The Butchart Chronicles : March 18, 2016

The Garden Notebook - Spring 2016

Sping at The Butchart Gardens

I never quite know the direction that each newsletter will take until I actually sit down and start writing. So many factors can affect where I go with the article, but for some reason one of the biggest factors always seems to be what’s happening with the weather outside! The topic of water keeps seeping into my thoughts as this precious resource is on our minds now more than ever and it seems to permeate most discussions related to the garden – especially after the drought  we experienced last summer. However, our water issues don’t excite most people or draw people in, so I’ll try to write about something a little more enticing!

Back to the weather….our spring weather can be unpredictable – actually, who am I trying to kid - it is unpredictable, period! Nevertheless, whether or not the sun is shining, there is nothing more awe-inspiring than being out in the garden at this time of year, drinking in the amazing beauty surrounding us.     

Curiously enough, I find spring is probably the most difficult time of the year to write about when considering our garden. This may seem a little ironic as even though I find it to be the most exciting time of the year, even the most beautiful. It’s really like trying to hit a moving target because the garden truly is in a state of flux. A bit of a diversion here, but it’s funny how sometimes the use of a word in a sentence will cause you to pause and think. Up until now I never paid any attention to the true meaning of the word ‘flux’ or where it originated. For interest sake I checked it out and found that ‘flux’ originated from the Latin fluere (to flow) or fluxus (a flow). This ties in nicely to the underlying theme of this article and for the basic fact that there is a continuous outpouring of incredible beauty that flows throughout the spring season.   

This is the time of year when you can truly experience the feeling of being completely immersed in colour as the magnificent floral display radiates around you. The graceful beauty of Cherry and Crabapple blossoms form billowing clouds of colour above you and along with a multitude of flowering shrubs, provide a spectacular setting for the splendid panorama of colourful bulbs and biennials which flood the landscape. Waves of colour roll through the landscape in dazzling combinations whose limits are only bound by our imaginations. Typically the tide of spring colour peaks somewhere between the middle of April and early May, but there are many factors that can influence the display, so please check our blog regularly to get a weekly update of where things are at.     

Japanese Garden looking toward the Butchart residence
Somewhat less dramatic, but equally important are the on-going gardening tasks that are taking place as you are being swept away in the beauty of it all. Testing our soils and making amendments to provide optimum growing conditions for our plants is on-going throughout this season. Pruning takes place throughout the year, but spring time is the time that the Roses and Hydrangeas get a thorough pruning. Lawn renovations such as power raking (de-thatching), aerating, top-dressing with sand and compost and over seeding are also performed in the spring before the deluge of summer visitors arrive. Changes and adjustments will be made to our irrigation systems as they will be fine-tuned to prepare us for the summer - our goal this year is to reduce our irrigation water use by at least 10 percent. We have never taken water for granted as water is our life blood and without it we couldn’t exist – no water, no garden – it’s as simple as that.   

Moving inside - what most visitors never realize is the fact that we produce the vast majority of all of the plants used in our displays in our very own greenhouses. During this season, production in our greenhouses is at its busiest, with the continuous ebb and flow of plants pouring in and out of greenhouses as they move through the various stages of their growth. This process requires a great deal of organization, planning and (most of all!) patience. Our greenhouse staff are also responsible for the production of hundreds of awe-inspiring hanging baskets which cascade with colour as well as an exquisite collection of fabulous container plantings. We are extremely proud of our staff and I have to say that they produce some of the finest hanging baskets and container plantings that can be found anywhere in the world.
We move forward into this season with the sense of promise and renewed hope. The rains have come and filled our reservoirs and moisture has been restored deep into the ground and we, as well as the garden, breathe a sigh of relief. We welcome you to come and visit during this truly spectacular time of year and hope that you will leave feeling renewed, refreshed and inspired.  

- Rick Los, director of horticulture

Spring containers