It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear father, grandad and friend. Dave slipped away peacefully with family at his side at age 90 on September 28, 2021. He is survived by his children Sara (Shawn), Janet, John (Lisa) and grandchildren Lindsay, Robert, Laura, Erin and Colin. He was predeceased by Mary, his beloved wife of 30 years, and his parents Isabella and Allan.

Dave was born in Victoria, BC on May 1, 1931. He grew up on Quadra St. surrounded by blooms in his parents’ large greenhouse operation and florist shop. He maintained the close friendships made at Cloverdale School that lasted for his entire life, soon adding many more while attending University School his senior years. He was very proud to be in “The First XV” on the University School rugby team and he also excelled in Cross Country. After 2 years at Victoria College, Dave went to UBC where he received his Bachelor of Commerce degree. Excelling in horticulture and plant physiology, he was invited to do his Master’s degree at Washington State and PhD at the University of Maryland.

Dave met Mary in Guelph, ON while he was doing his post-doc. They married in Prescott, ON in 1962 and lived in Victoria for the rest of their lives.  A Biology Professor at the University of Victoria for 33 years, the first Plant Physiologist at UVic, Dave always said how fortunate he was that he was paid to do something he loved – teach and do research. He cared for the UVic greenhouses for decades purely for joy. He presented his research internationally which focused primarily on photosynthesis, plant hormones, the effects of air pollutants on plant metabolism, flower bud dormancy in rhodos and azaleas, growth studies aimed to improve efficiency in the greenhouse industry, and drought resistance. His conifer research yielded applications to the forestry industry and his research on coffee regulating harvest periods was meaningful to coffee growers.

After retirement from UVic in 1996 he became CJVI’s The Garden Show radio talk show host, took up the piano again, built another greenhouse, gave countless azaleas away annually leaving a lasting legacy in so many BC gardens, volunteered with garden societies, carried on his research and presenting at meetings , expanded his massive rhododendron garden, and of course, spent treasured time with his family and friends. With an enduring commitment to teaching he taught until he was 82 instructing thousands of UVic students over the years, in addition to Extension Courses, Continuing Studies and at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific. Dave took photos of noteworthy gardens when he travelled, with a special interest in sharing his slides with long-term care facilities and gardening groups as a UVic Speakers Bureau volunteer.

Dave most enjoyed time with his family. He loved travelling, especially trips with Mary. There were numerous family car trips when the kids were young. In more recent years he and John travelled in North America and there were many fun trips to Calgary visiting with grandchildren there. Always a sports fan, he had a keen mind for hockey and baseball stats, however, his most loved games were those cheering and watching his kids and grandchildren, along with all their activities. He got a kick out of trains, especially steam locomotives, having had a line run behind his childhood home in Lake Hill. He was known to jump the boxcars from time to time (unknown to his mother). An avid reader, especially nonfiction, he was continually buying books and fostered a love of reading in his children and grandchildren. A glass of Scotch ended each day.

Dave grew up and lived in greenhouses his entire life – he shared his love of plants with everyone. Nothing would bring him greater joy than supporting your local florist and giving your loved one/friend flowers or planting something to bloom in your garden.

Dave was a founder of the Victoria Rhododendron Society, originating in 1979 with Saturday morning meetings in his lab at UVic -just to talk about rhodos with a group of interested gardeners. For donations to the VRS Pioneer Scholarship awarded to a 3rd/4th year Biology student at UVic with interest in Plant Sciences, please note the link:  Special thanks to exceptional aide Renee Wright for all her love and care. Our appreciation to Sunrise and Berwick.

A Celebration of Life will be held in the Sequoia Centre at McCall at Gardens, 4665 Falaise Drive, on Saturday, December 4, 2021 at 2:30pm. A reception will follow. Those unable to attend in person can attend virtually via Zoom. Contact McCall Gardens to receive the Zoom link. Condolences may be offered to the family below.

McCall Gardens

  • John & Bev McInerney

    David was an exceptional teacher, a fine colleague and a generous friend. His university greenhouses and laboratory and his back-yard garden all bore the unmistakable signs of a dedicated and accomplished scientist and gardener, always willing to share his knowledge and advice. We still enjoy his delightful azaleas in our garden. Back in 1965 when we first came to Victoria he welcomed us with a large gift of ripe pears. His caring ways remain a strong memory. We send our condolences to his family and friends, John & Bev McInerney, Parksville, BC

  • McCall Gardens

    David was a good friend and Trustworthy colleague during our time together at the University School and the University of Victoria.

    I still have two lovely azalea’s that he gave me as cuttings and are now mature and a pleasure to view, especially in the Spring. I will remember him through these flowers and for his integrity in all his human dealings.

    Condolences to all his family whom he loved dearly. For health reasons, I cannot attend the Memorial Service but I will be there in spirit.

    Sincerely Dr. Larry Devlin
    University School 1959

  • John Errington

    I attended Uvic from 1963 until 1967 and I was privileged to take two classes from your father; Statistics for Biologists and Plant Physiology.
    I have fond memories of him. Although I never used the knowledge gained from the physiology course I did retain an interest in horticulture throughout my life. I remember one instance of your father working with azaleas (I believe he was demonstrating root pressure). He took a small azalea growing in a pot, emptied the soil onto the lab bench then to our astonishment, swept all the soil onto the floor stating that the “cleaners were not allowed to clean the bench tops”!
    I did, however, use his statistics course with some advantage when I went on the do a Master’s in England studying quantitative plant ecology where I attended seminars with other mathematics students. These students were very good at deriving statistical equations but had no idea of how to use these statistics in a practical sense. As a result of your father’s course, I did.
    There were only a few of us taking Plant Physiology and most of us went on to higher degrees and I can thank Dr. Ballantyne for his passion and enthusiasm for plant life. As a small group he also invited us to his home for dinner and I believe we all contributed to bottle of liqueur as a thank you.
    I’m sure he will be missed by you all.

  • Nigel Livingston

    I was so sorry to hear of Dave’s passing. I have very fond memories of him. I joined the Biology Department at UVic as an assistant professor in 1990. Whilst most of the faculty members were quite friendly, Dave went out of his way to make me feel at home and welcome in the department. He was genuinely interested in my progress and was always ready to give advice and encouragement. As I got to know Dave better, I considered him to be the most successful of all the faculty. He loved his work, was dedicated to teaching and was not caught up in the race to build the biggest laboratory and secure huge grants. I would always point to him as a prime example of someone who had a perfect career and to emulate. He was kind, passionate and highly valued colleague.

  • Jim Martell

    John, Janet and Sara, my sincere condolences on your father’s passing. I have so many fond memories of your dad shuttling us to evening swims, Saanich fairs, even to your grandmother’s place on the peninsula. Always generous, always smiling.

  • Pat Hall

    I am very sad to hear about your Dad’s passing.
    His life sounds amazing and accomplished.
    My condolences.

  • Diane Tolomeo

    We send our deepest sympathy to John, Lisa, and all of the family and friends who are grieving at this time. We grieve because we love. Please know that you are surrounded by the love of so many people in this difficult time. Wishing you peace. – Diane and David

  • Marjorie Macdonald

    My sincere condolences to David’s family. I was his, and Mary’s, next door neighbour on Tyndall and spent many a time in his garden talking about his rhodos. I was one of the lucky ones to receive one from him. David was also a resident at Berwick House at the same time as myself. He will be missed.

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