As many residents of Victoria can agree, European inspired gardens can be found across greater parts of the region, whether that be well known nature-scapes the likes of the Butchart Gardens or smaller destinations such as the Japanese Gardens located in Esquimalt Gorge Park.
While most of us observe and snap photos of the beauty surrounding these gardens, creative duo Lauren Ball and Chantal MacDonald wanted to dig deeper.
Together, the two gifted story tellers shared notable histories and experiences of the grounds locals and tourists have enjoyed for hundreds of years. They also explored the relationship these lands have with the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical ties with the land continue to this day.
With the aid of a $10,000 film grant awarded by Telus StoryHive in January 2022, Ball and MacDonald went straight to work, filming throughout March of 2022.
With momentum on their side, the pair soon encountered their first hurdle, an unavoidable reality that most gardens on Vancouver Island are not in bloom until May.
“2022 was particularly interesting because it was a really cold spring. Even when we were filming in April there was one day we were filming in Saanich and it was snowing, we ended up not being able to use any of that footage,” says Ball.
“Places like Government House and Butchart really didn’t want us to come before May and June so we’d be there when it was actually in bloom. It would’ve been challenging even in a normal year just because of the timeline that we were on.”
With a hard deadline set by Telus for September 8th, Ball tells Victoria Buzz that time was not in their favour as the small team took on the large task of interviewing, filming and editing the six part docuseries throughout peak garden season between June to August.
Recounting many sleepless nights, Ball says throughout their journey they began to notice they were not the only ones facing environment related challenges inflicted on the gardens.
“It was interesting talking to all the gardens about how that had impacted them. How the blooms were doing or how the vegetables were doing with the change in climate,” says Ball.
To their surprise, Hall and MacDonald were brought back to where they first met as hosts of Value Nature—a Bateman Foundation podcast series that explored connections between nature and culture on Vancouver Island.
Through their first project, Ball says, “We tried to find a way to talk about climate change in a way that brought awareness but also didn’t just bum people out. We were trying to find that balance between education and hope.”
Ironically, the Tea & Gardens series was once again impacted by a change in weather uncharacteristically different from years past on Vancouver Island, which brought discussions surrounding environmental implications to the forefront.
“We weren’t explicitly doing that with this podcast but because of the cold spring it inevitably became a part of the discussion.”
While weaving in the historical knowledge, unknown facts, and subtle details that make each garden unique from the next, the pair admit to stress grew the deeper they got into the docuseries, a first for the team who specifically honed in on podcast production.
Seeing the series through till the end, Ball is proud of the local stories they were able to share.
“It was a much bigger task than we anticipated at the start. In terms of the skills that we learned it was pretty amazing,” says Ball.
The six-part podcast covers the following Tea & Garden locations:
- Abkhazi Garden
- Point Ellice House
- The Gardens at HCP
- The Japanese Gardens at Esquimalt Gorge Park
- Government House
- Butchart Gardens
In addition to the six part Tea & Gardens docuseries, audiences can also experience two additional podcast episodes that explore gardens of the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria and the Pepáken Háutw plant nursery located in Brentwood Bay.
Their series can be watched on YouTube, and listened to on apple podcasts and Spotify.