Butchart Gardens near Victoria BC is, without a doubt, one of the finest botanical gardens in the world, and is consistently ranked as one of the city’s top attractions, even being honoured with an exhibit in its name at Florida’s Epcot Centre. Whether you plan to visit the gardens for only a few hours, or if you intend to spend an entire day or two taking in the flowers and foliage, you are certain to come away feeling relaxed, and refreshed.
Butchart Gardens History and Highlights
Built over several decades by Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie, who established their home near the family’s quarry on Tod Inlet, the gardens began in 1907 with a Japanese Tea Garden originally designed by Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama. When the quarry was exhausted in 1909, Jennie Butchart began transforming it to the Sunken Garden, which was finally completed in 1921, seven years after the gardens officially opened to the public in 1914. In 1929, the mansion’s tennis courts were replaced with an Italian garden, and in 1929, the home’s kitchen garden was eliminated in favour of the famous rose garden designed by Butler Sturtevant of Seattle. During daylight hours, birds and butterflies add to the gardens’ sights and scents to completely fill the senses with delight.
The gardens are splendid by night as well, with bronze statuary, fountains, and other features being lit courtesy of miles of underground wiring which was originally laid in 1953 to mark the site’s 50th anniversary. For the gardens’ 60th anniversary, the splendid Ross Fountain, with its ever-changing display, was added to the lower reservoir. The Canadian Heraldic Authority granted Butchart Gardens its own coat of arms in 1994, and ten years later, on the gardens’ 100th anniversary, two 30 foot totem poles were erected and the attraction was designated a Canadian National Historic Site.
Incredibly, the Butchart family still owns and operates the gardens today. People of all ages and all nationalities enjoy visiting, not only for the historic ambience and botanical marvels, but for some newer attractions as well. In December of 2009, the Rose Carousel and the Children’s Pavilion were opened; the carousel features an entire menagerie of animals, including bears, big cats, horses, zebras, and ostriches, all hand-carved from basswood the old-fashioned way. Those not capable of riding on one of the animals can ride in one of the two chariots on the carousel. The pavilion is open all year, and is available for party rentals, wedding receptions, and more.
During the days when garden parties and symphonies were an important part of home entertaining, Mr. and Mrs. Butchart would hold weekly concerts in the gardens. Today, during the months of July and August, musicians of all sorts entertain guests in the gardens; some of the staff have even formed a band called the Weeds, who play on some occasions. On Saturday evenings during the summer, fireworks shows with musical accompaniment take centre stage. During the Winter holidays, assorted area entertainers provide entertainment, as guests enjoy skating on the rink in Waterwheel Square and enjoying the many lights and seasonal decorations that add to the gardens’ winter splendour.
Butchart Gardens offers seasonal passes and online advance tickets. Parking is free, and tours are available, as are dining opportunities and a gift shop that offers wonderful souvenirs and which even sells seeds for those home gardeners wishing to bring a piece of the gardens home with them. Open year-round, Butchart Gardens is located on Vancouver Island, at 800 Benvenuto Avenue, in Brentwood Bay. The site is 23 kilometres north of Victoria, and 20 kilometres south of the Victoria–Vancouver ferry terminal at Swartz Bay.