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Canada’s famous Butchart Gardens

Gardenworld Nursery staff member Sue Webster talks about her recent visit to these famous gardens:

Located twenty kilometres north of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Colombia, are the world famous Butchart Gardens.

Robert and Jennie Butchart were pioneers in the cement industry and in 1904 purchased the site for a quarry and cement plant. As the limestone deposits were exhausted, Jennie created something of beauty by bringing in tonnes of top soil to line the floor of the abandoned quarry. Little by little it blossomed into the spectacular Sunken Garden (see above). It was finally completed in 1921.

Between 1906 and 1929, the Butchart’s created an Italian Garden (see above), a Japanese Garden (see below) and the beautiful Rose Garden. By the 1920s, more than fifty thousand people visited the gardens each year.


The Butchart’s gave the gardens to their grandson, Ian Ross, for his 21st birthday in 1939 and for the next fifty years he was completely involved in their operation and development. In 1954 he introduced the Night Illuminations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the gardens. In 1978 Ian’s son, Christopher, started the spectacular firework shows and after Ian’s death in 1997, the gardens were transferred to Christopher. When Christopher passed away, the management was assumed by his sister, Robin. Still under family ownership, the Butchart Gardens are open to the public every day of the year.


During the summer nights, the gardens are illuminated and have a fantastic display of fireworks set to music each week. The Rose Garden is overflowing with lush colours and scents. The summer annuals and perennials are in full flower making a magnificent display along the walkways.

In early autumn, the diverse collection of some 300 varieties of dahlias come alive and the colours are most spectacular. At this time, the magic of the Japanese Garden appears with the vibrant colours of the Japanese maples as they change colour and begin to lose their leaves. It is at this time that 300,000 bulbs are planted for spring flowering.

During the winter months of December and January, the gardens have a popular Christmas lights display. As the gardens settle for the winter, thousands of pointsettias are moved from the greenhouse to enhance the Christmas décor throughout all indoor facilities.

Spring brings everything from blossoming trees to tulips and everything in between and the 300,000 bulbs emerge in a carefully orchestrated symphony of colour. The eighty full time gardens are at their busiest throughout the gardens.

Each year over 1,000,000 bedding plants in some 900 varieties give uninterrupted bloom from March to October. Over a million people visit annually for spring’s colourful flowering bulbs, summer’s riot of colour, entertainment and fireworks, autumn’s colours of russets and golds, the magic of Christmas decorations and winter’s peacefulness. On the 100th year anniversary in 2004, the gardens were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Tourist Association and were also designated a National Historic Site recognizing their importance to the development of horticulture in Canada.

 This is a must see for any visitor to the west coast of Canada.

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