Victoria and the Butchart Gardens have become synonymous in the minds of most people when you mention either one separately. Almost every tourist who visits Victoria will also include the Gardens in their itinerary.The Butchart Gardens are located in Brentwood Bay, a village on the Saanich Peninsula that is part of the city of Greater Victoria on Vancouver Island. They are actually about 20 km south of Victoria City centre. There is ample parking on the grounds outside the Gardens and access is also possible by boat at Todd Inlet.
The Butchart Gardens had an interesting genesis. It was originally a limestone quarry worked by Robert Butchart to supply cement for his pioneer work with Portland Cement. By 1904 he had abandoned one part of the quarry and his wife, Jennie, decided to beautify the exhausted site. Jennie and Robert had built themselves a new home on Todd Inlet they named "Benvenuto", now the name of the road passing in front of the Gardens. She had cartloads of topsoil hauled in from neighboring farms and started with some sweet pea seeds and a single rose bush.
Eventually she committed herself to the gradual horticultural development of what is now known internationally as The Butchart Gardens.They were originally called the Sunken Gardens and today features numerous named areas, such as the Japanese Garden. Begun in 1905, the tranquil Japanese Garden is one of the oldest surviving areas of the estate with many of the original plantings still thriving, including Japanese maples, variegated dogwoods and Tibetan blue poppies. There is also a Begonia Bower and a Rose Garden in lieu of the couple's original large kitchen vegetable patch. An Italian Garden was built in 1929 on the site of the old tennis courts.
Mrs. Butchart's garden quickly gained fame. By the 1920s more than fifty thousand people came each year to see her creations. Their manse became a luxurious showplace with a bowling alley, an indoor salt-water swimming pool, a panelled billiard room and a self-playing Aeolian pipe organ, a wonder in its day.
Today, the residence contains a restaurant in the Dining Room; offices and rooms are still used for personal family entertaining.By 2004, the year of its centenary, it had been fully developed and a series of replantings were begun to renew and revitalize the Gardens. It takes a full-time staff of fifty gardeners, using over one million bedding plants in some 700 different varieties to keep the flowers blooming from March until October.There is always something going on, even in the winter. Starting in the spring, there are hundreds of thousands of blooms from the carefully planted bulbs.
Along with the tulips, there are a host of flowering trees and shrubs to create one of the finest displays in North America and rivals the famed tulip displays in Keukenhof Gardens in Leiden, Holland.The summer brings out the Gardens in their greatest glory, featuring a myriad of differing varieties of flowers. There's music, outdoor entertainment, night illuminations and fireworks every Saturday night. Every evening from June 15 through September 15, one of the largest garden underground wiring installations in North America transforms the Gardens into a glowing wonderland with the thousands of hidden lights.
Autumn brings the Japanese Garden to center stage. The colours peak in mid-October with flaming red and russet maples. There are magnificent arbutus trees, copper beech and 53 varieties of chrysanthemums.
It is truly a sight to behold.In winter, the Gardens are open from December 1 to January 6. There are thousands of colored lights, a "Twelve Nights of Christmas" display and all the tastes and sounds of the Christmas Holidays to welcome you to Christmas at Butcharts.Nowadays, The Butchart Gardens is still a family business and has grown to become a premier West Coast display garden, while maintaining the traditions of its past.
The Butchart Gardens have established an international reputation for their year-round display of flowering plants. Over one million people visit each year, enjoying not only the flora but the entertainment and lighting displays presented each summer and Christmas..Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.
By: Michael Russell