One of my close friends from my early school days used to give everyone in our friend group a flower in a flower pot on the 1st of May. He would just leave it on my porch for me to find, always somehow surprising me year after year from elementary to high school. My own birthday resides in May, the month known for the height of colorful blooms and wonderful things, not that I’m biased or anything.
I remember the first time I was given flowers from a boy I liked, my many walks home from school that consisted of me very literally smelling the roses (or anything else really) while my head was in the clouds, as it has always been.
I still say my favorite city in the USA is Boston because I went when the tulips were in full bloom (yes in May) at the Boston Public Garden. That was also the trip that I discovered my favorite flower in the world is burnt orange tulips. I had never seen something so beautiful in the form of a plant.
All of these memories are just to say that I have a great fondness for flowers and gardens. Sure they may die off, but doesn’t everything? As cheesy as it sounds, flowers are often my reminder that life is delicate and beautiful when I sometimes forget.
With the many experiences I’ve had walking through gardens from around the world, I have never come across one quite so beautiful as The Butchart Gardens that I discovered on Vancouver Island.
You can tell in the way the garden was crafted and how many different blooms are on display, the amount of love and care it must have taken to create something so grand.
The gardens started with Robert and Jennie Butchart, who came over from Ontario in search of rich limestone deposits for cement production. There was a quarry developed in 1904 where The Butchart Gardens now stand in Brentwood Bay. Once the limestone deposits were exhausted; however, Jennie decided to make something of beauty in the old quarry.
Using all manual labor and having none of the luxuries that we have in modern day gardening, she created the Sunken Garden, which still stands as the most popular garden in Butchart today. In fact, there are a ton of proposals that happen in the middle of this garden each year.
From then on, the creativity only bloomed (sorry, I couldn’t resist). From the years of 1906 to 1929 the Butcharts continued to work on three more gardens: Italian, Rose, and the Japanese Garden. Even with all of this initial progress, it wasn’t truly until their grandson, Ian Ross, took over the gardens at the age of 21 that they become what they are today.
He worked on building up the gardens to the best of his ability for 50 years, and you can see that hard work and dedication as soon as you step into Butchart and walk through the intoxicating smell of so many flowers.
The present day Butchart Gardens are a one-of-kind way to spend an afternoon on Vancouver Island. There are on average about 1 million visitors to the gardens each year, outdoor concerts and fireworks during the summer season, boat tours on the outskirts of the gardens, and even a place to enjoy classic tea and lunch in the Butchart’s old residence. I’ve heard Christmastime at the gardens is a sight to behold, when everything is lit up in twinkling lights.
The gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada and I only wish I would have had more time to frolic in the epitome of spring.
Butchart is a short 30-minute drive northwest of Victoria, and if you don’t have a car I would recommend signing up for one of the CVS Bus Tours that take you straight to the gardens through commentary and a scenic drive. It’s where I learned about the layered history of the gardens and Victoria city as a whole, and really, who doesn’t love the view from a double decker bus?
The gardens are open year round with summer being the busiest season, and although it grew slightly more crowded as my day in the gardens went on, I was happy that I was seeing them right before high tourist season in beautiful weather. The one exception was the Rose Garden, which was that only garden I missed out on since the roses weren’t in bloom yet.
Whether you enjoy colorful views, smelling the world like I do, or you’re looking for a classy spot to have a cup of tea outside the city, The Butchart Gardens have a lot to offer. I’m already looking forward to the day I get to go back.
Do you have a favorite garden? Where’s your favorite place to visit on Vancouver Island?
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