Enjoy camas in full flower and more at the In Bloom festival at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve. (Nature Conservancy of Canada photo)

In Bloom Wildflower Festival celebrates spring in Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s annual event is back for its 13th year.

With the cold of this year’s late winter finally retreating, there is no better way to celebrate the return of spring than by coming out to the In Bloom Wildflower Festival at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s annual event is back for its 13th year. Nature lovers, native plant gardeners and curious ecologists of all ages are invited to come out to the preserve on Saturday, April 27 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to enjoy the spring wildflower bloom.

Camas, lilies, shooting star and other native wildflowers will be on display in the restored Garry oak meadows. In Bloom is a rare opportunity to explore the preserve and experience its many natural and cultural wonders. Visitors of all ages can wander through the meadows while learning from informational displays, storytellers and hands-on discovery stations that bring to life the world of the iconic Garry oak ecosystems.

In Bloom activities:

• Enjoy a nature walk through the preserve’s wildflower meadows at the height of the spring bloom.

• Peruse the native plant nursery and even take home some seedlings to plant in your own yard.

• Listen to stories from a Cowichan elder and discover the significance of Garry oak meadows to Coast Salish culture.

• Hear about the latest news from the Bring Back the Bluebird Project that is reintroducing western bluebirds to Vancouver Island.

• Learn about the Elkington family that settled this land in the 1800s and built the heritage house that still stands on the property.

• Discover the archaeological treasures that have been uncovered in the Quamichan wetlands, where the preserve meets the lake.

• Hop on the wagon for a hay ride, get your face painted and celebrate spring with the wonderful Cowichan community.

The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve was protected from development in 1999 by the Nature Conservancy of Canada with the support of many committed Cowichan Valley residents. The preserve continues to be celebrated as one of the last and best examples of deep soil Garry oak meadows in Canada, and is an important remnant of a habitat that has all but disappeared. Today only five per cent of the original footprint of Garry oak ecosystems remain in this region.

Conservation researchers from across North America have used the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve as a “living laboratory” in their efforts to conserve and restore Garry oak ecosystems. You can learn about some of this research during In Bloom.

This event is family-friendly, but please note that dogs are not allowed on the preserve.

The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve is located at 1241 Maple Bay Rd. Visitors should park on Maple Bay Road, then walk to the end of Aitken Road to enter the preserve.

For more information contact bcoffic@natureconservancy.ca or 1-888-404-8428 or visit www.natureconservancy.ca/bc.

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Rides on the wagon will allow folks to tour the preserve during the In Bloom festival. (Nature Conservancy of Canada photo)

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