When you think of Victoria, BC, you think of flowers. Flowers everywhere.
So naturally, Victoria also has a pretty famous garden: The Butchart Gardens. I didn’t do much research on visiting the world famous botanical Butchart Gardens before hand because, like, it’s a garden with a bunch of plants. How much do I need to know about it? We left our Airbnb in downtown Victoria around 3:30pm on a Monday afternoon and we were worried we would get stuck in rush hour traffic.
It wasn’t bad at all. If anyone is from Victoria, is that normal? It didn’t seem like there were any more cars on the freeway than on Sunday. Anyways, it was about a 30 minute drive. You have to take a pretty scary left turn off the freeway/high speed street (they should really put a light there).
Guess how much the tickets to the garden were. Go ahead, take a guess.
It was $34 after tax! $34 FOR SOME FLOWERS. It was a little unexpected, but we were in too deep to back out. The parking is sectioned into little animals, and we parked in the crab section. That sentence of information was totally unnecessary, sorry.
ANYWAYS, after you sneak a peak of the overly crowed BUTCHART GARDENS sign, the path through the gardens begins.
From the entrance, you get bombarded with flowers. Be wary if you’re allergic to bees.
The history of the gardens starts with a man by the name of Robert Pim Butchart, a pioneer in the thriving North American cement industry. Glamorous, right? Canada’s west coast was rich with limestone deposits, so in 1904 he constructed a quarry and built a cement plant that would service the high cement demands from San Francisco all the way up to Vancouver Island. His wife, Jennie Butchart became the company’s chemist.
Shoutout to all my women scientists out there!
Of course, limestone can’t last forever. As the deposits grew scarce, the ever resourceful Jennie came up with the idea to transform the abandoned quarry into a beautiful garden.
We followed the shaded path through a little tunnel, leaving the first flower overpass into something that could have come straight out of the Bridge to Terabithia.
It led to the Sunken Gardens, the most recognizable part of the gardens. At least, that’s what the pamphlet said.
The Sunken Gardens was the first section the Butcharts created. As Jennie Butchart became the brains and artistic talent behind the gardens, the husband collected ornamental birds and birdhouses from around the world to put in the gardens. Such a cute hobby.
And that concluded the shaded part of the journey. Once you walk down the stairs, you’re completely exposed to the elements. The flowers aren’t in your face here, so you can breathe without a bee getting sucked up your nose, but still vibrant.
It was literally the hottest place on Earth. Make sure to bring water to stay hydrated. The sunken garden is basically a big oval, with a hill in the middle, a giant fountain at the far end, and a lily pad off to the side.
This was probably my favorite little cove in the gardens, mostly because it was shaded. Fun fact about me, Willow trees are my favorite trees! They’re just so peaceful, yanno?
We rounded the Sunken Garden. After a quick pit stop at the fountain, and in the middle was a tall hill, aptly named The Mound. So, of course, we had to climb it. Unfortunately it was all in the sun. There is a flight of steps up you need to take to get to the top. I had pictures buuuutttt….I kinda flashed the camera in every shot, so I’ll just let you imagine that there are about 25 steps up.
Notice how I retreated into the shade, hahah. This is a good time to point out that all areas of the Butchart Gardens are accessible by wheelchair EXCEPT the mound and the wharf. They also have free wheelchairs for rent ($10 refundable deposit) available on a first come basis.
Once you leave the sunken gardens, you pass through a heavily treed area, with deer statues and typical #pnw feels before opening back up to a sitting area. It is right next to the restrooms, so it’s a good place to for a quick break. In the same area is the snack shack and a carousel for the kids. There’s also a golden carousel horse statue, but I only got to take a couple shots before some kid escaped the grasp of their parents and climbed on top of the horse with me. Kids have no manners.
There are a few huge fields, which hold the summer concerts and fireworks. The Butcharts gave the garden to their grandson Ian Ross on his 21st birthday. Ian transformed his grandmother’s garden into a self-sustaining internationally famous tourist destination with outdoor symphony concerts and stage shows.
All I got for my 21st birthday was an hour long argument, lots of ugly-crying, and showing up still drunk to Spanish class the next day for my final.
We went through a short – SUPER SHORT – Chinese section of the garden which was basically just a dragon statue and…maybe like 1 tree.
The path led us through some Sequoia trees and opened up to the MOST crowded part of the garden: The Rose Gardens. It was beautiful, but it was almost difficult to enjoy the flowers with the sun BURNING MY SKIN CELLS OFF and elbows bumping into me left and right. Nevermind trying to take a good picture. If you want really nice pictures, you’re either going to have to A) BE THE MOST OBNOXIOUS PERSON AND HOLD UP TRAFFIC (probably won’t work anyway), B) edit everyone else out of your pictures, C) the easiest method, use your giant head to block people. Finally my big head came in handy.
After the rose gardens, you enter the Japanese gardens. The beginning of the Japanese segment of the gardens didn’t impress me. It had the standard bamboo lined walkway with a few lanterns that would look a lot better after the sun set I’m sure. Towards the end it didn’t feel like a cookie cutter Japanese garden anymore and had a few cool bits here and there.
The Japanese section and the following Italian section were the second segments added to the Gardens. The Japanese garden lines the sea, and even houses a wharf where a few boats were sleepily floating on the docks. They have boat tours that head out on the water, but I didn’t. *emoji shrug* It was the second most crowded part of the garden and there was a weird little girl spitting into the koi pond, so we didn’t stick around but it was pretty.
The last segment of the gardens was the Italian Gardens, and honestly, it was kind of just a bunch of flower beds in the middle of a square with an ice cream parlor. Real cute tho.
There is one last surviving piece of the original cement factory, a tall chimney that can still be seen from the Sunken Garden lookout. Although the cement plant stopped manufacturing in 1916, it continued to make drain tiles and flower pots until 1950. Some of the original flowering cherry trees are also still there.
There were a couple of signature books towards the exit, but of course none of the pens worked. Literally EVERY pen was out of ink. Along the walls of the exit they had the most beautiful greenhouse (you can’t go in, but you can open the window and peak in) with all the tropical plants.
We checked out the gift shop and it was a lot better than I expected! They had packets of every (or almost every) flower in the garden, and on the back of the packets were instructions on how to grow it. Along with a ton of flowers, they also had the typical souvenir knick knack magnets, cups, pens, calendars, and whatnot. They also had tea pots, food (coffee, tea, truffles, smoked salmon, and LOTS of maple flavored things, eh), and items from local artisans. If you’re buying flowers, the garden is nice enough to list which seeds you can and cannot bring back to your home country. #customs
Each year, a million plants of hundreds of varieties with a million annual people visiting to witness the uninterrupted bloom from March to October. I’m glad to have been on of the million. Ultimately….I don’t regret visiting, even with the $34 ticket price, especially after learning more about the garden’s awesome green initiatives.
For example, all the water and irrigation is self-sufficient and they also collect and recycle water run off from the parking lot and the different water features in the garden.
They use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to help control pests in environmentally sound ways. “This process involves the use of cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical controls to manage pest problems preventatively. One cultural control involves properly spacing plants to allow good airflow and sufficient light. Mechanical controls include hand weeding and the removal of plants which are chronically plagued by pest or disease problems.
Biological controls use natural enemies to control pests and diseases (e.g. Aphidoletes are used to control aphid populations). One product we have been using over the past few years has been a “compost tea”. The tea has been very positive for helping to suppress plant disease as well as improving the health of our soils.” – from their website. I was too lazy to write it in my own words. They also perform regular soil testing to ensure optimal plant and soil health. All the metal and wire in the garden is recycled, the gift store bags are 100% biodegradable, and even their cleaning products are reusable and biodegradable. Go green Butchart, go green.
I unfortunately didn’t get to experience the gardens at night, or any of the exciting activities, but I still had a lovely time. Victoria has turned me into a person that says lovely. Have you ever been to the Butchart Gardens? What did you think of it?
Definitely check out The Butchart Gardens website for more information!