The Butchart Gardens often has the strongest impact on visitors to Victoria of all the places they visit in British Columbia. They probably remember it long after many other aspects of their trip are forgotten (well, apart from the bed and breakfast where they stayed of course!).
Victoria offers many gardens open for our pleasure but nowhere else has the impact of “Butcharts”, as the locals call it, or “The Gardens”, as the visitors refer to it (“Butchart” is not the easiest name if you are unsure). For over 100 years the Butchart Gardens have been drawing awed crowds to their varied gardens, now spread over 55 immaculate acres. This all began with one flower-loving couple: Robert Butchart, a wealthy businessman and Jennie his visionary wife. His cement company quarried limestone at Brentwood Bay from 1904 until a large pit remained near the kilns (one kiln chimney remains). Jennie saw its potential so employed horses and carts for years to bring in topsoil and create the structure of what became the Sunken Garden. What a transformation:
Completion of the Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden and the Rose Garden with hundreds of roses brought the crowds. Hospitality ensued, with 18,000 cups of tea being served in 1916. From now on, flower gardens and guest services went hand in hand. A restaurant was added and the gardens spread and matured. In 1964 the 70′ high Ross Fountain was added. Other additions in more recent times have included the Mediterranean Garden and the Rose Carousel. Today 50 gardeners care for the Butchart Gardens although it is rare to see them since they start work very early. They have over 700 varieties of plants to care for and over a million bedding plants are placed every year. The Gardens are fortunate to have their own source of water.
1.2 million annual visitors enjoy so much more than flowers every year. Since 1954 the summer illuminations, mid-June to mid-September, have made it so worthwhile to stay for the evening. Give your feet a rest: there’s fine dining in the elegant Dining Room, or the Blue Poppy Restaurant and the coffee shop. Or find a bench to enjoy a gelato or coffee. Nearby is the Gift and Seed Shop – I’ve always been impressed with their wares and prices. Winter illuminations are quite different – The Magic Of Christmas, and magical it really is. My wife and I never miss them.
Back to the summer … transfer your body weight to your posterior for the early evening and sit on a bench on the lawn for a 90 minute concert. The Butchart Gardens concerts present excellent musicians in July and August; some local, others from afar. Check the schedule on their website (above). Also in July and August, on Saturday nights are their highly regarded Fireworks – bring a sweater, a blanket or pad.
There’s something for everyone at the Butchart Gardens; there really is.