Red arrows on our guide show the recommended route. The Begonia Bower, our first "stop" on this self-guided tour of Butchart Gardens, used to be an aviary for caged birds and ornamental fowl. Sun backlights through brilliantly colored begonias and fuchsias, causing shutterbugs to snap away in ecstasy. Glancing right, the Piazza is a hub of activity, with little ones climbing on bronze ponies and Tacca the bronze boar, in front of the old Butchart residence.
Around a bend we find ourselves on the brink of the Sunken Garden. It’s awe-inspiring enough to warrant a sharp intake of breath at the sight of all that perfectly groomed color below—flowerbeds, bushes, lawn and trees bisected by neat walkways. These lead to Quarry Lake, a large pond. The demure Nude Girl statue presiding over the west side of the garden is constructed of Portland cement, as are stone-looking paths and wood-looking handrails.
Descending into the garden, beds of petunias in shades of purple, red salvia splendens, and striking tubular white nicotiana sylvestris alternate with yellow fremontodendrons. One remaining cement stack looms half-hidden behind trees. A rusted ore bucket and cable remind us of this garden’s "roots."
Around the bend, Ross Fountain comes into view below. Created by grandson Ian Ross in 1964, this moving fountain shoots jets of water from floating platform, causing the display to constantly change. Exquisite, brightly colored dahlias lining the pathway draw the eyes away from the fountain momentarily.
The soda fountain beyond, serving ice cream and beverages is extremely welcome; strawberry-kiwi bar for me, ice-cream cone for Bob. Past bog garden we turn towards newly carved Salishan-style totem poles. The 30-foot poles created by First Nations master carvers, were erected last year, celebrating Butchart Garden’s 100th anniversary.
At the nursery overlook, rows upon rows of baby plants grown for the gardens. More incredible dahlias in riotous solid and variegated colors line the curvaceous pathway to the Rose Garden.
Armies of rose bushes (more than 6,000), their blooms a bit past prime, surround hedged circular lawn. Tree-roses entwine a long arbor.
In front of the Japanese Garden, we pause to admire glistening bronze sturgeons forever encircling a fountain, an enlargement of a casting by sculptor Sirio Tofanari. Across the lawn, people are seen enjoying afternoon tea on the porch at Benvenuto.
Stepping underneath the red tori gate, we’re in the calm quiet of the Japanese Garden. Small ponds and streams run through it, crossed by stepping-stones or arched bridges. Maple leaves are barely beginning to turn red. On the far side of the garden lies sheltered Butchart Cove, in Brentwood Bay. Peek through a window in the thick hedge, or walk a short distance out to the cove, where boats lie anchored.
Steps lead up to Benvenuto via a unique twelve-pointed star pond, with white latticed "duck house" on one side. Formal Italian Gardens surround a cross-shaped pond, and are decorated by statues. Here you can buy gelato at Gelateria Benvenuto.
Gardens are largely handicap accessible.