VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Live the Garden Life

Did you know that 2022 was the Year of the Garden in Canada?

Year of the Garden 2022 logo

Whether you are planning your first garden, an experienced Master Gardener, or somewhere in between,
VIU's Milner Gardens & Woodland invites you to

'Live the Garden Life'

To  support our mid-Island community getting out in the garden throughout the year, we have created a guide to local resources to get you started.  Whether you visit our beautiful gardens for inspiration, join a garden club to meet other gardeners and share knowledge, are planning your first garden and want to gain knowledge, or take courses to learn more about gardening, celebrate everything gardens do for us at a local garden event, or check out our trusted web resources, ... see the listings in each category below for more information.

The VIU community acknowledges and thanks the Qualicum, Snuneymuxw, Quw’utsun and Tla’amin, on whose traditional lands we teach, learn, research, live, share knowledge, and garden! 

Visit a Garden

Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park logo

Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park 

Filberg Heritage Park is a beautiful 9-acre waterfront estate located in the heart of Comox. The Park is open from dawn to dusk daily, and admission is free. Filberg Park has a remarkable selection of rare species trees planted on the property by the Filberg family. The rhododendron gardens contain specimens from the renowned Royston rhodo breeders Ted and Mary Greig. Amongst the lovely Arts and Crafts lodge and outbuildings are perennial and shrub borders, an oriental-inspired shade garden, a cutting garden, a demonstration herb garden, a pollinator garden, an insectarium and a rocket style bat house. A resident deer population also calls Filberg Park home. 

Filberg Park is a proud participant in Canada’s Garden Route and will be hosting special Year of the Garden events throughout July and August.

Learn more about Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park 

Innisfree Farm logo

Innisfree Farm and Botanic Garden

Innisfree is an internationally registered Botanical Garden and a herbal farm located on Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley. The farm has an extensive collection of medicinal plants, a dispensary and shop, plus gardens featuring culinary herbs, vegetables and berries. Visitors can also enjoy some meditative time in the island’s largest labyrinth made with seashells from the Salish sea or partake in some Shinrin Yoku. Innisfree offers a number of special events and activities throughout the season and in honour of the 2022 Year of the Garden, Innisfree will be hosting a Summer Solstice and Plant Sale Celebration on National Garden Day, June 18. Please follow our Facebook page at @InnisfreeFarmBC for more details. The Green Dream Café, Garden Shop and the Botanical Garden at Innisfree are open from July 1 to September 16. Hours are Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, and on Sundays from Noon to 4pm – no admission for regular exploration visits.

Learn more about Innisfree Farm and Botanic Garden or call 250 336 8768.

VIU Milner Gardens & Woodland logo

Milner Gardens & Woodland - Vancouver Island University

Welcome to 'An Ancient Forest and Garden Oasis by the Sea' in Qualicum Beach!

Visit during our seasonal openings:

See 'Celebrate Gardens at Local Events' section for Milner Gardens special events.

Watch the Shaw Spotlight video:  'A Walk Through the Rhodos - The Greig Rhododendron Species Garden'

The Gardens on Anderton logo

The Gardens on Anderton

It comes as a surprise to many living in Comox Valley – even some who have lived here for years – to learn that our community resources include a wonderful therapeutic garden which is available to people of all ages. Located on Anderton Road, directly behind Anderton Nursery, the Anderton Therapeutic Garden (ATGS) experience is a result of Bill and Joy Georgesons’ dream back in 1996 when they aspired to create a garden where people’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing could be enhanced in a tranquil and aesthetic setting. The garden opened in 1998, after securing use of the 2-acre land parcel. Today, it sits as a testament to the thousands of hours of volunteer time expended over a quarter of a century.

Visit from Mother's Day to September, 7 days a week, 10am - 4pm.

Learn more about The Gardens on Anderton

Watch the Shaw Spotlight video: 'Gardening is Therapy for the Soul'

Learn More About Gardening

VIU's Milner Gardens & Woodland in partnership with the Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association (VIMGA) offers the Gardening Advice Line free service to our community.  

Email your gardening questions along with photos to:
and the Master Gardener volunteers will answer by email the following Tuesday.

The VIMGA volunteers have written articles on frequent questions to the Gardening Advice Line.  See the online library of Frequently Asked Gardening Questions.

Plant Picks are detailed articles featuring the plants at Milner Gardens & Woodland written by the VIMGA volunteers.  See the online listing of Milner Gardens Plant Picks

Make lighter work of your gardening work with articles by VIMGA volunteers.  See the online library of Monthly Garden Tips and the Garden Tasks archive.

Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) project:

MABRRI Coastal Forest Plant Phenology Research Monitoring Project     MABRRI Coastal Forest Plant Phenology Research Monitoring Project

In partnership with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and Milner Gardens & Woodland, MABRRI is working to assess and monitor climate change effects on local plant phenology – the timing of seasonally reoccurring events such as bud break, leaf size, flower development, and ripe fruit. By monitoring the growing seasons of different coastal plants, and by comparing these growing seasons to microclimate data, we can work to identify any potential changing trends in the growing seasons of Vancouver Island’s ecosystems.

Since 2017, we have been monitoring phenological changes in native plant species at Milner Gardens & Woodland, Thetis Lake Regional Park, and on Mount Arrowsmith. In 2020, we established two more sites at Bowser Ecological Reserve and Koksilah River Provincial Park. Microclimate stations and a series of trail cameras have been installed at all sites to link phenological records to local climate. MABRRI, student researchers, and citizen scientists also collect in-person data weekly during the summer and biweekly during the spring and fall at Milner Gardens & Woodland. Data collection will continue for a number of years in order to see how growing seasons may be shifting with changing climate patterns.

We depend on our volunteers to help with in-person data collection throughout the growing season. If you are interested in joining us in the field to observe and record phenological changes in our species, please contact Jessica Pyett, MABRRI’s Research & Community Engagement Coordinator at

Learn more about Coastal Forest Plant Phenology Research and Monitoring

NALT Pollinator Paradise Project signage

Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT) is excited to announce the launch of their Pollinator Paradise Project!

The goal of this project is to encourage property owners to create pollinator habitat. While it might be difficult for us to create habitat on our properties for other threatened native species like Western Bluebirds, Vesper Sparrows or Western Painted Turtles, often it only takes a few simple changes to your garden or yard to create pollinator habitat. And, sadly, there is great need for this as many native bee and butterfly species are known to be in decline. Aside from other threats such as pesticide use, disease transfer from non-native honey bees and climate change, the primary threat for our native pollinators is habitat loss. 

NALT’s pollinator toolkit outlines the steps we can take to turn our gardens, yards, and patios into pollinator habitat. Once you have made these small changes to your property – or if you already have prime pollinator habitat on your property – please visit the interactive mapping application and add your pollinator paradise to NALT's map! Adding your property to the map may make your property a NALT certified Pollinator Paradise. Certified properties can receive a garden sign that will let your neighbours know that you are helping with habitat, which is a great way to expand the conversation on pollinator decline and habitat enhancement. For more information about certification email or call 250.714.1990.

Adding your property to the map will also allow NALT to track pollinator habitat connectivity, which can be vital for pollinator species, as many only have a range of 500 metres or less. It is hoped that over time we can see the areas of our region that have great habitat connectivity, and the areas that might need more work. In future, this data may guide in developing projects where public lands or commercial or institutional properties can be turned into pollinator paradises, or where NALT can focus on specific communities to remove participation barriers and encourage pollinator habitat enhancement.

Visit the Nanaimo Area Pollinator Paradise Project, where you can: 

  • View the toolkit and learn how to create habitat on your property (even if it’s just a patio!);
  • Apply for certification and get on the map;
  • Learn which plants are best as forage (I.e. food) and as host plants, and where to get them;
  • Find out how to participate in a pollinator census; and 
  • Learn more about different pollinators in our region and how to identify them.

NALT is hosting pollinator paradise events such as garden and habitat workshops, a family-friendly pollinator event, and public talks on native bees and butterflies this coming Spring. Make sure to follow NALT on social media for updates on these events!

Article courtesy Biosphere Times | Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region

The Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association (VIMGA) is the home for Master Gardeners living on Vancouver Island from north of the Malahat to the top of Vancouver Island. 

VIMGA exists to provide education to the public on environmentally responsible and effective gardening practices by developing and delivering public workshops, seminars and volunteer clinics, and by publishing information on these topics. 

Learn how to become a Master Gardener and VIMGA activities

VIU's Master Gardener Program, part-time non-credit certificate program is a collaboration between Vancouver Island University and VIMGA.  Learn more about the VIU Master Gardener Program.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) in partnership with the Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association (VIMGA) presents the Virtual Gardening Seminars:

See the VIRL VIMGA Seminars

Watch the Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association 

 See the 'Spring Education Day' Event Videos

from Sunday March 6 featuring:

The Value of a Tree:  Douglas Justice

"A personal, selective examination of the intrinsic, ecological and cultural importance of trees."

Small Fruits - The Under-Utilized Edible:  Bernie Dinter

"Perennial food plants growing on shrubs and vines can be a major component of an edible garden. From blueberries to grapes there is a wide range of familiar edible plants to cultivate in your garden. Bernie will give an overview on what is available and their cultural requirements."

VIMGA Spring Education Day 2022 poster

Salmon berries

Vancouver Island University's ElderCollege presents:

Food Plants Of Vancouver Island First Peoples

Key plant foods used by Vancouver Island Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing importance of these foods in the present day.

Saturday November 19

10am - Noon

"Indigenous Peoples of Vancouver Island have, for thousands of years, relied on a wide range of plant and animal foods for their health and nutrition. These foods are also culturally important, as featured in people’s trade and exchange systems, and within Indigenous languages and stories. Many of these food species have been carefully tended and managed over countless generations. Recently, these foods have faced a range of threats, from industrial development and urbanization, to pollution and impacts of invasive species, exclusion of people from their homelands, and global climate change. Fortunately, ecocultural restoration holds promise for renewing and revitalizing many of these species."


Dr. Nancy J. Turner, CM, OBC, FRSC, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria

Register Today to Reserve Your Spot:
Telephone registration: 1.866.734.6252

See VIU Elder College courses


VIU Horticulture students sewing onion and chard seeds

VIU Horticulture students sowing onion and chard seeds by Christine Quist.

For the past few years Nanaimo Food Share 'Growing Opportunities' program has been sharing greenhouse space at Vancouver Island University’s Horticulture Centre in Nanaimo. 

The Nanaimo Food Share is a registered charity and their mission is to connect the local community to the resources, skills and knowledge base needed to improve access to healthy food, and to support sustainable community food systems.

The seedlings that they start at VIU’s Horticulture facility are a part of this vision. 

Together VIU and Growing Opportunities have started onion and chard plants from seed and VIU is growing on their pepper plants.  Once these seedlings are large enough Growing Opportunities will take them and plant them out at their nearby urban farm location. 

These seedlings will eventually grow into vegetables to be part of the Good Food Box program. 

For more information about Growing Opportunities.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email:

VIU Horticulture pepper seedlings.

Photo of pepper seedlings at VIU Horticulture Centre by Ina Powell.

VIU Horticulture onion seedlings

Photo of onion seedlings at VIU Horticulture Centre by Ina Powell.

VIU Horticulture Students and City of Nanaimo Staff at Pipers Lagoon March 2, 2022

Photo:  VIU Horticulture Students and City of Nanaimo Staff at Pipers Lagoon.

Pipers Lagoon Restoration Project

Students and staff from the Horticulture Technician Foundation Certificate Program) at Vancouver Island University (VIU) worked together with Horticulturalists and staff from the City of Nanaimo at the Pipers Lagoon Park in Nanaimo BC.

The project took place on Wednesday, March 02 and aimed to increase educational communication on Garry Oak Ecosystems (GOE) including the cultural and environmental importance in the Nanaimo area and provide exposure to landscape restoration practices specific to GOE. The project was also an opportunity for students to practice horticulture skills such as native plant ID, weed ID, invasive species removal transplanting techniques and installment of shading/protective plant structures. Students gained exposure to horticulture tools used in restorative and maintenance practices. Finally, the project day created a networking opportunity for students through the mentorship of experienced landscape horticulturalists while practicing and applying landscape horticulture skills and practices.

Learn more about the VIU Horticulture Technician Foundation Program

Rhododendron Revival Research - January 2023

R. 'Blue Peter' Week 50

Happy New Year to the Rhododendron Society members from Nanaim, Cowichan Valley, and Mount Arrowsmith along with members of Milner Gardens & Woodland!

I hope that everyone had a restful holiday season filled with laughter, snow, and holiday treats. I also hope your gardens, no doubt full of curled-up rhododendron leaves, fared ok with all the snow and cold!  I am happy to be back to update you all on how our research is going in the Rhododendron Revival Project through Vancouver Island University in partnership with the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society (NRS) and Milner Gardens & Woodland.

As a recap, our research is focused on figuring out which rhododendron hybrids can be successfully propagated and in this round of cuttings, Denise (Horticulture Coordinator at Milner Gardens) chose R. ‘Beauty of Littleworth’, R. ‘Blue Peter’, and R. ‘Dr.Stocker’. These were chosen because of available plant material and consumer demand, not to mention they are beautiful additions to any garden and hard to find in your typical garden center!

Read the full Rhododendron Revival Research Update - January, 2023

Rhododendron Revival Research - November 2022

RRR - Research Rhododendrons in Mist Tent

Research Rhododendrons in Mist Tent.

Kurstin Rispin, student research assistant, here from Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Rhododendron Revival Research (RRR) project to update the community on the research progress to date. Many things have happened since our last update, and I am excited to share them with you here. First, I will begin with a brief recap of what has been done thus far. After our wonderful tour of the Greig Rhododendron Species Garden at Milner Gardens with John Deniseger and Chris Southwick in late October, we collected and stuck 96 cuttings from 3 hybrid rhododendrons; R. ‘Beauty of Littleworth’, R. ‘Dr.Stocker’, and R. ‘Blue Peter’.  Afterward, the research cuttings were placed in a mist tent at the VIU G.R. Paine Horticulture Center.  The environmental conditions for the mist tent were set using the American Rhododendron Society (ARS) guidelines for propagation.

Read the full Rhododendron Revival Research Update, November 2022

Rhododendron Revival Research Update Oct2022

Photo of VIU Horticulture students and faculty, with Milner Gardens volunteers Chris Southwick and John Deniseger from Nanaimo Rhododendron Society

Rhododendron Revival Research - October 2022

"My name is Kurstin Rispin and I am currently a Vancouver Island University (VIU) student in the Horticulture Technician Foundation Program. I completed my summer practicum at Milner Gardens & Woodland (Milner Gardens) and continue to work there on weekends this semester. I am a research assistant contributing to the Rhododendron Revival Research (RRR) in partnership with VIU Horticulture, Milner Gardens, and the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society (NRS).

The purpose of this article is to provide a regular update on the progress of the RRR. My role in the research includes monitoring and managing the environmental conditions where the rhododendron cuttings are propagated and tracking cutting progress through daily record-keeping."

Read the full Rhododendron Revival Research Update - October, 2022

VIU Horticulture Students preparing Rhodo cuttings at G.R. Paine Centre 2022

Photo of VIU Horticulture Students preparing Rhododendron cuttings at the G.R Paine Centre.

Rhododendron Revival Research Project

March, 2022

The Rhododendron Revival project aims to support the current initiatives under way at Vancouver Island University (VIU) Milner Gardens & Woodland Gardens (Milner Gardens) that sustains rare and endangered Rhododendron species in the Greig Rhododendron Species Garden (Species Garden). Some of the Rhododendron species at Milner Gardens have been growing there since 1960, which is a significant lifespan for a woody shrub.  Over time these rare and unique Rhododendron species have experienced adverse environmental and biological pressures such as drought, winter storms and disease leading to a decline in health. 

Together, horticulture students in the Horticulture Technician Foundation Certificate Program at VIU, Milner Gardens staff and the local Rhododendron Societies work together to share knowledge and experience and contribute to the success of the project.

Goals for this project include to revive the Rhododendron species at risk in the garden through propagation of plants that require replacement and/or population expansion and to identify and propagate Rhododendron species from Milner Gardens that aren’t commonly propagated or are difficult to propagate in commercial production settings.  The project also creates a networking opportunity between the three groups involved and has proven to be valuable in building relationships that continue to strengthen the VIU and wider community.