The garden that love built

The beauty of a well-designed garden is usually enough to draw visitors, but when there’s a romantic story attached, people come in droves. The Abkhazi Garden in Victoria, British Columbia is one such place.

Nicholas Abkhazi was an exiled Georgian prince who met wealthy orphan Peggie Pemberton-Carter in Paris in the 1920s. They maintained a correspondence for the next 20 years and connected again after World War II, both having been incarcerated in internment camps. They married in 1946 and settled in Victoria on a one-acre property on Fairfield Street. They began creating a garden, which became a labour of love (they called it their “child”) that lasted for 40 years. After their deaths, the garden changed hands until 2000, when the The Land Conservancy bought the property to save it from becoming a townhouse development. The garden is now open to the public and is visited by thousands of people annually.

When I stopped by, the rhododendrons and azaleas were in full bloom. Besides the riotous colour of the flowers, the scent was heavenly. I wandered along paths that meandered through the garden along ovals of grass, through stands of trees and bushes, around a pond festooned with turtles, and up a small hill to the tea room (the former home of the Abkhazis), where I had a wonderful view of the property. It was hard to believe I was in the middle of a residential development and not out in the middle of nature.

It was only one acre, but I was amazed at how many plants and feature areas were incorporated into the space, giving it a much larger feel. The beauty and sereneness of the garden made me easily understand why the Abkhazis, after living such tragic lives before they married, devoted so much time to this little bit of heaven around their home.