I’ve visited gardens all over the world, but it took me nearly 20 years living in the Pacific Northwest to get around to visiting Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. I finally made it up there a couple years ago, and felt pretty stupid for taking so long.
As the plural in the name implies, it’s not just one big garden, but a collection of themed gardens, and each is amazing. Their rose garden is much more impressive than the test gardens in Portland; their Japanese garden, while too lushly planted to be entirely traditional, is one of the finest I’ve seen in or out of Japan. The primary garden is the reclaimed pit of an old quarry. I spent most of a day there, and could have gone back the next day and spent just as much time again.
What I love best about the gardens, though, is that they rely almost entirely on the most prosaic plant palette. Perhaps the plant selection was fresh and exciting when Jennie Butchart laid out the designs, but almost everything you see is what I call “landlord plants,” those boring plants you can find at any hardware store that landlords use to fill the open spaces around their buildings.
Every single garden at Butchart is exquisite, and it’s entirely due to thoughtful design and impeccable maintenance – things that a home gardener can aspire to regardless of their budget.
I was disappointed when I found out that we don’t have to go to Iceland to see puffins because we have puffins at home, too. But I was tickled to see creeping thyme, the plant I fill cracks in my patio with, growing wild on the shores of a glacier lagoon in Iceland. The exact same plant, so far from home. How far this humble herb has crept.
In a country with no true forest, where volcanic activity has only recently allowed plants to begin to colonize many parts of the country, moss takes on special importance. Perhaps that explains this wall of Reykjavik’s City Hall building, where, on the day I visited, the dripping fibers of the moss had frozen overnight for the first time that fall.
Looking at my own garden, it’s hard to believe I’m supposed to be an expert. I certainly do let life get in the way of the consistency that gardens (like children) require to thrive. But I do have an M.S. in horticulture that has been growing dusty on a bookcase somewhere, and rather than let it go completely to waste, I have begun writing for a website called Dave’s Garden. I’m collecting pdfs of those articles here on the blog on a Stuff I Wrote page. If you have any interest in gardening, maybe you’d like to read some of them. I’ll try to update this page with new articles every month or so.
There were dozens of bunny rabbits hanging out around the community garden on Lopez Island when I camped there last summer. They seemed appropriate to share today.
A fritillary caught me by surprise, and tossed me from where I stood in my front yard on an overcast spring day to a garden in Scotland where I stood on an overcast spring day fifteen years ago. It was the first time I ever saw the curvaceous little flowers with the grid-pattern petals. That’s not quite true. I had seen them in pictures a few days earlier when I toured the Charles Rennie Mackintosh house inside the Hunterian Art Gallery. Continue reading
Just a pretty picture of a Japanese garden. I think it was in Kyoto, but I don’t remember which one.