Located on Vancouver Island, The Butchart Gardens is 14 miles north of Victoria. First check out the website, make a loose plan of what to see and purchase tickets online, all of which saves time. There is a cool interactive image gallery which gives a taste of what you might see. We especially liked Flickriver which allows an examination of hundreds of photos quickly in one seamless ‘river of photos.’ We also printed off the website map ahead of time, but you can pick up lots of literature at their Visitor Centre where the tour begins. While there, make a reservation for Afternoon Tea in the dining room as they fill up fast, especially when accommodating large tour groups.

First, some background. The Butchart Gardens is one of the world’s premier floral show gardens and is a National Historic Site. Jennie Butchart began to shape this landscape in 1904 in the style of the grand estates of the period. The on-site abandoned limestone quarry was transformed into the spectacular Sunken Garden, an unparalleled achievement in Canadian gardening history and our favorite part of The Gardens. The public area of The Butchart Gardens covers 55 acres with much more “off stage.” Twenty-six greenhouses covering almost two acres, along with trial growing areas, a plant tree and shrub nursery help keep The Gardens in prime viewing condition.  

In the morning we enjoyed a rain-free walk through the gardens. The early bloomers burst out of the green landscape in an overload of mind-boggling gaudy color – Bellis, Erythronium, Euphorbia, Fritillaria, Helleborus, Hyacinths, Muscari, Narcissus, Camellia, Rhododendron, Prunus and much much more. It’s almost too much to take in. It would be wise to come back often – and seasonally – to savor so much beauty in one place.

A light rain began just before our scheduled Afternoon Tea in the Dining Room Restaurant – traditional English savouries and sweets. My partner chose the 100% Anniversary (light black tea blend of Darjeeling, black Hunan and gunpowder) and my choice was the Mixed Greens (20% gunpowder and 80% pan-fired green tea). It was hard to choose favorites, but we decided the berry trifle, lemon tartlet, roasted vegetable and cheese quiche, cucumber tea sandwiches and, of course, scones were sublime high points. Clear plastic umbrellas are located in many areas about The Gardens for onsite use, so while savoring our tea indoors, we gazed out at groups of umbrellas-with-feet parading past in the rain, twisting and turning along the garden paths like an elongated caterpillar.

The rain stopped, so sated with savouries and sweets, we continued our garden tour. Another standout is the Japanese Garden with its serene esthetic. More favorites were the giant redwood and cedar trees. While we played, we passed gardeners hard at work digging, planting and pruning – fortunate, we think, to labor in this idyllic place. You can also take a 45-minute eco-friendly electric boat tour on the 12-passenger “Jennie B” to explore the history and wildlife of Tod Inlet and the local waters of Brentwood Bay. Remember, rates are in Canadian dollars and are subject to 12% HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). Armchair travelers can take the Virtual Tour at no charge!