I chose to come to Vancouver Island because I wanted to visit Butchart Gardens when the flowering plants were in their spring glory, so I ignore the swollen gray skies, say goodbye to Lane (he plans a day filled with museums, art galleries, and bookstores) and head north in hopes of arriving at the garden shortly after it opens for the day.It is a pleasant enough drive, a straight shot out of the city from our hotel (well, mostly straight) and then a pleasant journey through a rural agricultural area.
The 55-acre Butchart Gardens began 100 years ago as a family garden in a worked-out limestone quarry. It is an example of the amazing things one can do with a some vision, a lot of money, and the labor of others. The owner of the quarry, Robert Butchart, had become rich in the cement business and lived on this property with his wife, Jennie. Over the years the Butcharts expanded their gardens with plants collected from their travels around the world, using the worker’s from Robert’s cement plant to fill the beds designed by well-known landscape designers and horticulturists. The results are stunning.
I start my tour of the gardens at the words “start here” on the map.
Since I have all the time I want, I may as well just amble along the marked path, which will lead me through the entire garden.
I am immediately confronted by a big pile of rhododendrons. It is clearly still the season for them here. This seems like a very good sign indeed.
Then there is an arbor hung thick with cheerful fuchsias.
I am not completely alone at the Sunken Garden overlook, but the scene is peaceful and oh-so-lovely.
Down in the garden itself, every spot seems to frame a section of the garden, highlighting individual plants and framed scenes.
At the end of the Sunken Garden, the Ross Fountain dances, shooting water 70 feet into the air. Usually I’m not into that kind of thing, but somehow it seems right here. (I don’t think I’d like it at night when it displays colored lights. Somehow that seems particularly tacky . . . )
There isn’t a lot to see up by the Concert Lawn and Stage except for a couple of poles.
Beyond that, however, is another small building that is enveloped by cheerful cottage garden which then morphs into a sunny garden that weaves through a wooded area. It is a mix of contrasts, with lots and lots of lovely things tucked away inside.
From the sunny border plantings there is a clear view across to what was the family home, back when this was a private garden.
What a garden!
The Rose Garden is bordered with mixed perennials and still more perennials are interwoven in with the roses themselves.
While it is still a bit early for roses, the irises and delphiniums are particularly beautiful right now. Both are plants I love, but have had limited luck growing. My mother grows both without much thought and I think of her as a wonder through the blue and purple spires.
From the Rose Garden, the path leads on to the Japanese Garden, which is a mix of flowers and more traditional, restrained greenery.
It is mostly dark, quiet, and serene here (despite the increasing number of people with whom I am forced to share these gardens), but waves of flowers brighten the scene with brilliant color. Amid those flowers are the plants I am most eager to see here: The Himalayan blue poppies. I know of these poppies because Mark out in California sent me a picture of them that he had taken here. Since then, I have wanted to come here to see them myself. Now I am here and the poppies are in bloom!!
I am so lucky!
The view from the Japanese Garden also includes a peek through the greenery to the boats at anchor in Tod Inlet.
The garden is busier now, but it is about lunch time and my tour is coming to an end as I reach the Italian Garden.
I eat a lovely, leisurely lunch in the Dining Room Restaurant, located in the dining room (and other areas) of the house that had been home to the Butchart’s.
Outside is a lovely private garden, still locked away from the public, as if reserved for Jennie alone.
A tour and a few purchases in the gift shop, a glance into the green house, a parting shot of the mums that line the walkway, and then it is back to my car and off to the next stop on my personal garden tour.