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The Butchart Chronicles : June 8, 2015

Garden Notebook - Summer 2015



Summer in the Rose Garden
We begin this summer with our display borders already nicely established as they have been planted earlier than any of us could remember. Just so you know, this goes back a long time. Some of our staff have worked at the Gardens for over 50 years! The spring to summer planting transition can be challenging as we balance crop readiness and risk tolerance with the expectations of our visitors who are always anticipating a world class floral display. The display you see when you arrive at this time of year is the result of what is ultimately, a carefully planned and orchestrated garden makeover.          

Since colour seems to be part of our garden DNA, we always seem to stray towards talking about our colourful seasonal plantings. However, there is not a single great garden in this world that relies on seasonal colour alone--we are no different. As much as these plantings play a large role in our garden, we always encourage our visitors to look beyond these borders to see and experience the true beauty of the garden. Jennie Butchart created a garden that was exquisitely designed and over the years this garden has been carefully refined and improved. The overall layout and structure is a masterpiece in and of itself and Jennie specifically designed two distinct garden areas that don’t rely on seasonal plantings at all – namely the spectacular Rose Garden and tranquil Japanese Garden.  

Summer in the Japanese Garden
There is only space in this article to focus on one garden area so I’ve chosen the Japanese Garden which is a favorite with many of our visitors. For some unknown reason we tend to comment a lot on this garden during the autumn because of its outstanding fall foliage colours, but late in the spring and early in the summer this garden provides us with sensational colour that bridges the two seasons. The most significant colour is provided by our famous plantings of Blue Poppies which seem to have the ability to stop our visitors in their tracks. The Blue Poppies may be the headliners, but they are supported by an incredible cast of azaleas which provide dazzling colour at a time when the other garden areas are still making seasonal colour adjustments. Once this initial show of colour fades away, the Japanese Garden takes on a much more subdued personality as colour takes on a secondary role. The Japanese Garden was designed to provide a tranquil retreat and in our case its calming atmosphere provides a welcome retreat from the brilliant display borders that dominate most of the other gardens. In this garden you will find yourself immersed in a landscape consisting of interesting shapes, textures and soothing shades of green. We encourage you to take the time to closely observe the subtleties of this garden and to observe the intricate work that our gardeners perform to maintain this exceptional garden.

Japanese Garden - blue poppies

Continuing in a similar vein…….we are very excited to announce that this summer we will be the proud and grateful recipients of a beautifully sculpted Chinese Dragon Fountain. This fountain is a gift from People’s Republic of China and will be presented to the Gardens by representatives of the Suzhou Municipal Government – Suzhou is a sister city of Victoria. The dragon represents the friendship and goodwill of the Chinese people and signifies the wishes of peace and prosperity as well as good weather for our crops.

Although the Chinese lunar calendar indicates that the next ‘Year of the Dragon’ won’t occur until 2024, I think that we can safely call this the ‘Year of our Dragon’ at the Gardens, as we sincerely extend the wishes of the Chinese people to all of our visitors.       

Drangon Fountain from the People's Republic of China   
This magnificent bronze fountain will be provided with a temporary home in Waterwheel Square where all of our visitors will be able to enjoy its intricate and unique beauty.

We will begin the planning for a permanent home once we have had some time to fully realize the size, scope and significance of this piece. Placing something with the stature of this fountain requires some time to get a feeling of where it would best be located.         

The fountain is a significant addition, but of course you will always find many other significant and historical highlights in the garden. We have many beautiful fountains and statues that have been collected by the Butchart family over the years, with many of these pieces having added beauty and character to the garden for over 100 years.

Something making a considerable contribution to the overall display is our collection of topiary figures which continues to grow and expand throughout the gardens every year. This started off as an initiative to provide something for children to get excited about, but it seems there are many adult children who get just as excited! This year we will be adding two dolphins to the top of the Carousel building so be sure to look for these before you go for a ride on the carousel.  

One last thing before I run out of room – I have to say that we have the most incredible assortment of container plantings and hanging baskets that you will find anywhere in the world. Our extremely talented staff design and produce the most unique and colourful creations year after year to complement the existing plantings as well to add beauty to our many patio and sitting areas. And making sure everything you see is beautiful, we also plant up the tops of our trash receptacles! Each garbage can is topped with a unique miniature landscape that helps to turn the most utilitarian object into a work of art.  

Moss topiary

There are many highlights to see in the garden throughout the summer months and it would take a small book to list them all! The best advice that I have for readers is to come and see for yourself all that our magnificent garden has to offer – I promise you won’t be disappointed.    

Check back to this Garden Notebook post for a very exciting announcement on Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 6:00 pm. There is a significant addition to The Gardens that you won't want to miss!

- Rick Los, director of horticulture