Wandering in Ucluelet you might notice beautiful rhododendrons in full bloom. These vibrant plants are more than just a part of our communities landscaping, they are a part of our history. Ucluelet is a small town with a big history in the gardening world, thanks to horticulturist George Fraser.
In 1892 Fraser bought 236 acres of Crown land where the centre of Ucluelet sits today. And he only paid a dollar an acre! Using simple hand held tools; he cleared out nearly 5 acres of thick coastal forest to build a nursery. Some of the plants and flowers he planted in his gardens remain in the same area today.
History tells us that George Fraser created new strains of plants by crossing native west coast plants with domestic types. He wanted to create a plant that would have wonderful fruit and blooms that was resistant to disease and could withstand the harsh coastal weather.
He became famous in the area for his rhododendrons, many of which are still growing in residential yards in Ucluelet today. He also developed new azaleas, maples, heather, honeysuckle, and others. As you wander in Ucluelet, notice the large maples and rhododendrons; a living legacy of George Fraser’s Garden.
During the last few days of his life George said to his friend Bud Thompson, “I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but it doesn’t matter as I have had my heaven here on earth.”
Born October 25th 1854, in Scotland, he apprenticed as a nurseryman and gardener, before emigrating to Canada in 1883. First settled in Winnipeg and then moved to Victoria in 1889 where he worked as a landscape foreman for the development of Beacon Hill Park.
Moving to Ucluelet in 1894, Fraser acquired 236 acres of crown land on the present site of the Ucluelet Village. For the next 50 years, he continued his work as a nurseryman, specializing in rhododendrons, azaleas, and heathers. As a result of the world acclaimed work in hybridization, Mr. Fraser was posthumously awarded the American rhododendron society’s pioneer achievement award in 1990.
Walk through history and discover where pioneer George Fraser planted his gardens. Follow the route outlined on this map of George Fraser Gardens on Peninsula Road between the schools. You will see historic rhododendrons, trees, shrubs, and flowers along the way. Note that this is a self guided walking tour. Please respect private property while viewing and stay on the public streets.
Enjoy walking through the residential streets of our quaint village and experience Ucluelet's history in bloom. Have fun!
The Gray Team