|Publisher:||New Star Books||Published:||November 15th 2012|
|Series Title:||Transmontanus||Book Number:||21|
Accustomed to the dark, dripping stands of Douglas-fir, spruce and hemlock that blanketed the Hudson's Bay Company outposts on the remote western coast of the "new World" the first Europeans were surely startled to see the wide-open landscapes of the Garry oak meadows they encountered on Southern Vancouver Island --- landscapes that might have reminded any explorers who had ventured into the African savannahs of what they had seen there.
Though slow in comprehending what they had stumbled upon, the Europeans immediately recognized the deep, rich deposits of black soil that extended many feet below the surface, and James Douglas chose the site as the ideal location for the HBC's new fort, and settlement.
What the newcomers failed to appreciate is that these meadows were not the work of nature alone, but of the Coast Salish peoples who had been living in these parts for millennia. With the construction of the fort of Victoria began an encroachment on these Garry oak meadows, built up over centuries if not millennia, a process that continues today.
In Gardens Aflame, Victoria writer and environmentalist Maleea Acker tells us about this unique and vanishing ecosystem, and the people who have made it their life's work to save the Garry oak and the environment --- including the human environment --- it depends on.
Acker tells us about the Garry oak species and its unique habits and requirements, including its unusual summer dormancy period, when all the surrounding plants are coursing with life. We learn something about the scientists, arborists, and Garry oak-loving volunteers who have dedicated themselves to this tree; and about Theophrastus, Humboldt, and their other forebearers who are still reshaping our notions of nature and humans' place in it.
And in the course of Acker's story, we see her fall under the spell of the strange beauty woven by these magnificent trees, and the ecosystems they tower over --- until, in the final act, she decides to turn her own front yard into her own version of a Garry oak meadow, defying City Hall and the neighbours, and bringing to a head in 2011 all the issues raised 150 years ago when Europeans first saw the open meadows of Southern Vancouver Island.
Gardens Aflame is number 21 in the Transmontanus series.