Jennie Butchart’s husband Robert made a lot of money emptying a limestone quarry. Traveling the world, she collected flowers, trees, and exotic shrubs. The quarry played out by 1909 and Jennie had the great idea of turning the huge, ugly hole into what has become a mind-boggling 55 acre garden.
Resurrected from neglect by Jennie’s grandson Ian in 1946, Butchart celebrated its hundredth birthday in 2004 and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Since Butchart Gardens never stops improving, 5 years later the Rose Carousel started spinning. Even if you don’t like going in circles, see it because the animals are wonderful. My favorite is the cat with what appears to be a rat in its mouth next to the frog.
An adult ticket to enter in summer, 2013 was $30.20. The least expensive upcoming time to visit is January 7 to 14 when the adult price drops to $17.05. Four questions. Why is it rather costly to stroll this garden? It takes 70 gardeners to keep Butchart looking as perfect as a garden can look, and 50 of them are full-time. Does the price prevent people from coming? Absolutely not. About a million people from all over the world come to Butchart Gardens north of Victoria on Vancouver Island every year. It is worth it? Is an American Beauty rose red? Butchart is, without a doubt, a 5 compass attraction. But why would anyone go there in January? Actually it’s one of the best times to visit.
As you enter, you’re give a detailed Flower and Plant Guide that tells you what’s in bloom, Latin and common names, whether a flower is an annual, perennial, etc. Fewer than 20 of the flowers pictured in this guide bloom for just 2 months, and the champ appears to be Corydalis, which flowers from February until October.
If you’re an avid gardener like Ruth but can’t identify something, you have 3 choices. Take a photo of the bloom and show it to a gardener or someone in the Visitor Centre. Find the Plant Identification Centre. Go to the main information counter. A master arranger on the staff collects currently blooming flowers, makes floral arrangements with them, adds name tags, and places them on this counter. You’re likely to match your photo with something in one of these arrangements. Unfortunately, Ruth had to toss her list of plants to buy because, unlike Jennie, she couldn’t take flora across the border.
The only area where flowers tend to be named is the rose garden, a good thing since there are at least 600 varieties. Rose bushes are even marked with country of origin.
In September, the year’s last planting occurs–mums. I only found one thing in the guide that was listed as out in December, Aucuba, a less than dazzling plant with a cluster of ordinary red berries. Christmas lights would, of course, compensate. But January? I asked the lady at the info counter why anyone would visit then and her eyes sparkled. This was her favorite time to be at Butchart. After Christmas carolers leave and the ice skating rink is put away, Spring Prelude happens and 300,000 bulbs get planted. Jennie’s project soon blooms anew.
Butchart Gardens has many special events–fireworks, weddings, etc.–so plan a visit according to your interests. But if you just happen to be in Victoria at any time of the year, don’t hesitate to head for Butchart.