Dominion Brook Park / Chrysanthemums

Presentation:   Dominion Brook Park

Workshop:   Chrysanthemums

Sheila Mitchell of the Victoria Chrysanthemum Society presents her video A Year in the Chrysanthemum Garden, covering the annual growing cycle this classic perennial.

Dominion Brook Park

Joan Gibbs from Friends of Dominion Brook Park Society presented pictures and information of Dominion Brook Park, an 11 acre heritage park located at 8801 East Saanich Road (opposite Panorama Recreation centre next to the Centre for Plant Health).

The park was founded in 1912 by the Ministry of Agriculture as part of the Dominion Experimental Farm. W.T. Macoun, Dominion Horticulturalist and design architect of the garden, was instrumental in sourcing plants from Britain, Holland, Germany, France, Japan and the U.S.A. The varied collection of specimens was suitable to an experimental farm. Federal support for the park ceased in the early 1980’s and it became overgrown and hidden under mounds of ivy and blackberry for the next 20 years.

In 2000, in cooperation with the Federal Government and the District of North Saanich, a group of citizens formed a non-profit society and began the gargantuan task of park restoration. It took two seasons to eradicate the ivy. In one location, as it was painstakingly pulled away, a stone bridge was revealed beneath. The Park has a sunken garden with a waterfall originally established in 1940, and a ravine bordered by Rhododendron in the process of being rejuvenated. The next project the Friends of Dominion Brook Park will undertake is restoration of the pond which will be costly in terms of volunteer hours and funding. A key feature of the Park is its many conifers which provide contrast in texture and colour. Many plants came from The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, and many of those originated in China.

Joan created an extensive inventory and database of plants in the park from hand written cards that documented name, source, date, location planted and growth results on each item planted over the century for the entire farm. Joan found some boxes of ‘old stuff’ part way through this project and discovered original invoices from 1913 and 1914 onward, planting instructions from William Macoun, as well as old photographs from the early years. An inventory from 1975 made the current inventory much easier because it documented which of the original plantings had not survived. It had been an experimental farm and not all of the experiments had been successful. Joan was fortunate to have a friend who worked at the Sidney Museum who found five large leather bound hand written journals containing a listing of each plant received from 1913 into the 1920’s, with notes on survival and growth. These valuable old documents enabled Joan and her team to confirm all but a few the plants in the Park.

Some of the special plantings you will find in the park are:

  • Eucryphia Nymansay ‘Nymansensis’ – blooms in August with wild rose like white flowers. 1958
  • Ligustrum sinense “Stauntoni (Chinese Box) Blooms in May with cream coloured gragrant flowers. Grown in 1964 from cuttings off an earlier plant.
  • Strigillosum, grown from seed collected in China by Ernest Wilson and sent by the Arnold Arboretum in 1913.
  • Berberis, triacanthorphora, grown from seed collected in China by William Purdom and sent by the Arnold Arboretum.
  • Fagus Suylvatica, European Beech, Grown from seed collected at Flanders Field and planted in 1922.

The Garden is available for functions such as picnics and weddings.

  • Easter egg hunts are held every year.
  • Garden tours are offered upon request.
  • While the use of the park is free, it is necessary to book events and group functions in the park through the District of North Saanich.

Volunteer recruitment: If you are interested in helping out, volunteers meet at the park every Wednesday from 9:00 to 11:00 and engage in a variety of activities including blackberry removal, edging, mulching and pruning. Contact:   Phone 250-656-0318 Email:, Website:

Chrysanthemum Workshop

Sheila Mitchell of the Victoria Chrysanthemum Society presented her video A year in the Chrysanthemum Garden that demonstrates how to cultivate Chrysanthemums.

Crysanthemums originated in China. They can no longer be imported to Canada from China, Japan or Britain because of a fungal disease called white rust. Caution is required when propagating and planting cuttings to avoid introducing diseases and molds.

Step 1 –Sept/Oct: Pull plants and cut down to one stem (called a stool) and trim root ball back. Line a container with newspaper and top with 2” soil. Tag the stem and sulphur the cut end to prevent rot or mold. Place containers stuffed with plants in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame but keep above freezing by using a small heater if necessary.

Step 2. Jan-Feb. After a period of dormancy place heating cables under boxes to spur green growth.

Step 3. Feb/Mar: When some green growth appears you are ready to take cuttings.

  • Supplies needed: Rooting stimulation powder, labels, sharp cutting implement, antifungal solution ‘Physan 20’ (available in the US.).
  • Cuttings go into a box lined with remay cloth under which heating cables are placed. Soil mixture is sand and vermiculite kept moist.
  • The Stool will have a number of shoots that formed over the winter. Choose the ones that come from the roots rather than from the stem.
  • Cut the shoot just below a leaf axis using a sharp razor.
  • Take off all leaves except at the tip.
  • Dip cuttings into anti-viral solution (wear rubber gloves).
  • Let dry on paper towel.
  • Dip into rooting hormone.
  • Label with date of the cutting and name of cultivar using a good permanent marker (or grease pencil) that will remain visible throughout the summer.
  • Make a hole and put cutting to bottom of pan and press planting mixture in around the stem. Can be close together but you don’t want air spaces around the cutting.
  • Spray with water to keep them moist.

Step 4 Apr/May: Plant cuttings in garden or planters.

  • Plant in beds together so that they can easily be covered later in the growth cycle. Carefully label plants. Insert stakes at the same time for later use.
  • Disbudding is the cutting off of laterals leaving only one bloom per lateral. This is only for people who are showing their blooms. Disbudding the laterals produces huge blooms for competition. Some Chrysanthemums are called Sprays and consist of multitudes of small blooms which are not pruned.
  • Plants need to be put under cover just as the buds swell to protect from rains because flowers are damaged by rain. The heads of Disbuds will break off if rained on and the petals will burn in the sun if they are wet .
  • Disbuds are groomed before shows using Qtips to make all petals move in the same direction and any discoloured or damaged leaves are removed.

Victoria Chrysanthemum Society originated in 1940 and has meetings Sept through May on the 3rd Thurs of month at St. Mathias Church Hall at 7:30.

On Sept 19th the Society will hold a Parlour Show at Monterey Recreation centre in Oak Bay and every April they hold a sale of 1000 rooted cuttings to the general public at St Mathias Hall. Cuttings are also available one Saturday in the Spring at the Moss street market. More information on these sales can be found on the Facebook page: Chrysanthemum Society.