Winter Solstice at Queen Elizabeth Park (Photos by Ned Jacobs)

Sweet Gum 15-12 P1160861cPhotographs and text by Ned Jacobs 

Georgia Straight readers voted Queen Elizabeth Park “Vancouver’s Best Urban Oasis” in 2015 for good reasons. The City’s second largest park, at the highest point in Vancouver and near the geographic centre, is loaded year round with ‘active’ and ‘passive’ recreational opportunities. Though famed for stunning spring and summer floral displays, the park takes advantage of our maritime climate to provide gorgeous color even after the autumn leaves have fallen. These pictures were taken during the shortest days of the year in 2015, December 16th – 30th, under the gentle light of overcast skies and on bright days when the sun’s low angle infuses the park with a warm glow.

Sweet Gum breath and sunbeams (photo at top): This magnificent specimen of American Sweet Gum, near 29th Avenue, waited until December to drop its spectacular autumn leaves. Liberated by sunshine, mist flows from the mossy trunk.

Snowberry  15-12 P1160835c

Snowberry and friends: Thoughtful, inspired landscape design juxtapositions trees, shrubs and flowers—common and rare, native and exotic—in combinations that create sums greater than their parts. This grouping can be enjoyed from the stairs behind the Bloedel Floral Conservatory.

Late bloomer 15-12 P1160896cLate bloomer: This charming floribunda in the Rose Garden doesn’t know when to quit—good for her!  

Early Bloomer 15-12 P1160821cEarly bloomer: Camellias normally bloom in the spring, but warmth from the Conservatory has induced a bud to open into a perfect blossom that greets the rising sun.  

Handkherchief Tree 15-12 P1160941cHandkerchief Tree: Named for its showy white bracts, which fall to ground in June like discarded tissues, this Davidia Involucrata beside stairs to the Large Quarry Garden, raises its mighty brown hand above a variegated Japanese Laurel (Aucuba).

Old Cherry 15-12 P1160915cOld Cherry: One of the park’s major spring floral attractions, this cherry has an astonishing spread. Winter brings prominence to the hefty, character-rich limbs.

Birder & Canada Geese 15-12 P1170026cBirder and Canada Geese: There was great excitement in the Birder community this Solstice when the annual ‘Christmas bird count’ turned up a little flock of redpoles at QE Park. The Common Redpole is not actually very common here; the arctic species usually winters in northern birch forests. But what really created a stir was the appearance of a single Hoary Redpole—the fluffy white breast resembles hoarfrost—an even more northerly sub-species known to mix with its ‘common’ relatives. Occasional sightings of this finch-like songbird have been reported in Vancouver, but never officially authenticated for lack of photographic evidence. But after it was spotted word went out, and scores of birders flocked to the park to be part of this historic event. Here, a birder ignores grazing Canada Geese (not ‘Canadian’ –they don’t carry passports!) beside the little marsh by the Disc Golf Course near Ontario Street, and searches for the elusive Hoary.

Hoary and Common Redpoles 15-12 P1170007Hoary and Common Redpoles: Eureka ! The white-breasted Hoary is at bottom, the pink-breasted Common Redpoles at top and on both sides. They flit about the braches feeding constantly on tiny birch seeds. For sharper, more detailed portraits and accounts, http://birding.bc.ca/community/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13411&p=72451.

Fountain 15-12 P1170078cFountains of Light: The Winter Holiday Season brings magical lighting (and beautiful music) to the Celebration Plaza —and inside the Conservatory too.  

Heather 15-12 P1170087cHeathers and Rhododendron: Nature joins the celebration with purple and white Heather ‘tinsel’ and golden Rhododendron ‘candles’.  

Cotoneaster15-12 P1170105cCotoneaster: Loaded with scarlet berries, frost etches the veins of the embossed evergreen leaves of this beauty alongside the Celebration Plaza parking lot.  

Winter flowering Viburnum 15-12 P1160855cWinter-flowering Viburnum: Kissed by morning sun beside the Rose Garden, looking into the Pitch & Put Golf Course.

Vancouver dawn 15-12 P1160901cVancouver dawn: The city joins the Festival of Lights.

Photo session 15-12 P1170095Photo Session: And the mountains reign supreme.

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