Our Growing Climate
The City of Victoria is listed as a zone 8B according to the USDA, but here at The Butchart Gardens we are likely a 8A. The Gardens is situated in a sheltered valley offering us some protection from prevailing winds which provides us with warmer temperatures in the summer and colder temperatures in the winter. Our sheltered valley also works to take away precious sunlight, and light generally, in the winter causing frost to settle in the lowest pockets of The Gardens and it stays for longer than in the surrounding countryside. The same can be said for snowfall which occurs once or twice a year and lasts for a week or two. Typically the snow in the surrounding region is long gone before it melts away at The Gardens. The other challenge we face is the pattern of rainfall: we experience somewhat of a Mediterranean climate, with a typically warm/dry summer followed by a wet/cool winter.
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Rainfall in the region is variable with Victoria averaging fewer than 66 cm (26 inches) annually and The Gardens regularly averaging 76 cm (30 inches) plus. Most of this rainfall occurs between November and March. Temperature extremes range from a maximum high (rare) of 36 degrees Celcius / 97 degrees Farenheit to a maximum low (again extremely rare) of minus 10°C/14°F. A typical summer daytime temperature is from 22 - 26°C/ 72 - 79°F and winter daytime temperatures typically 5 - 10°C/41 - 50°F.
Victoria proper would experience more than 260 frost free days whereas The Butchart Gardens averages approximately 215 frost free days.
Annual hours of sunshine in Victoria is approximately 2200, with The Butchart Gardens being slightly below 2100.
Over the last ten years, the climate seems to have shifted to longer periods of drought during the spring/summer months and more intense periods of precipitation during the winter months (although annual rainfall totals haven't seemed to change much). Winter storms are more dramatic as well with frequent, but minor damage to the gardens caused by extreme winds or heavy snow.
Given all of this, The Butchart Gardens must do some special planning to take the local weather conditions into account. We deal with summer drought by irrigating the gardens to maintain pristine conditions.
We are completely self-sufficient with our own irrigation water supply which consists of a series of reservoirs and wells. We also collect and store the millions of litres of water that runs off our parking areas. Mulching all of our borders on a regular basis helps to conserve moisture and to reduce elevated soil temperatures in the summer. Tender plants also need a protective covering of mulch over the winter months to protect them from the possibility of severe (minus 10C/14F) cold.
The Gardens have professional arborists on staff who maintain our trees to the highest standards. The special care given to our trees helps to alleviate potential damage caused by winter storms and the effects of prolonged summer drought.