I have been a guest of the Harrison/Agassiz region for the last 24 hours and although I have numerous entries yet to come about our stops on the Circle Farm Tour, our first destination was Minter Gardens. I thought this would be perfect opportunity to expand my Day Tripping series.
Located just off Highway 1 [Google Map], I’ve driven by the Minter Gardens turn off for almost 30 years and have never stopped to visit, which is a really a shame. Just 90 minutes from downtown (which is the actual time it took me) Minter Gardens is more than just a show garden. Its unique location, landscape, and collection of horticultural wonders make it a fantastic place for a stroll, for a colourful photowalk, or for an avid gardener who wants to pick up some ideas.
When we arrived we were greeted by Erin Minter, the daughter of founder Brian Minter, in the Trillium Restaurant who gave us a tour of the gardens. Erin took us along the “self guided tour” path, for which visitors will get a map when they first arrive. The map points out different spots of interest along the way, as well as a few other trails for exploring. Erin encourages everyone, when doing the self-guided tour, to stop at the points of interest and do a 360 degree turn, “you’ll get a different view each time.”
The 32-acre show garden has 100,000 tulips, a 1,000 rhododendrons, unique species, and thousands of other beautifully groomed and cultivated trees and plants. There is also a kids play area and Minter Gardens is dog-friendly (although they ask that you keep your pup on a short leash).
There are several water features throughout the gardens which Erin explained not only help the plants, naturally, but they also serve to create lovely, natural sounds (drowning out the vehicles over on the highway), while also creating movement and a quiet place for visitors to site, rest, or reflect.
Erin said they already have 83 weddings booked for the season at both of their wedding sites in the gardens.
However, you will notice there are no fish in the ponds, creeks or the Lake Garden, “ask the herons and raccoons,” Erin said. Many of their sites and gardens need to be planned according to what type of creatures it might attract, aside from bloom-loving humans. Being nestled near Mt Cheam means bears might also pay them a visit in the gardens.
At many spots on the tour she also noted plants and collections that were donated to the gardens such as the fern garden. “You never do something this massive without the help of the community.” This is something that I felt resonated throughout the day, and carried through to every other place in the Agassiz/Harrison area that we visited. The sense of community out here is uplifting and inspiring.
There is indeed a strong sense of community in the area and it was great to hear about the family business at Minter Gardens. Erin said her 86 year old grandma still helps out in the Country Garden Store — the retail location for plants, bulbs, blooms and pots that the family also runs. Erin said that many often get ideas for their own gardens when at Minter, and can then go to the Garden Centre to pick up the necessities try things at home.
Right now is a good time to visit Minter Gardens since the blossoms are emerging, however due to the harsh winter, the plants are about 3-5 weeks behind their natural schedule. Things are also beautiful in the fall, when everything turns bright red, gold, orange, and rust-coloured in the tree tops. The Gardens officially close from October to March, however they run special events and activities during the Christmas season.
Minter Gardens opened on Mother’s Day in 1980 and this year for Mother’s Day they’re hosting a special brunch in the restaurant. They often host special events however simply stopping by the gardens any day seems like a good idea to me.
Admission is $16 for adults, and they have rates for seniors, youth, and kids 5 and under are free. They also have a family rate and I would recommend getting the “seasons pass” as it’s only $5 more – then you can come back anytime and see the seasonal changes in the plants. They also have a special printable coupon online, which you can download from here.
There are other show gardens around but none compare to the unique location and setting of Minter Gardens – combined with its features, collections, amenities, as well as family and community pride.