The Butchart Chronicles : January 11, 2017

2016: A Year in Review

There is never a dull moment at The Butchart Gardens. Read some of the highlights from 2016.

11 Highlights from The Butchart Gardens in 2016

Happy New Year from The Butchart Gardens!

As we welcomed visitors from around the world and celebrated the five seasons at The Gardens, a lot happened. Here are eleven highlights from 2016.

1. 100% Smoke Free Property

Effective January 7, 2016, The Butchart Gardens became a property-wide smoke-free environment. This policy ensures a healthy and clean environment for everyone to enjoy. Not only do fellow visitors appreciate it, the plants do too.

2. Never-Before-Seen Memorabilia Showcased in the Historical Display

As part of the 16th annual Historical Display, the family archives team brought out some special items from the Butchart Family history. This trend will continue in the 2017 display as more unique items will be introduced into the showcase. The Historical Display takes place annually from January 15th to March 15th.

3. New Tour Boat Introduced

In spring 2016, a fourth vessel was added to our fleet of electric tour boats. Visitors are now welcome aboard the Jennie B., R.P., as Robert Pim Butchart was known, the R.I. Ross and Mary C. Todd for history and nature tours of Butchart Cove and Tod Inlet. Boat tours operate annually from mid-May to mid-September. For more information on boat tours, visit our Experiences page.

4. Wharf Upgrade

With all the water traffic visiting The Gardens via Butchart Cove, it's important that the infrastructure can accommodate each visitor. A new wharf was completed in spring 2016 to accommodate traffic from seaplanes, whale watching boats and personal pleasure crafts, and The Gardens' fleet of electric boats.

5. Dragon Fountain Moved to Permanent Location

The Dragon Fountain was a gift from the People's Republic of China in 2015. In 2016 it was relocated to its permanent location, a beautifully designed setting near the dahlia border. During the Magic of Christmas, The Fountain and surrounding area were decorated for the season.

6. Renowned Musical Performers Take the Stage

2016's summer entertainment schedule was nothing short of amazing. Every performance drew in a captive audience on the Concert Lawn. Highlight performances included The Mavericks and Jesse Roper. Stay tuned for the 2017 summer entertainment schedule.

7. Extended Summer

With summer weather conditions lasting longer than expected, boat tours and the gelateria were able to stay open for visitors until the end of September.

8. Communities in Bloom

The Butchart Gardens is a proud supporter of Canada's Communities in Bloom program and for the past eight years have sponsored the 'Best Land Reclamation Award'. This award is a tribute to a community that has had the vision and spirit to reclaim and beautify a neglected and unatrractive site. The Gardens sponsors this award as our Sunken Garden is one of the most recognized reclamation sites in the world.

9. Greenhouse Tours Grow in Popularity

Greenhouse Tours offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the gardeners grow and maintain the health of many of the plants found throughout the gardens. Offered only on weekends in November, these tours are popular with horticulture groups and 12 month pass holders. 2016 tours sold out immediately. For more information on Greenhouse Tours, visit our Experiences page.

10. Enchanted Tree Brings Visitors Together

The Arts and Entertainment Department introduced the Enchanted Tree to the Magic of Christmas display in 2016. Singing, speaking or clapping in front of the tree make the lights on the branches change as voice and sound tone changes. Visitors came together to sing Christmas carols, bringing the tree to life.

11. Rare December Snowfall Creates a Stunning Winter Wonderland

December 9th marked the first snowfall in a long time at The Gardens. The photo above was taken before sunrise that day. Photographers, 12 month pass holders walking their dogs and visitors coming from the surrounding area enjoyed strolling through this winter wonderland. For more photos of snow at The Gardens, visit our Facebook page.

Here is a peek at what is new in 2017.

  • Effective January 2017, selfie sticks are not permitted at The Gardens for the safety and enjoyment of all visitors.

  • To celebrate Canada's 150th, a floral display will be set up showcasing the official 150th tulip.

See you in 2017.

The Butchart Chronicles : January 11, 2017

Garden Notebook: Winter 2017

Garden Notebook – Winter 2017

Written by Rick Los, Director of Horticulture

The words ‘Garden’ and ‘Winter’ are words not typically synonymous with each other and certainly don’t conjure warm feelings or images that might draw you outdoors. The terms we commonly hear associated in regard to the winter garden are: structure, form, texture, contrast, colourful stems and berries, curious seed heads, interesting bark etc.

Although these descriptive terms are accurate, they still don’t do very much to excite or entice anyone (apart from the keenest plant lovers) to come out and visit a garden.           

That being said, this is truly an exciting time to visit our garden as not only do we have an abundance of the descriptors listed above, but we actually do have plants in bloom as well as an abundance of plants that provide incredible fragrance. Furthermore, if this isn’t enough to satisfy your horticultural cravings, we have created the spectacular indoor ‘Spring Prelude’ garden display which will satisfy even the most discriminating person’s desire for garden beauty – but more on that later!

Admittedly this is probably the most challenging time of the year to write about as there are vast differences in the garden in January compared to what you would experience during the latter part of March.

Throughout the garden many flowers do make an appearance in January, but to me it’s the enthralling fragrance emanating from these flowers that is more impactful than the flowers themselves. A fine example of this is the Himalayan Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) with its abundance of inconspicuous white flowers. These insignificant little flowers produce the most intoxicating fragrance, causing many people to stop in their tracks to try and find the source of this powerful perfume. Other fragrant early bloomers include Hamamelis and Viburnum which along with their non-fragrant companions Snowdrops (Galanthus), Hellebores, Heather (Erica) and Mahonia provide reliable colour. All of these unique plants are to be cherished as they stoically provide colour for us when we need it the most, while enduring the most demanding conditions.

As we move into February the diversity of colour and fragrance steadily expands as more plants dare to expose themselves to slowly rising temperatures and slightly longer days. Some of the plants that we can expect to see blooming at this time of year include what we see in January as well as certain sturdy varieties of Camellia, Bellis, Pansy, Primula, Crocus, Eranthis, Scilla and early Narcissus. The month of March begins the lead into the most exciting time of the year in the garden, springtime, and always provides the most unpredictable experiences as the weather plays such a big part in what you will experience both visually and physically. Nevertheless, any garden that claims to be world class has to be beautiful in every season and we believe that we are no exception as we do everything possible to be exceptional throughout the year!

If you do visit and need help in finding or identifying any winter blooming plants, our wonderful gardeners are always more than willing to provide any assistance that they can. Although it is somewhat hard to believe, we still have the occasional visitor expecting to find roses blooming outdoors at this time of year, but as much as this would be a treat, this is an impossibility for now……….

Spring Prelude 2017

There is nothing quite like experiencing the beauty of spring weeks before nature intended it to arrive – especially when you get to experience it in a climate controlled environment! Each year we challenge ourselves to improve this incredible garden display and we are confident that you will be more than impressed with what we anticipate will be our finest installation to date.

This year we have included some repurposed historical relics as our talented staff has implemented a few pieces from our cement producing days. As you enter the display there will be a curious new feature to greet you – a recycled feature that we found rusting in the woods (you never know what you’ll find when wandering in the forest!). Look closely and you will find other artifacts, but the theme I always like to direct our visitors to is the use of cement in many features - either ordinary or artistic. The gardens creators have consciously (and cleverly) used this material as it directly connects us to our industrial roots.     

If you haven’t visited this display before you will notice that there are a few different themes ranging from tropical borders accented with orchids to a temperate area featuring an amazing range of plant material that we force into bloom. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy, no matter what your garden desires may be.

It’s really very hard to begin to describe in detail the beauty of the display that our staff have created here; beauty that comes in waves and layers of colour, intoxicating fragrance and the refreshing sounds and movements of water. We encourage you to come out and experience for yourself this exquisite and intimate indoor garden display.   

The Butchart Chronicles : January 10, 2017

New at The Seed and Gift Store

The Seed and Gift Store has new jewelry

The Seed and Gift Store has a beautiful new line of jewelry available. Made by First Nations artists, Kelly Robinson and Corrine Hunt, these new items represent the multiculturalism of British Columbia.

Choose from two different bracelet styles or earrings from the "Silk Inspirations" collection. You will see silk fabric embedded under the resin of these beautiful pieces.

This contemporary collection is proudly Canadian, made in Vancouver, and can be found in the jewelry section of the Seed and Gift Store now.

Images in this article are sourced from Panabo Sales.

The Butchart Chronicles : November 28, 2016

Garden Report November 24th to November 30th

Garden Report November 24th to November 30th, 2016

I never thought that I would be writing about flowers in November, but here I go again, adding on to what I went on about last week. What really struck me was that I was walking around The Gardens early in the morning I noticed a Hummingbird buzzing around a Camellia that was halfway in bloom. Certain Camellias do bloom in the late fall or early winter, but the amount of bloom caught me off guard. In the same bed the Viburnum tinus was putting on a pretty good show and the daffodils I spoke of last week are actually showing some colour. The more I walked the more surprised I became by what was blooming in the garden.  

However, it is the berries that are the usual delights that we see at this time of year and it’s especially the brilliant berries of the Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’) that really stand out. These plants absolutely live up to their name as they literally produce profusions of violet berries that brighten up the landscape.

So whether it’s the unexpected flowers that you want to see or the more seasonal show of berries and bark, we are sure that you won’t leave disappointed.   

- Rick Los, Director of Horticulture

In Bloom!

  • Arbutus unedo  (Strawberry tree)
  • Azalea
  • Bergenia
  • Camellia sasanqua
  • Correa  (Australian fuchsia)
  • Fuchsia (perennial varieties)
  • Mahonia ‘Charity’
  • Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’
  • Viburnum bodnantense
  • Viburnum tinus

Special Interest (berries, bark, fruit etc.)

  • Acer   
  • Arbutus 
  • Betula 
  • Callicarpa    
  • Clerodendrum
  • Cotoneaster
  • Euonymus alatus
  • Euonymus europaeus 
  • Heptacodium     
  • Malus  (crabapple)
  • Nandina
  • Parrotia  
  • Photinia villosa  (Christmas Berry)
  • Pyracantha
  • Skimmia
  • Stewartia
  • Viburnum davidii
  • Viburnum tinus
The Butchart Chronicles : November 21, 2016

Four Fun Childrens Activities for the Christmas Season

Bring the whole family and get in the holiday spirit

The Christmas season means fun for the whole family at The Butchart Gardens. Here are four activities for kids to enjoy when they visit The Gardens from December 1st to January 6th.

1. Bring a Snowflake and Indulge in Hot Chocolate

For children 12 and under, bring us a paper snowflake you have created. We will exchange it for a cup of hot chocolate in the Coffee Shop.

  • Snowflake must be made from an 8 x 11 sheet of white paper and brought from home
  • Limit one per child per day
  • We will put your snowflake on our Coffee Shop windows (space permitting)
  • Valid Dec 1st, 2016 to Jan 6th, 2017
  • Regretfully no substitutions can be made

2. Participate in the Magic of Christmas Walk

Children under 12 years of age will be given a checklist at the admission gate to identify each of the Christmas highlights displayed throughout The Gardens. Upon presentation of their list at the visitor centre, participants will receive a Christmas treat.

  • Limit one per child per day
  • Valid Dec 1st, 2016 to Jan 6, 2017
  • Not valid for organized child and youth groups

3. Glide Across the Ice Rink

Bring the kids and glide underneath soft twinkling lights to the sounds of seasonal music. Skating runs every hour (during admission hours) on the hour and runs for 40 minutes. Skate rentals are available in the information centre. See pictures and rates on our blog.

4. Ride the Rose Carousel

Ride around on one of thirty hand-crafted animals on the Rose Carousel, the only carousel on Vancouver Island. Two chariots can accommodate people with disabilities.

A portion of the proceeds is donated to local children's charities.

Looking for a holiday gift idea? Purchase gift tickets from our online store.

The Butchart Chronicles : November 18, 2016

Flower and Garden Report November 18th to 25th

Garden Report for November 18  – November 25, 2016

Last week I wrote about perennial fuchsias as I was somewhat astonished of the fact that something was blooming so well for us at this time of the year. Well, this morning I had another surprise as the Viburnum bodnantense and Mahonia ‘Charity’ were pushing out all sorts of colour as well. The Bergenia continues to bloom, which is not all that surprising, but to my astonishment there were daffodils (not blooming) pushing their flower heads out of the ground near the Dragon Fountain.

The warm weather that we have received up to this point in November is obviously throwing some plants out of their natural blooming sequence, but I’m sure things will correct themselves with the first blast of cold weather. Speaking of cold weather – we have mulched all of the hybrid tea roses and are ready for the cold, if and when it comes.

We welcome you to visit the garden during this peaceful time of year - a time when you can really appreciate Jennie Butchart’s garden in its purest and simplest form!

- Rick Los, Director of Horticulture

In Bloom!

  • Bergenia
  • Fuchsia (perennial varieties)
  • Mahonia ‘Charity’
  • Viburnum bodnantense

Special Interest (berries, bark, fruit etc.)

  • Acer   
  • Arbutus 
  • Betula 
  • Callicarpa    
  • Clerodendrum
  • Cotoneaster
  • Euonymus alatus
  • Euonymus europaeus 
  • Heptacodium     
  • Malus  (crabapple)
  • Nandina
  • Parrotia  
  • Pyracantha
  • Skimmia
  • Stewartia
  • Viburnum davidii
  • Viburnum tinus

The Butchart Chronicles : November 18, 2016

Garden Notebook: Christmas 2016

Take a Christmas And Winter journey through The Gardens

We have arrived at what we celebrate as our 5th season of the year – Christmas. What better place to showcase and celebrate the season than in the garden that Jennie Butchart so carefully laid out over 100 years ago. I have to admit that it’s a little challenging to write about something exciting in the garden without the feeling of being completely overshadowed by the magnificence of our Christmas display.

The fact of the matter is that we still have many visitors visiting during the daytime and the garden itself still has plenty to offer despite the upstaging provided by the colourful decorations and displays.

The design of the garden reflects the genius of Jennie Butchart and some of the significant plants which she originally chose are now the most distinguished subjects that highlight the Christmas light display. Some of the best examples of this are the row of Walnut trees which are painstakingly wrapped with thousands of lights and the magnificent Beech trees at the entrance to the Japanese Garden, where illuminated stars and icicles are suspended throughout their canopies.

On frosty mornings the garden takes on an ethereal quality as the entire landscape is glistening in the sunlight. These exceptional moments provide the best opportunity to contemplate the structure of the garden itself – a time to experience the glimmering garden in its most uncomplicated form.

Winter is truly the only time of the year when you fully appreciate the composition of the plants and plantings in the garden. With such an extensive collection of plants, we have many that exhibit unique characteristics such as exquisite forms, intricate bark textures and patterns, obscure flowers, fascinating seed pods and colourful berries. These features may not occur and/or can be easily overlooked and disregarded for most of the year. However, this is not a time to casually glance at the garden, but it’s a time to look a little deeper and actually observe and experience a deeper beauty.

Moving onto things much more practical………in our climate we typically don’t get much of a break in the gardening season, unless of course, it snows. There are many gardening tasks that carry on through the winter and probably the most important one is pruning. This is really a good time to prune many plants - especially overgrown deciduous shrubs as you can easily see the structure of the plants and prune them to your desired shape and size.

One of our distinctive characteristics is maintaining an exceptionally clean garden. Our biggest challenge at this time of year is working around the all-encompassing Christmas display which can hinder our efforts at times. We cut back our perennial borders and remove as much organic debris from the garden as possible - something not commonly accepted as a good gardening practice in this day and age. I won’t make a statement on this, but I will say that our practices have provided us with undeniably good results for the past 112 years and will continue to do so for the next 112.

I suppose that this is as good a time as any to talk about our practices and what we do with our garden debris – especially all of the leaves that we collect because they are obviously an integral part of any natural system. At the Gardens we are so focused on cleanliness that we generally rake up every leaf that happens to fall in an area that is visible to the visitor. This is an especially good practice for any lawn areas or annual borders as the wet leaves can virtually smother and kill the plants that lie below.

Leaves probably make the best compost for your garden as they are relatively rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. We separate our leaves and compost them on their own – sometimes you may hear the finished product referred to as “leaf mould”. In some areas we have set up small composting bins and return the finished compost directly back to where the leaves originated. This is probably a little excessive for most people, so feel free to add them to your regular compost if you so desire. In woodland or semi-woodland and even in shrub borders, it is often preferable to let the leaves remain as natural mulch.

When time and weather permits (and of course where we can safely maneuver around Christmas props!), we also take the opportunity to mulch to our borders at this time of the year.

Thankfully, not all garden projects for us take place outdoors as there is a lot of activity indoors as the planning and preparation of our Spring Prelude display takes place in our greenhouse facility. Many trees and shrubs are brought indoors and thousands of bulbs are prepared for forcing to ensure that the display opens with a flurry of colour. New props and features are assembled and tested to ensure that there are no surprises on opening day. The same care and artistry involved in creating and maintaining the outdoor garden can be seen in every element of this fabulous indoor display. I will provide you with more details of what you can expect to see in the next newsletter. 

I do believe that we all need to experience a little bit of winter to better appreciate the vibrancy of spring and the fullness of summer – this holds true in the garden as well. I will end with this quote from the famous poet William Wordsworth in his poem ‘A Farewell’. As we put the garden to bed to close this gardening season, we have the promise of new beginnings to look forward to in the New Year.     

O happy garden! whose seclusion deep
Hath been so friendly to industrious hours;
And to soft slumbers, that did gently steep
Our spirits, carrying with them dreams of flowers,
And wild notes warbled among leafy bowers;
Two burning months let summer overleap,
And, coming back with Her who will be ours,
Into thy bosom again we shall creep.
William Wordsworth

Garden notebook written by Rick Los, Director of Horticulture

The Butchart Chronicles : November 17, 2016

The 2017 Historical Display

Take a Step Back in Time at the 2017 Historical Display at The Butchart Gardens

From January 15th to March 15th we are pleased to showcase the 17th annual historical display. Located in the former Butchart residence, this magnificent display features letters, memorabilia and photographs to tell the story and history of The Butchart Gardens.

Start your journey in the the White Room, the former dining room, where you will see photos from the early days and learn about Mr. Butchart's involvement in Portland cement on the west coast. Finally, learn about Robert Pim Butchart's professional achievements during his passionate career in the cement industry.

After the White Room, you will enter the Breakfast Room. Here you will find historic photos from the Italian Garden and main lawn and see Mrs. Butchart's sketch and planting list for the Italian Garden.

As you continue through the residence, you will pass through the Tango Room. This room features photos, letters and other interesting finds about the Sunken Garden and its inception. You will also find photographs of family members with their dogs and find out about the theft of one of their canines.

You will finish viewing the historical display in the stunning Billiard Room. Here you will learn about the development of the Rose Garden, as well as Mr. Butchart's love of cars and boats. Get a sense of how Mr. and Mrs. Butchart used to entertain their visitors by seeing the billiard table and musical instruments. Today, the family still uses this room for entertaining.

There is so much to see in each room of the historical display. Take your time to take it all in, ask our knowledgable staff any questions you may have, then finish off your visit with High Tea in the Dining Room.

The Butchart Chronicles : November 17, 2016

The Magic of Christmas: 2017 TV Commercial

Tune into CHEK TV and CTV over the holiday season to see The Butchart Garden's Magic of Christmas commercial. Learn what we have in store for the holiday season and start your family tradition to last a life time.

Video footage: The Butchart Gardens
Editing: Bell Media
Airs on: CHEK TV, CTV

The Butchart Chronicles : November 17, 2016

Ice Skating at The Butchart Gardens

Enjoy Ice Skating During The Magic of Christmas Season

What better way to get in the Christmas spirit than skating at The Butchart Gardens?

As part of our Magic of Christmas season, we are pleased to offer ice skating in Waterwheel Square. Lace up during the day when the crowd is small and the winter day provides a beautiful backdrop, or come in the evening and skate under the stars, surrounded by Christmas lights.

To ensure an enjoyable experience for every visitor, skating is offered in sessions. Each skating session begin on the hour and last for forty minutes.

Looking for gift ideas? Order admission tickets through our online store.

Load more posts