About the Garden
One Woman’s Vision
Darts Hill Garden Park consists of 7.5 acres of horticultural richness without equal in North America, for it contains a variety of rare and precious plants. The garden is the result of a pioneering spirit, interest, and dedication, long forgotten in much of today’s society.
Edwin Darts was born in Vancouver in 1903, and his wife, Francisca, in The Hague, Holland, in 1916. They wanted a few acres to grow fruit trees and in 1943 purchased acreage of bush in the area of present day 16th Avenue and 168th Street in South Surrey. The property was covered with bush, which had regrown after the logging of the original forest cover in the 1800s. There remained huge stumps which had to be cleared by dynamiting . . . self-taught! Shovels, axes, picks, cross-cut saws and their bare hands were the tools required to claim the land, as nothing was mechanized in the beginning.
There was no water or electricity at the site, and their water supply was ‘divined’ by a water witcher (or diviner), who required frequent lubricating! Their artesian well, still in use today, is 125 feet deep.
Initially the property was an orchard planted with fruit trees including apple, pear, apricot, peach, plum, and medlar (an unusual European fruit), and also walnut and filbert trees. The orchard was so successful that Mr. Darts won the only gold medal ever awarded by the Pacific National Exhibition in that exhibit category. However, it was an exhibit by the Alpine Garden Club of BC at the PNE that stirred their interest and enthusiasm for horticulture, which became Mrs. Darts’ passion.
This led to her joining many organizations devoted to the field, including the Royal Horticultural Society, from which she received the seeds of many of the rare and unusual plants that are growing in the garden today.
The donation of the garden to the City of Surrey in 1994 was the culmination of the Darts’ life hobby and retirement work.
The City is delighted that Francisca and Edwin Darts chose to make their garden available to residents, students and visitors by entering into a 999-year agreement with the City. Importantly, they did this in Francisca’s lifetime, allowing the transition from private garden to public garden to occur in a way which has reflected the desires of the garden’s creators. At the time of the donation, the City purchased an additional adjoining 15 acres, bringing the total size of today’s property to 22.5 acres.
Edwin Darts passed away in 1994, at the age of 91, and Francisca Darts, in 2012, at the age of 96. The Garden is now operated jointly by the City of Surrey and the Darts Hill Garden Conservancy Trust Society whose common purpose is to ensure that the Garden is operated in perpetuity in the spirit of Edwin and Francisca Darts.
Mrs. Darts was well known in the horticultural community as an active member of many clubs and associations, a popular speaker, a knowledgeable self-taught plants woman and teacher, and a generous host. Several of her horticultural associations are still active in the garden today – a testament to their high regard for Mrs. Darts.