Formal Garden, English Camp

In the Formal Garden, English Camp- San Juan Island WA, circa 1870

July 2016; 48°35’11” N 123°09’01” W

Experience supplemented with information from the National Park Service (US Dept of the Interior) pamphlet for San Juan Island National Historical Park “San Juan Island”


Background: Currently a part of the San Juan Island National Historic Park, English Camp was set up in Garrison Bay during the culmination of the dispute of whether the San Juan Islands were part of the USA or the UK. The island saw both US and UK occupation for over a decade which, save for the slaying of a single pig, resulted in peaceful arbitration with not a single shot being fired. (Go teams!) Both garrisons were totally bored being so far from home and hung out with each other, including the UK soldiers coming to the US camp to celebrate the Fourth of July, and the US soldiers going to the UK camp to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. Isn’t that sweet? Also sweet- the second commander of the English Camp had the formal gardens put in to help alleviate his wife’s sadness at such a dismal posting. Awww…


Tastes- smoke; blackberries from snacking out of the wild bushes along the trails a few minutes earlier; salty air


Smells- flowers, particularly lavender; wood smoke; livestock; tang of sea (like salt and wet kelp, slightly fishy)


Feelings- stiff pokey shrubbery forming the outlines of the formal garden; gravelly dirt in the walkways; sweat between my shoulder blades and sunlight heating my scalp; legs a little tired from walking down the steep hillsides from the married officers’ quarters; breeze coming up from the bay;


Sounds- birdcalls (songbirds back up in the hill, gulls down on the water); breeze coming up from the bay; people talking, laughing, mostly women and a few men, talking about the flowers in the garden, about the sunlight on the bay; one woman working in the garden with shears, clipping at the hedge;


Sights- Formal garden laid out in a circular grid with hip-high bushes surrounding flowers (outer walk and inner walk with circles of bush-rounded flowers, outer ring divided into eighths); each segment contained only one kind of flower, labeled on a large white sign (feverfew, lavender, ox-eye daisy, etc); close to the seaward side of the garden, just beyond a white picket fence, is a pebbly beach of dark stone- opposite is the hillside with tall dark timber (Pacific madrone, fir, maple, alder, etc) and the trails leading up to the quarters on the hill; between the two and to the side of the garden is the parade ground, a wide grassy area dotted with trees and rimmed by dirt roads and mostly single level white-painted log buildings with brown shingled roofs; closest of these buildings is on the waterfront- a square lower level and an offset square upper level (lower for supplies and upper for camp prison, both highly defensible and offering “arrow slits” a full 360 degrees around the building); on the opposite end of camp, beyond the buildings, is a pear orchard with small hard pears, green and red and still ripening; soldiers in red jacket uniforms with blue slacks with a red stripe down the side; more rarely, women in heavy layered gowns, broad-rimmed sun hats on their heads, their children nearby;