities include resting benches, gazebo, picnic area and tea room. Good walking shoes and comfortable clothing are recommended.

— Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens

 

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