Feature Story

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Horticulture Heaven

Jack Kouwenhoven's garden has seen a lifetime of work

Staff/Voice photos


Chilliwack gardener Jack Kouwenhoven leads the way to his extraordinary half acre of happiness.  


ack Kouwenhoven, 86, has hundreds of different plants in his garden. Point to any one of them and he'll tell you the name of it — in English and Latin.


He’s the go-to guy in Chilliwack for garden tips and  inside knowledge about things like phloem and xylem. Even Brian Minter drops by for advice. Of course it helps if you're a walking, talking encyclopedia. Visiting him, you can expect two things; to get muddy and learn a lot.


In case you forget the address, his house easy to find. He's told people it's the sixth one from the end, with the white stucco and the red roof, for more almost four decades.


"Hey, while you're here, can you give me a hand with this?" he asks.


Together we dumped the water off a bunched up tarp and pull it back over the pile of topsoil on the driveway.


Kouwenhoven, a former forester, is currently a director and lifetime member of the Chilliwack Garden Club and involved with School District 33's Chilliwack Schools Garden Program.


The program inspires budding horticulturists from Kindergarten to Grade 12 all over the district to get involved in a growing contest that culminates at the Chilliwack Fair in August.


Step around back of the house, and you’re plunged into another world.


You have to watch where you step because there is something special on just about every inch of the half-acre urban oasis.


“That’s a sucker,” he points out. “ It comes from that tree which is from Iran. It's very aggressive.”


There are dozens of varieties of herbs, ornamentals and exotics. He makes wine from his own grapes, rhubarb, currants and elderberries, and even has plants that he went on expeditions around BC for.



It's tulip season in Kouwenhoven's garden. Below, he stands next to a western red cedar he planted almost 40 years earlier.


Kouwenhoven’s wife died a few years ago and their lifetime of work is etched in the rings of towering western red cedars that the couple planted almost four decades ago.


"That's a fig," notes Kouwenhoven, bending over on the time-worn path. "They're good to eat right off the plant."


Now with the growing season here, the garden does need a bit of sprucing up. But Kouwenhoven is taking it easy for now after a recent surgery.


"My jungle," he says with a laugh. "I don't want to show the weeds in your photos."


"Oh, that's just part of the beauty of the place," I said.


All it needs is some superficial tidying up. A few weeds pulled here and there and it'll be shipshape. Nothing a few school kids couldn't do one weekend, not to mention having the chance learn something which may stay with them forever.


Nocturnal pilferers have basically left him alone over the years, with the exception of a single incident.


"One time they took the lawnmower out over the back fence, but they leave me alone. They don't take the tools or anything," he said.


Rebecca Coulter, wife of Dan Coulter, School Board trustee, recently signed-on as one of the directors.


"He's really chipper," she told The Voice last week. "Just so full of energy."


If parents think their kids would be interested in the School Garden Program, they have to hurry; the deadline to enter is April 4th. Judges will visit participant's gardens once before the final at the Chilliwack Fair.




Volunteers are always welcome at the Chilliwack Garden Club and Kouwenhoven maintains his own website for all kinds of information at www.jacksgardentips.wordpress.com


The learn more about the Chilliwack Schools Garden Program, visit www.garden.sd33.bc.ca


The Chilliwack Garden Club's next meeting is on Wednesday April 8th at the Presbyterian Church Hall on Wellington Ave. at 7:30 (entrance from the West side parking lot).

"Our guest speaker will be Art Drysdale, a well known speaker and garden writer on perennials. Non members are invited to attend for a nominal $5.00 entry fee to offset the cost, as Art comes over from Vancouver Island," said Kouwenhoven in an e-mail to The Voice Wednesday.


See more photos below.


































The Plant-a-Row plant sale is Saturday April 25




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