Bob Clarke has captured a visual history of the gardens at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific with an insider’s perspective, but he hopes plenty of outsiders see it.
Clarke has arranged a dozen billboards with photos old and new, and with hand-typed histories. They’re on display everyday this week, until Saturday (May 9), in the HCP pavilion, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The original plans for HCP were grandiose with an entry way off of Interurban that would wind up the hill, and with a great building to greet people, but the economic recession of 1981 changed all that,” Clarke said.
The 83-year-old brought about $2,500 worth of funds and a truck full of motivation when he told HCP co-founder and former president Bill Kempster that he wanted to install a new Japanese garden on the grounds.
“Coming in with money made it easy for (the HCP) to say yes,” Clarke recalled.
He started the Japanese garden around 1990 and has curated it ever since. During that time, it’s remained self-sufficient, thanks in part to his own fundraising and the efforts of his volunteers, one who has put as much as $25,000 of his own money into the gardens, Clarke said.
“There are a lot of tales to tell about this place, a lot of hard work that’s gone into it,” he added.
The idea for the history boards, which stand about four feet wide and four feet tall, came from their discovery.
“The (HCP) carpenter made them and I uncovered them in storage, I never knew they existed.”
Upon seeing them, Clarke’s skill as a professional sign-maker took hold.
“The first time I ever came here was to sell Kempster a wood-carved sign that still exists here,” Clarke said. “This has been a fun collaboration people should come and see. I’ll have to return a lot of the photos as they’re from personal collections, so I’m not sure when we’ll have it out again.”