Love gardens? The Butchart Gardens needs to be on your bucket list.
Starting with a few sweet-pea seeds and a rose - given to a young woman with no gardening experience - add a large hole in the ground, dug by her limestone and clay digging husband, and the world is bequeathed a place of beauty.
This horticultural adventure started in the early 1900’s when Robert Butchart established a cement plant in a small cove on Tod Inlet, Vancouver Island, Canada. This, coupled with his wife Jennys’ love of colour (she was an accomplished painter) and dislike of the ugly holes left behind by the mining, a series of gardens began to surround the family home. Japanese, sunken gardens were among the first and before long their fame spread and by 1915 some 18,000 visitors were arriving to see this work of art.
An Italian garden, a rose garden and some 500 flowering cherry trees were added along with a salt water swimming pool and a bowling alley. This was life on a grand scale and is owned by the family and still they plant.
Other features include wonderful statues that are dotted around the grounds and many fountains, including the Ross Fountains which were added for the gardens 60th anniversary. Reaching a height of some 30 metres, the sequence of the display is random and this lack of synchronisation means the patterns may take hours to repeat.
The gardens are on display all year and whether you visit in the wonderful winter or the full flush of summer the garden will impress. It even is open in the evening when the garden takes on a magical appearance. The many displays are shown to great advantage under lights, and reflections colour and form mean plants, that may have been hardly noticed during the day visit are valued under the different conditions.
Vancouver Island is well worth a visit for many of it’s features, but this must be at the top of your list.
Note: I visited the gardens in 1990 and this article was written for a Christchurch newspaper in the early 2000's