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.
Yeah, okay, I just toured it. But damn. Wouldn’t it have been nice to be a coal baron in the 1890s?
Most modern homes on this scale disgust me, and know the money that built this one was just as corrupt. I would totally live in Craigdarroch Castle if I could, though. In fact, I have often thought that I would be a really good Lady of the manor.
That time I went to Canada just to see a museum exhibit about Vikings.
When I moved to Seattle, one of the first things everyone said to me was, “Oh, you’ll be so close to Victoria, you can see Butchart Gardens.” But Seattle has plenty of distractions, and I seldom had the time to head up to Canada; when I had the time, I didn’t have the money; when I had time and money it was winter, and before I knew it I had lived in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years and never been to Victoria. When I finally corrected that situation in June, Butchart Gardens was my first priority. Continue reading
After 20 years of living in the Pacific Northwest and saying, “One of these days, I should…” I finally did. I took the clipper to Victoria. We planned a trip the travel industry likes to call a “City Break,” just a couple of days to explore a single city, usually on the weekend, although we went midweek. It was also a bit of a “Girls’ Getaway,” although the girls were my mom and my two daughters instead of a bunch of girlfriends, and instead of hitting malls and spas we aimed for gardens and afternoon tea. But even though my travel plans never seem to conform to industry standards, Victoria managed to exceed expectations. Continue reading