By News Editor Aislinn Cottell

Milner Gardens is offering free invitations to students for their Christmas light-up this year, which starts December 2 and continues every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5 – 8:30 pm, until December 18.

Featuring over half a kilometre of decorated trails, live music, Santa, a Teddy Bear Cottage, storytelling, refreshments, the tea room, and a gift shop, the event is a great way to celebrate the holidays and explore the Gardens. The general public is, of course, also welcome. Entry is by donation and all funds will go to support the Garden; suggested donations are $5/adult, $2.5/child, and $12/family (two adults and up to three children under 19). There is an onsite shuttle for the mobility impaired, and it is suggested visitors bring a flashlight.

Located near the seaside in Qualicum Beach, Milner Gardens has been voted one of the ten best public gardens in Canada by Canadian Geographic Travel. It was first developed by Horatio Milner, a successful businessman and philanthropist who bought the property in 1937 to be his private retreat.

The property is 70 acres in total, 60 of which are natural native woodland and support a rare, coastal old growth Douglas Fir ecosystem. The remaining ten acres are a garden developed by Veronica Milner, which consists of over 500 species collected from all over the world by her and her husband.

According to her, the garden was a place “in tune with the infinite,” and she lived there until her death in 1998. Milner also had family connections to British royalty—in fact, Queen Elizabeth herself stayed at Milner House for three days in 1987, and visits were also made by Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Prince Philip.

The estate was donated to VIU in 1996, and is now maintained by the University and volunteers in the “Friends” program of the Milner Gardens and Woodland Society (MGW).  The property is gently used as an educational resource for VIU’s horticultural programs, and preserved for future generations’ benefit from its “historic character and unique spirit.”

Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.