With signs of spring popping up around the city, people are stretching their legs and checking out the buds at celebrated outdoor areas ranging from the Richmond Nature Park to Terra Nova Rural Park. But those in the know are also making a beeline for one of Metro Vancouver’s best hidden-gem public gardens.

Richmond’s six-acre Paulik Neighbourhood Park is an accessible woodland oasis of mature native trees with some intriguing public art and a popular children’s playground. But it’s also home to a 1.5-acre perennial garden lovingly tended by local volunteers, many of them from the 160-member Richmond Garden Club.

Paulik Neighbourhood Park - Photo: Richmond Garden Club
Volunteer gardeners are a key reason for the park's success. | Photo: Richmond Garden Club

“It’s a real treasure,” says club president Lynda Pasacreta, explaining that the gardens were originally planted alongside the homes of local families before eventually being acquired and assembled into a park by the city. In 2008, the club’s green-thumbed volunteers were invited to take over Paulik’s overgrown perennial beds—and the enthusiastic gardeners have been nurturing and expanding them ever since.

The unique partnership has paid rich dividends for visiting flora fans, creating an ever-changing spectacle of dozens of pathway-linked beds that are frequently studded with lush and fragrant blooms. Springtime, of course, is a particularly perfect time to visit.

Paulik Neighbourhood Park - Photo: Richmond Garden Club
The park is a delight for flower lovers. | Photo: ​Richmond Garden Club

“In early May, you see corridors of azaleas and rhododendrons here. And as the season unfolds, there are roses, foxgloves, and blossoming plum and cherry trees. It’s such an interesting and diverse garden—our volunteers discover new plants here all the time,” says Pasacreta, adding that Paulik’s private garden origins and the personal touches of the volunteers (look out for the whimsical fairy doors) give it a “quirky” character distinct from the formality of botanical garden attractions.

The club’s industrious gardeners—some of whom were members when the group was founded in 1957—typically work in the park a couple of times per week. Visitors are fully encouraged to stop and ask them questions about the plants they see, and guided tours can sometimes be arranged by contacting the club via its website. Many of the volunteers, Pasacreta says, have their own favourite garden areas.

Paulik Neighbourhood Park - Photo: David J. Wright
Strolling the pathways in Paulik Park. | Photo: David J. Wright​

“I love the Korean lilac—you smell it long before you see it. It’s a heady aroma that’s basically a lilac on steroids,” she says. “And there’s also a beech tree here with arms that seem to reach out everywhere; it’s a real favourite with photographers.”

Bird fans are also well-served, she adds, noting that park visitors often spot thrushes, towhees, and brightly-spotted northern flicker woodpeckers when they stroll the pathways. “As soon as we start digging, the birds turn up,” she says, noting that the park also has a couple of resident owls and receives regular visitations from sharp-shinned hawks and majestic bald eagles that circle overhead.

“We want you to come here, slow down, and breathe in the natural world­­—most of us don’t do that enough these days,” says Pasacreta, adding that the tranquil city park is a spirit-lifting spot that helps connect visitors to their neighbours—from both the human world and the natural world.

If you go:

The entrance to Paulik Neighbourhood Park is on the 7600-block of Heather Street. The park is located just north of Blundell Road, between Heather Street and Ash Street.

Paulik Neighbourhood Park - Photo: Dan Pasacreta
The park is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. | Photo: ​Richmond Garden Club