David C. Lam Asian Garden


The David C. Lam Asian Garden site is a coastal native second-growth forest under-planted with Asian trees, shrubs, woody vines and evergreen and herbaceous perennials. Many of the Asian plants are of known origin, the seeds of the plants having been collected in the wild, and several are rare species of considerable conservation value. The garden hosts significant biodiversity with the thousands of different kinds of plants that provide habitat and food for many animals, especially birds. There are several large perches suitable for large raptors and at least one bald eagle nesting site in the garden.

The garden derives a significant microclimate from the forest cover, but also because the ocean—the Salish Sea—is 100 metres below the garden. The main path, Asian Way, circumnavigates the garden, and from it, paths named for famous plant explorers of the past, wind through the planted areas. Most of the pathways are covered with wood chips, which limits accessibility to some degree, but there is also a network of paved pathways suitable for guests with accessibility and mobility challenges.

Seasonal Highlights

Beginning in late winter and early spring, rhododendrons, witch hazels, camellias, magnolias and primulas start blooming in the Asian Garden. During milder winters, the floral show begins as early as January or February. As temperatures warm, increasing numbers of species come into flower. The peak in flowering for woody species, such as rhododendrons and magnolias, is in March, April and May, while roses, dogwoods and a number of other woody plants and the majority of herbaceous species, such as RodgersiaEpimedium, iris and Meconopsis (blue poppies), have their peak bloom in May and June.

Summertime also has an abundance of flowers in full bloom, including hydrangeas, lilies and kirengeshomas. A number of the larger rhododendrons also bloom in summer with large, highly fragrant blooms. Autumn is the time for colourful berries and leaves. Topping the list for berries are the cotoneasters, hawthorns and especially the numerous and amazingly diverse mountain ashes, but there is also more unusual fare, with Decaisnea (dead-man’s fingers), callicarpa and the drooping, dry seed cones of hornbeam also signalling winter’s return.

Significant Collections

The Asian Garden is dedicated to the cultivation of temperate Asian wild plants. The collections are derived primarily from the Himalayas, Japan, Korea and especially China and they range from herbaceous perennials and ground covers to shrubs, climbers and trees. The garden is unified by a background of native plants and extensive plantings of Rhododendron species. Maples (Acer), mountain ash (Sorbus) and magnolias (Magnolia) are extensively planted, and there is a large collection of species of Hydrangea and members of the storax family (Styracaceae). Climbing plants such as ClematisActinidia (kiwifruit), Lonicera (honeysuckle), and Rosa are prominent features on many of the taller native conifers. A number of species of Rubus (bramble), Epimedium and Rodgersia are used as ground covers, and together with plantings of Primula, lily, and arum relatives, provide interest in every season of the year.

  • Rhododendron– at least 400 different kinds, including wild species and variants, as well as hybrids and cultivated selections
  • Acer (maple) – about 95 species and mostly wild variants
  • Magnolia– 75 different taxa; 15 species evergreen
  • Sorbus (mountain ash) – about 70 species and forms
  • Climbers – representing 17 different families, 25 genera and approximately 150 species and cultivated selections


The David C. Lam Asian Garden comprises an area of approximately 14 hectares, of which approximately 8 hectares is planted. Development of the garden began in the late 1960s. John Neill, professor of Landscape Architecture and formal assistant to the Director of the Botanical Garden directed development of the Asian Garden until Peter Wharton joined the Garden staff in 1975, with responsibility for continuing its development and management.

In 1992, the Asian Garden was formally named and dedicated to the Honourable David C. Lam, former Lieutenant Governor of the Province of BC, and supporter of the Garden.

Feature: Douglas fir

The oldest trees in the garden are two Douglas firs, both at least 400 and probably more than 500 years old, judging by their height, girth and the condition of their bark. All other trees in the Asian Garden were either planted in the last 50 years or arose naturally after the campus was clear-felled around 1916.

Older rotting stumps can be seen here and there in the garden. Many have large notches visible some meters above the ground, where logging springboards were once inserted. Loggers stood on springboards to make their saw cuts above the wide, buttressed base of the trunk.

A number of birds make nests in the garden. Pileated woodpeckers take advantage of rotting wood in dead trees, which they excavate to make nesting cavities. Garden staff generally remove the tops of such trees to reduce the risk of falling branches to visitors.