Despite its northern latitude, one of the world’s great gardens sits in what has been called “the mildest climate in Canada,” beckoning with beauty, plant life and history.
In 1904, when Portland cement manufacturer Robert Pim Butchart moved from eastern Canada and put down roots on Vancouver Island, off the west coast, he purchased a tract of waterfront land on Tod Inlet, built a house and began mining clay and limestone—key ingredients in cement production—quite literally, in his own backyard. After exhausting the quarry’s mineral supply, Butchart’s wife, Jennie, set about transforming the depleted site into a garden. She filled the abandoned pit with topsoil from area farms, designed every detail and, in the ensuing years, incorporated a rose garden, an Italian garden and a Japanese garden into to her original creation. The garden became a sanctuary of sorts for the exotic birds Mr. Butchart collected from around the globe: a parrot took up residence in the family home; peacocks roamed the front lawn; ducks glided on Star Pond; and trained pigeons made what is today Begonia Bower their stomping ground. By the 1920s, the property was a well-established regional tourist draw. Today, the 55-acre private garden is famous the world over, attracting some 1 million visitors each year with verdant beauty, floral-scented air and a dazzling range of color thanks to multiple varieties of flowers, shrubs and trees—punctuated by hyacinth and magnolia blooms and ornamental flowering cherry and plum trees. The garden also provides history and wildlife tours along the Vancouver coastline on its eco-friendly boat. butchartgardens.com.
If You Plan to Visit
When Vancouver’s residents need a break from the hubbub of their cosmopolitan city, many of them hop on the high-speed ferry and head 90 minutes west to Vancouver Island. Long a secret of nature enthusiasts and privacy-seeking celebrities, the island was “discovered” by the masses during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. While the island’s eastern end is a remote wilderness paradise, Victoria, British Columbia’s elegant, English-influenced capital—14 miles south of The Butchart Gardens—offers a scaled-down, green slice of urban life across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Seattle. Called the “City of Gardens,” the picturesque town of 300,000 has a lively downtown, vibrant culinary scene, fine examples of historic Tudor architecture, abundant parkland, a number of community gardens and some of the best whale watching in North America. The impressive and historic Victoria Public Market offers local produce, flowers, food and drink year-round.
Learn more: TourismVictoria.com is the official website of Tourism Victoria.
Photos courtesy of The Butchart Gardens, Cruise Victoria, Second Globe, Gazebo Bed and Breakfast, Wikimedia Commons and 1zoom.
In Wanderlust, Shannon Roxborough, Garden Variety’s founding editor-in-chief, introduces GV readers to gardens, arboretums, parkland and other destinations across the U.S and around the world that appeal to gardeners, outdoor lovers and natural foodies.