David Douglas (1799-1834) is the best known of all plant hunters. A Scotsman from Scone and a self-taught botanist, in 1825 he was sent by the Horticultural Society in London to the west coast of North America. He spent most of his life discovering and shipping home plants from the almost unknown western flora. In the spring of 1833, Douglas set out from Fort Vancouver to pursue his dream of traveling across northwest North America and Siberia. He traveled north through the interior of British Columbia, collecting plant specimens as he went. By June he had reached Fort St. James but after learning that the next HBC post was in Sitka in Russian America, he decided to forego his dream and return home. Although Douglas returned safely to Fort Vancouver, the rough waters of Fort George Canyon claimed his canoe and all of his specimens and journals. The following year, Douglas met with accidental death in Hawaii at age 35. David Douglas is responsible for introducing over 200 North American plants to Britain. Many of these plants grow here in northern British Columbia and commemorate Douglas in their common name, including Douglas fir, Douglas maple, Douglas spirea, Douglas water-hemlock and Douglas aster.
The society has a membership of over 200 from a wide cross-section of the community. Members volunteer to work in the development and building of the garden while learning appropriate horticultural practices for the region. The inclusion of borderline plant material broadens our knowledge of what is hardy in this area, allowing us to carry on the work once done by the local experimental research stations.
Founded in 1991, the society works steadily towards its goals. Under a permanent agreement with the University of Northern British Columbia, the society has secured access to 1.1 hectares of land for the development of the education display garden with the future goal of developing a full scale botanical garden. Situated in a prominent position directly adjacent to the university campus, this project is a priority for several reasons: the site's high visibility will attract further interest from the public and potential support; the need to manage the campus storm water provided an opportunity to assist the natural development of a wetland area in the existing detention ponds; and finally the proposed garden will allow convenient access to native and exotic plant materials for educational and research projects for the University population and public at large.
The agreement with the University gives us access to the land and allows us to do the development work necessary. Full responsibility for funding of this project lies with the DDBGS. To date, the society has raised funds through community plant sales, donations, bulb sales, rose & heather sale, publication of a local garden guide, sale of vests, lunches and lectures, enabling the society to : contract detailed drawings from a landscape architect; install waterline soil and rock edging, and extensive natural wetland planting around the main detention pond; and gravel walk. All planting and on-going maintenance has been done by dedicated society volunteers.