The Butchart Chronicles : March 24, 2017

Garden Notebook Spring 2017

Garden Notebook – Spring 2017

Written by Rick Los, Director of Horticulture


There has never been a year where we have so eagerly anticipated the arrival of spring in our garden. With all the talk of global warming we were expecting and planning for another early spring, but in a humbling change of events, Mother Nature decided to cool our region off significantly during the past few months. That being what it was, the garden itself did not suffer any unexpected physical damage. However, in comparison to last year, our floral calendar is almost a full month behind and because of this we are anticipating one of the most dynamic spring seasons ever.     

I personally like to think that the delay of the spring display is a blessing in disguise as once the weather warms up the garden should literally erupt with a magnificent explosion of colour. Nature has never set any boundaries as to what colours can and should bloom together so we won’t make any excuses if our carefully planned colour schemes don’t quite harmonize as we feel they should.


You may be wondering how we actually plan our spring bulb display, so here are a few basic guidelines that we use every year. Typically the first bulbs to emerge out of the ground are the Snowdrops (Galanthus) which are quickly followed by Scilla, Crocus, Muscari and Chionodoxa – there are many others, but these are the main varieties. These bulbs are all primarily used for naturalizing so some see them as playing a secondary role in the overall display. The earliest Daffodils are the next to arrive and we mix these into many of our borders to provide colour before the Tulips appear. The earliest of the Tulips can be found in pockets throughout the garden followed by Hyacinths and these are also typically planted along with Tulips to provide our first sequence of colour. Among the groups of Tulips, Daffodils and even the Hyacinths, certain varieties will bloom at different times throughout the spring. We do our best to arrange the hundreds of varieties we use so that we have a continual flow of endless colour throughout the garden. Our goal is to have the colours blending harmoniously together in the sweeping borders as well as with the surrounding landscape. All of our display borders are under-planted with biennials, which bloom according to their own timing with a range of individual colours that are also critical for the overall presentation.  I like to think of our spring garden as a symphony of colour with various movements coming together to form a remarkably brilliant composition. However, as much as we feel that we are the conductors of this orchestra, there is a greater power who is waving the baton and determining the tempo of each piece!    


Whatever the final outcome, this truly is the most exciting time in the garden as each day brings new life and a vibrancy that simply isn’t as tangible at any other time of the year. There is no other season when you can feel completely immersed in colour as every layer of the landscape – from the flowing borders to the cascading canopies of the trees  participate in the magnificent floral display that surrounds you.


While this is taking place in the garden, the greenhouses are a hive of activity as many staff work tirelessly to produce the tens of thousands of plants required for our summer floral display. There is a 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 as well as the exquisite collection of fabulous container plantings that provide added inspiration throughout the landscape. 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!

There is so much more that could be written, but words simply can’t convey the intrinsic beauty of the season or the efforts taken by our staff to create and maintain this brilliant masterpiece.