CANADA'S ABKHAZI GARDEN IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, A GARDEN OF LOVE
The Abkhazi Garden created by Peggy Pemberton-Carter and Prince Nicolas Abkhazi in Victoria, British Columbia, is to all those who know their story, a Garden of Love.
Born in poverty in the industrial slums of England, Peggy was one of those fairy tale individuals who did indeed marry a prince. Orphaned, then adopted at the age of four, she spent a charmed early life with her wealthy parents in Shanghai. In 1922, while studying music in Paris, Peggy met the love of her life, a Georgian prince who had fled Russia during the Bolshevik revolution. Married in Victoria, British Columbia 26 years later, the two set about creating a garden that was a source of delight to the end of their days. Peggy, with her fondness for quotations, was often heard to say “If you would be happy for a week, take a concubine; If you would be happy for a month, kill your pig; But if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.” Today the garden they planted together stands as a monument to their creativity and their love for each other.
Abkhazi Garden, a haven for wildlife
I visited Abkhazi garden (1964 Fairfield Road, Victoria, BC.) in the summer and was captivated by its story and its magic. With views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains this imaginatively designed one-acre haven of peace creates the impression of a much larger garden. In the manner of many famous English gardeners, Peggy's landscaping incorporates garden “rooms” that run into one another creating an endlessly fascinating, harmonious whole.
Rocks dating back millions of years form the garden's skeleton. Deep gouges, pitted surfaces and crevices provide rooting pockets for plants and even small trees. Massive remnants from a previous glacial age, the eternal rocks form ponds that complement a tumbling landscape.
On that still hot afternoon, mallards, their iridescent green feathers gleaming in the afternoon sun, floated languidly by. In this strictly organic environment Downy Woodpeckers, Chestnut-backed chickadees, Bushtits, Dark-eyed Juncos, House finches and American robins visit regularly. ‘Anna's Hummingbirds’ reside in tiny nests dotted about the garden. On the rocks beside one of the pools turtles sunbathe, comfortable in the knowledge of their safety.
|Himalayan Blue Poppy|
In a shaded woodland of leafy Garry Oaks, rhododendrons, some as old as 100 years, have developed flowing artistic forms. From January to June their massive shapes are dense with blossoms. Beneath them on the woodland floor are trilliums, bleeding hearts, clumps of rare Himalayan Blue poppies, erythronium, camas and a hardy variety of cyclamen. Nestled among ferns, the warmer summer months bring hostas, primula, and galtonia. In a quiet corner near the garden house the contorted branches of a stand of Weeping blue cedars trail, then tumble in a froth of blue green foliage over a rock face in a unique imitation of a waterfall.
A sinuous flow of lawn edged with a dense growth of heather starting just below the garden house, culminates at the other end of the garden. This lawn, it is said, reminded Peggy of the Yangtze River and she named her lawn ‘The Yangtze’.
Peggy Pemberton-Carter's favourite lunch...and more
In the garden restaurant overlooking this romantic site, visitors can enjoy Peggy’s favourite lunch; smoked wild salmon served on blinis with crème fraiche, capers and red onion with organic greens followed by Seamist, Dragonwell or Canton Orange tea. For those with a sweet tooth the Dessert Plate beckons with its chocolate cake and chocolate peanut butter swirls served with seasonal fruit. Japanese Sour Cherry or Emperor’s Kamun tea completes what can only be called a decadent indulgence.
Today the ashes of Princess Abkhazi and her husband mingle in this their special place. “No tears” were Peggy’s instructions just before she died at 91. She was going to join her beloved Nicolas and that, she said, called for champagne and celebration.