When Jennie Butchart decided to turn her husband’s limestone quarry into a garden, she had a few things on her side. Obviously, she had money, but she was also able to borrow workers and equipment from the cement plant, the tall chimney of which still rises just beyond the garden. In answer to the question of whether or not a garden admission could possibly be worth $23 (2007)… yes, don’t miss it. It is the one thing that you must see in Victoria.
Our mid-May visit saw a profusion of tulips in every colour imaginable set in the midst of a number of other varieties of annuals and perennials. Near the beginning of the visit, we made our way into the sunken garden, and it is, indeed, sunken…in the deepest part of the quarry. The quarry walls that were once a hardscape of stone were softened by Mrs. Butchart who planted them with ivy. Now, the green walls are broken only by a small cascade of water. The area is filled with rock features, one of which is a mound covered in plantings that almost obscure the stairway to the top. From that vantage point, you can overlook a large pond and much of the former quarry floor. We learn that Mr. Butchart once stocked a second pond with trout that would rise to feed when he clapped his hands. Beyond that is another vista and yet another pond which houses the beautiful Ross fountain.
Every turn in the walkway opens up a new scene, whether it is a sculpted plant or a massive redwood rising out of swaths of purple, red, and green. For the rose lover there is a larger rose garden with countless varieties, each of which has a small plaque containing the name of the rose and the country and date of its conception. May was too early…we would love to return just to see them in bloom.
From the rose garden we passed into Mrs. Butchart’s first formal garden, the Japanese Garden which can be entered through a torii gate. You can expect understated beauty, winding paths, water features, and stands of bamboo built into a gentle hillside leading down to a small cove where the Butcharts once kept their boat. Once through that garden, we passed the Star fountain and enter the Italian garden… a pleasant, classical place to sit and perhaps have a gelato.
End, or start, your day in the plant identification centre (Take a picture of that mysterious plant with your digital camera and they will be able to identify it for you.), one of the restaurants or in the large, well-stocked, up-scale gift shop. Regardless…no description of Butchart Gardens can truly do them justice; they simply must be seen.