THE BUTCHART GARDENS |
VANCOUVER by Norma Poindexter
Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada continuously throws breathtakingly beautiful view after view at you, starting with your ferry journey from Vancouver through the Gulf Islands and Active Pass on the way to the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel located on the picturesque Inner Harbor in downtown Victoria, the parliamentary head of Vancouver. With another scenic short jaunt by car or shuttle, we arrived at Butchart Gardens, the most beautiful gardens in Canada, with 55 acres of beautifully designed flower beds, dramatic landscapes, lily ponds, fountains and foot bridges.
Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004 and granted a customized Coat of Arms, Butchart Gardens’ gorgeous display of garden designs, year-round upkeep and seasonal events immediately transports you to complete calm and awe with the intricate planning and sheer variety of dazzling flowers, bronze statues, and fountains from all over the world. The Butchart family, from Ontario, Canada, began this wonderous botanical feature over 120 years ago after they established their home and cement factory on the Tod Inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. Jennie Butchart initially commissioned wildly popular Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama, Japan to convert an old limestone quarry and part of their estate into the first garden in 1907, The Sunken Garden. Then they turned their tennis courts into the stunning Italian Garden in 1929 and installed a large magnificent Rose Garden, designed by Butler Sturtevant of Seattle. The Butcharts gifted the gardens to their grandson, Ian Ross in 1939 on his 21 st birthday, who stewarded the gardens’ management and development through 1997, when the Butchart family took over the ownership, vigilance and growth to this day.
Further adding to the floral enchantment of Butchart Gardens and making it a “not miss” visit, the original Mr. Butchart’s fascination with beautiful birds led to a coveted collection of unique birds from around the world, along with a delightful Butterfly Garden. The recently-added Menagerie and Children’s Pavilion joins the commissioned Rose Carousel, with 30 different animals lovingly carved from basswood. You’ll see stunning, carved First Nation Totem Poles commemorating the first inhabitants, and gorgeous fountains shooting water into the sky around bronze statues collected from Mr. Butchart’s worldwide voyages. In the summer, fireworks light up the night, and local entertainment brings evening music to the illuminated gardens, with special holiday displays in the winter, complete with an ice- skating rink. An electronically powered boat, the Jennie B., navigates the local coastline in the summer to build an appreciation of the aquatic plants and animals surrounding Butchart Gardens. You can even indulge in high tea at the café, and pick up packets of hand-picked heritage flower seeds to start your own Butchart Gardens.
All of this extraordinary beauty is supported by a friendly, fastidious staff who upkeep the gardens year- round and supplement the gardens with Hot-House plants for a glorious effect even in the fall and winter. The Butchart Gardens’ magnificent views, colorful flowers and lush coastal forests stay imprinted in your memories of Victoria for a lifetime, along with a peace brought by their breathtaking beauty.