Canada’s Butchart Gardens celebrates 100 years
May 1, 2012
I just returned from a trip to Washington near the Canadian border. While there, I made the trip to Victoria, British Columbia to visit the world-renowned Butchart Gardens. The Garden covers over 55 acres of a 130-acre estate. It began from an idea Mrs. Butchart had to beautify the worked-out limestone quarry, which had supplied her husband’s nearby Portland cement plant.
The Garden has rare and exotic shrubs, trees and flowers; many collected by the Butcharts on their world travels. There are theme gardens including the “Sunken,” “Japanese,” “Rose,” “Italian” and “Mediterranean.” By the 1920s, more than 50,000 people visited the Garden each year. Now it is visited by close to 1 million people each year. The Garden is still owned and operated by the family, with over 500 staff to run it, including a staff of 200 gardeners. They recently celebrated their 100th anniversary.
Tulips, daffodils and hyacinth in gorgeous displays of coordinated color were the highlight at this time of year. As I walked through the Garden, the intoxicating scent of the hyacinth filled the air. The “Sunken” garden presents an amazing view of paths winding through beds of flowers, verdant lawns and blooming tulip and cherry trees. The Ross Fountain, installed in 1964 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Garden, sends dancing plumes of water 70 feet into the air providing a lovely display by day or night.
As I entered the “Japanese” garden through a beautiful red lacquered gate, I felt an instant sense of tranquility. This garden is known for its Himalayan blue poppies, which, unfortunately for me, were not out yet. The “Italian” garden is a more formal floral area with a fountain depicting a child holding a fish. This area had been the tennis court before 1926. There is even a drought tolerant demonstration in the “Mediterranean” garden. I was surprised to see many of the plants we grow here.
In summer, the Garden is known for spectacular fireworks displays, outstanding roses and much more. In winter, it becomes a winter wonderland, fully decorated to celebrate the holidays, including an ice skating rink. Each season has something to celebrate. I have never seen a better-tended garden and the floral displays are magnificent.
The Garden is open every day of the year. It requires planning to get there by ferry, but the reward of seeing hundreds of thousands of flowering bulbs, shrubs and trees, bursting forth in stunning colors, is worth the effort.