Victoria and Vancouver Island: Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens offers many views and perspectives on a huge and magnificent garden.

Butchart Gardens offers many views and perspectives on a huge and magnificent garden.

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with many special gardens and sites, but among the most dramatic are those on Vancouver Island, near Victoria, B.C.  First and foremost is Butchart Gardens.  This 55 acre garden with it’s famous sunken garden built in an old rock quarry is meticulously planted and maintained.  Whereas I often tell clients to plant perennials in multiples (most choose 3 or 5) they plant many in groups of 50 or more. The impact and the color is superb.  Add to that the fact that the temperature and humidity are simply ideal, these plants look amazing.

The gardener or gardener/photographer will want at least 4 hours at the garden.  Ideally, you got in the morning and come back late enough that the lights have been turned on.  There are down-lights on many of the plantings so they illuminate at dusk.  Worth seeing, though I missed it.  The garden is so lovely you won’t feel you missed something if you only see it one way, but there are 2 different “looks” for the garden, as well as different looks for spring, summer and fall.  The many Japanese maples come on fire in the fall foliage display.  I know that even without seeing it in person.  Got to get back there in fall one day.

Abundant color thanks to mass planting. Thousands and thousands of plants live here.

Abundant color thanks to mass planting. Thousands and thousands of plants live here.

In addition to seeing Butchart Gardens, I suggest a water taxi ride in Victoria Harbor.  There are whale tours, but I go to the coast enough I get to see whales from time to time without chasing them.  There are many, many fine restaurants, but we enjoyed Little Jumbo and Sooke Harbor House particularly.  The dinner is the main event at Sooke Harbor House, though we also enjoyed a couple of days there in their lodging.  The lodging find was the Villa Marco Polo, a great B&B.   Expensive, but worth the experience.  Near it you can wander the  gardens of the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion or tour Craigdarroch Castle a short walk away.   The Pennyfarthing Pub was fun near the Marco Polo.  Just saying.  There are so many, many ways to construct a perfect holiday on Vancouver Island…anything will be lovely, only Butchart is a must.

The view from Sooke Harbor House, just a few kilometers from Victoria.

The view from Sooke Harbor House, just a few kilometers from Victoria.Vancouver Island, don’t feel constrained to any one piece.  The only must from my point of  view is Butchart.

I love the natural beauty as well, so we took a day trip to the Cathedral Grove.  This old growth forest is lovely, and on the way there you can stop at the Wall Drug of Vancouver Is., Goats on the Roof in Coombs, BC.   You just have to see that roadside attraction to see how much it is developed.  Gourmet foods offered in abundance in their grocery and lovely produce.  So gardeners, if it has been a decade or more since seeing Butchart Gardens, it is time for another visit to this gardening spectacle.

Inner Harbor in Victoria is lovely in the evening light.

Inner Harbor in Victoria is lovely in the evening light.

Masses of color both annual and perennial amaze at Butchart.

Masses of color both annual and perennial amaze at Butchart.