One Digital Painting, One Story: The croci in Beacon Hill Park

by Suzanne Heron.

Underneath all that snow there ARE thousands of croci and other flowers! And for them, we have to thank William Warren, hired at the age of 25 in 1930 as Park Superintendent, a position he filled for almost 40 years; and a few keen citizens who put forth ideas for park improvement in The Colonist and garnered public support.

One writer to The Colonist described “the arid wilderness of Beacon Hill Park, which now consists of burnt grass, scrub, bush and broom;” another decried “the wild condition into which it had fallen.” Support grew for a rock garden on the north side of the lake; a “seaside promenade,” and beds of plants that “grow to perfection”: rhododendrons, daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, Japanese flowering cherries, mountain ash, dogwood, lilac and laburnum.

This coincided with The Depression, and a large available labour force. From www.beaconhillparkhistory.org: “Unemployed people receiving assistance from the City were required to work in order to receive payment. For eight years (1931-1937), relief workers removed windfalls, cleared broom, built roads and generally improved the rundown condition of all city parks for $1.40 a day . . . [Warren said,] “As many as 160 worked in the Parks Dept. for a week or so at a time and this was eventually was the salvation of the parks.” They cleaned up trees, removed invasive plants, widened Dallas Rd, constructed lakes and streams, paths and benches, built the rock garden – and planted.

Over 7,000 bulbs were placed in the grass north of the lake – where this painting is from. Daffodils were very popular, planted annually thereafter, and by 1967 “Warren estimated ‘there were 400,000 daffodils dancing in the Beacon Hill Park breezes.’” Making a public exhibition of the local bulbs would, it was thought, promote the local bulb industry. And so it did – until the 2000s, the Saanich Peninsula was the leading producer of daffodils in Canada. But that is another story.

Suzanne

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