Porter House B&B
Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria enjoys a year round moderate climate which lends itself to a profusion of magnificently sculpted gardens along with a number of beautifully tended historic sites. The Abkhazi Garden in the Fairfield neighbourhood is by far one of the most beautifully landscaped gardens that embrace the natural terrain unique to Victoria.
Prince and Princess Abkhazi began their garden creation in 1946 when they married and settled in Victoria. They spend their lives developing and enhancing their one-acre estate and often referred to the gardens as “their child”. The couple made use of the existing native Garry oaks, dramatic rocky slopes and panoramic vistas by designing a garden that took advantage and augmented the natural landscape creating a striking example in design unique to the West Coast. Among the plants that seem to embrace jutting rocks one can enjoy the beauty of Japanese maples and magnificent rhododendrons that have been maturing over the past 50 years. The Abkhazi Gardens can be appreciated all year long due to specially selected plants such as woodland companions, layers of naturalized bulbs and expertly chosen alpines.
Both Peggy and Nicholas Abkhazi embraced the suggestions of architect John Wade who adopted many new and emerging ideas from his former employer Richard Neutra of Los Angeles. Neutra was a brilliant and accomplished architect exploring a modernist approach who believed that the design of exterior landscapes and interior design should flow naturally. This concept would have been easily received by the Princess bringing back memories of her former Shanghai home. It would have been a welcoming place of peace and solitude for both after spending time in prisoner of war camps during World War II. Strolling along the paths of the garden were meant to be more than simply getting from one place to another, instead Peggy referred the experience to be like unrolling the scroll of a Chinese landscape created by an accomplished painter.
The entire estate with its main house, garden and summer house depicts a purposeful unity between structure and natural terrain resulting in a natural and relaxed rhythm. The predominance of Garry oaks signifies strength and permanence and creates a harmonized flow among all the different areas of the garden. It took years of careful planning to train the now mature conifers to cascade along impressive rock formations and azaleas that have been meticulously tended into the magnificent sculptures they are today.
The story surrounding the lives of Peggy and Nicholas is filled with both romance and tragedy and of course the joy of their reunion. They made Victoria their home and lived eccentric lives spending much of their time taking care of and enjoying their ever changing garden oasis. Although the Prince and Princess were a very private couple, they welcomed visitors to the gardens they so painstakingly created.
This magnificent garden is the legacy they leave for all to enjoy. In February 2000, the estate was purchased by The Land Conservancy (conservancy.bc.ca ) in order to prevent it from being developed into a townhouse complex. A must when visiting Abkhazi Garden is a relaxing lunch in the tearoom which once was the couple’s living room. Visitors can enjoy a selection of menu choices including one of the Princess’s favourite lunches consisting of cream cheese and slices of smoked salmon on dark rye bread served as an open faced sandwich.