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The Butchart Chronicles : June 14, 2016

Garden Notebook Summer 2016

Summer Garden notebook

I’m really beginning to wonder if the rotational axis of the earth has shifted slightly as the summer weather seems to have started a full month ahead of schedule this year! Last year wasn’t a whole lot different and we are beginning to wonder if we need to do a complete rethink on how and when we plan our spring and summer garden displays. Of course I realize that day length is the primary factor that determines the changing of the seasons, but in this part of the world it’s more about how sunny and warm it is outside!

Almost everybody enjoys sunny, warm weather, but in the spring garden this has created some challenges for us and has perhaps limited the length of the seasonal enjoyment. Not that I’m complaining, but the gorgeous summer like weather did precipitate the early demise of our magnificent spring bulb display. Once that happened the pressure is transferred to our highly skilled greenhouse growers who are literally forced into getting tens of thousands of plants ready to be planted outside for for our summer display. Highly skilled or not, that’s easier said than done, as it’s really hard to force nature to do anything (unnatural) against its will – and what if the weather changes back to normal and much cooler temperatures? Well, in spite of all of these challenges, our terrific staff somehow managed to pull it all together and have successfully produced what we hope to be our most spectacular summer garden display ever!

Backing up again to planting season where the massive seasonal transition takes place - we are often asked about what happens to the nearly 300,000 spring flowering bulbs that we remove from the garden each year. The simple answer is that most of the bulbs are composted. Unfortunately the bulbs in our garden don’t have the chance to mature properly as we are so focused on presenting our visitors with a clean, fresh and healthy look. As unfortunate as this may seem, there are some benefits – firstly, we get copious amounts of additional compost and secondly the bulb growers in Holland and Prince Edward Island benefit when we place our order each year!


Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the summer is our fabulous Rose Garden. The Rose Garden is one the most asked about and talked about garden area as many people seem to naturally connect to these symbols of love and beauty. For me, the Rose Garden is all about anticipation as we seem to have to wait for months for the show to appear. Interestingly enough, these plants only bloom from June through September, so in reality, we do spend much more time waiting for the Roses than we do enjoying them! However, when this garden does come into bloom there is no sight that is more spectacular to behold and no fragrance(s) more intoxicating to be found anywhere in our garden. Our Roses have come to us from all over the world and we do label the countries where the Roses have first been introduced; which is to say where the plants have been bred and introduced to the world.  For many visitors it’s always fun to try and find a rose that was developed in their country of origin – my apologies if we don’t have a Rose from your home country!
Other highlights at this time of year include:

  • The Japanese Garden which is especially refreshing as it provides a shady escape from the bright sunshine. It’s a tranquil retreat with exquisite features. 
  • Our famous displays of Tuberous begonias, especially in our begonia bower where you find yourself immersed in their colour and beauty.
  •  The Mediterranean Garden with its unique and diverse planting scheme. We have a massive Agave that could very well be the largest one being grown outdoors in a garden in Canada!
  • Our fabulous Dahlia border which contains over 600 of these magnificent plants. The abundance of flower colour and diversity is astonishing with some plants displaying dinner plate size flowers well over 12 inches in diameter!  
  • The Sunken Garden. This garden is always a highlight as this is our signature garden and really the jewel in our crown. This masterpiece was created by Jennie Butchart, revealing her ingenuity and determination in being able to transform an industrial wasteland into a garden paradise.          

Soon we will be unveiling the new Chinese dragon fountain and the unique garden area surrounding it. Perhaps you are wondering why you haven’t heard much about the beautiful bronze dragon that we received from the People’s Republic of China last year, but that’s been quite intentional as we haven’t had a whole lot to report! We have been working frantically to complete this new area and get it open for our visitors and simply don’t want to open this until we are completely happy with the finished product. For the time being, please be patient with us, we promise that it will be worth the wait! 
  
We certainly hope that the summer continues to be sunny and warm and that the earth has not shifted off of its rotational axis – at least not until next spring! We look forward to hosting you during this most glorious season, a season where we can literally tell you to “stop and take some time to smell the Roses”. 

Rick Los
director of horticulture