About Woodland Gardens
Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens are an act of love, developed by one man in an effort to fulfill a dream to share with all. Bryan Zimmerman's Xmas Tree Farm and Santa's Barn are well-known in the Comox Valley during the winter months. He always knew he lived in a beautiful spot but it wasn't until he began clearing out some of the thick brush on his 24 acres of forested land that he thought of a way to share it with others.
Studying the interesting topography and unique layout gave him the idea for creating the woodland gardens. Over the next two years he began to build his wonderland dream clearing the underbrush by hand to reveal a forest floor more beautiful than he had imagined.
Day by day, using his back and wheelbarrow, he laid over a mile of bark mulch paths meandering through the woods. Unwilling to disturb plant and tree root systems more than absolutely necessary or to use heavy equipment which would destroy the landscape, he dragged all brush and debris out manually.
The beauty of the gardens is that most of the forests natural finery has been left alone, embellished, but not overwhelmed by cultivation. The gardens are especially designed to showcase the most beautiful of all shrubs: the rhododendron. Bryan has planted over 3000 rhododendrons of different varieties and sizes as well as companion plants and cultivated trees, all blending into the breathtakingly beautiful natural surroundings.
To take a walk through this woodland garden gives one a feeling of peace and well-being. In the upper area he's used the land contours to his advantage in the placing of several ponds. The serenity draws one to follow the soft cedar bark paths, and the enticing trails that disappear into the woodlands. Granite rocks from the valley mountains line the pathways. The filtered sunlight, sparkling through the trees in an endless array of patterns lift your spirits. You inhale the sensual earthiness.
The placement of a rustic hand-built bench here and there adds charm as well as providing the visitor with an opportunity to sit, meditate and listen to the birds. In the background, Kitty Coleman Creek babbles fluidly on its winding way down to the Georgia Strait. A Polynesian-style gazebo built from tree poles provides a sheltered place to sit and ponder, watch the great blue heron fly overhead, observe the birds at the feeders which are suspended around the gazebo, or even listen to the sea lions barking from the mouth of the creek a few hundred yards away. Licorice, deer, lady and sword ferns all proliferate, blending the wild with the cultivated. Looking closely, visitors will observe smaller natural flora such as sweet boxwood, broad-leaf starflower, fawn lily, Oregon grape, vanilla leaf and bleeding hearts on the forest floor.
In the lower, or hidden garden, woodland paths descend to travel along Kitty Coleman Creek, where a pair of wood ducks happily meander. The view of the creek through filtered light and overhanging trees is one that inspired a group of artists to ask permission to paint there.
Here, larger rhododendrons have been placed informally along the natural slope, giving the wanderer a surprising burst of colour. The idea is that anyone visiting will never see the same scenes twice. The rhododendrons bloom mainly from March to the end of June. Their dark green foliage is so attractive year round that they are one of British Columbia's favorite shrubs.