Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Garden for Life: Mary Greig & the Royston Rhododendrons by Judith Walker

Published this May 2015, was A Garden for Life: Mary Greig & the Royston Rhododendrons by Judith Walker.

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In the summer of 1919, newlyweds Ted and Mary Greig motored from Portland to a small cottage by the ocean in Royston, on Vancouver Island. This became Mary’s home for the next 70 years of her life.

They began a garden, using local sandstone to build rock walls and seaweed and peat to build up the soil. The twins were born in 1920 and two more children by 1925. It was a lean time for the young family.

The Greigs love of the mountains, native plants and gardens led them to meet some extraordinary people, including George and Suzanne Simpson of Cowichan Lake. When the Simpsons suggested that the Greigs purchase all the stock of the Simpson’s alpine and rare plant nursery, the Greigs were astonished- “to think they thought we could manage to keep things alive”.

But manage they did. And when alpines proved a challenge on the wet west coast, Mary quickly focused on the rhododendrons which thrived in the cool summers and the moist winters. The species rhododendrons caught Mary’s attention with their infinite variety of leaves, colours and forms. She proceeded to propagate only the best.

And a tiny nursery on BC’s coast caught the attention of the rhododendron world.

So although Mary is the focus of this story, there are many characters. One cannot appreciate Mary’s work without knowing of Kingdon-Ward’s expeditions, and one cannot fully appreciate a rhododendron flowering in August without following Ted and Mary through their nursery.

The old gate is still there- please, come in.