Autumn Garden Insights


“I suppose that it’s somewhat fitting for me to be saying good-bye to you at this time of year as we are also saying good-bye to another glorious summer season in the garden. My season as Director of Horticulture has come to an end and it has been a pleasure connecting with you, our friends and supporters, during the past number of years. For 22 years I have had the honour of overseeing this amazing horticultural masterpiece, but it’s time, time to say good-bye and thank you.

In the next edition you will be treated to the writing of our new Horticultural Manager, Brian Nixon. Brian brings a wealth of knowledge and experience into this role and I’m sure that his fresh perspective will be a delight for you to read and enjoy for many years to come.

Again, it has been my pleasure to be able to share my passion for the Gardens with you over the years that I’ve written to you. With the new management in place and an amazing group of wonderful and dedicated gardening staff, I’m assured that you will continue to enjoy this magnificent garden masterpiece that Jennie Butchart created for years to come.

I sincerely wish you all the very best in the years ahead and I’ll let Brian take it from here.”

– Rick Los, retired Director of Horticulture


Autumn Around the Corner

By Brian Nixon, Horticultural Manager

Our summer season was by no means as hot and dry as last year, and with that in mind, our summer colour is hanging on longer. I think it would be safe to say the garden is relieved with how the weather transpired this year compared to last, and is showing very few signs of stress. This summer saw cooler temperatures and more precipitation from the previous year. As a matter of fact, from June 1st to September 1st we had 69.4mm of rain this summer compared to only 15.7mm last year. Last year we experienced 21 days with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius and this summer we have only had five days above 30 degrees. As testament to this weather pattern, in a typical season we would already have planted many of our autumn replacement plants from our nursery, whereas this year we have planted very few. This is good news, as it indicates the plants are happy. Warm temperatures and longer days are hard to say goodbye to but when autumn begins to appear, we soon forget.

With autumn around the corner bringing shorter days and longer nights, we now begin to see and feel a change in the garden. Dew on the lawns, flower beds are holding moisture and not drying out, and foliage on many of our trees and plants are starting to change colour. At this time of year our horticultural staff pay particular attention to watering. Too much watering during this summer-autumn transition will result in plants going over more quickly, and could increase the potential for disease. Much time is taken to thoroughly deadhead the plants and also remove any unsightly foliage to extend the summer season as long as possible. By doing this we are able to give the garden the “polished look”, even if the weather is not on our side.

When you start to see Chrysanthemums being planted in the garden you know autumn is not far off. These plants prefer cooler weather; in fact chilly weather intensifies colours and keeps blossoms looking fresh. Depending on the year, Chrysanthemums will begin to go in the ground as early as late August and as late as October. Be sure to keep an eye on the many different varieties we plant here at The Butchart Gardens. This year you can expect to see 27 different varieties of Chrysanthemums planted in flower beds and pots.


As we enter into autumn, our staff are diligently working to keep The Gardens pristine as the leaves begin to fall. The many trees throughout the property provide wonderful colour during this time of year. Once leaves fall to the ground, they give the gardens a unique look with their vibrant colours, even if only for a short period of time. I would have to say the Japanese Garden is the star of the show with a very concentrated planting of Japanese Maple trees, 74 to be exact, all planted in a 1-acre landscape. Absolutely breathtaking! It will be interesting to see how the amazing autumn colour will unfold this year, something you will want to come and see for yourself.

Autumn in the Japanese Garden

Throughout autumn, we enter “planting season” our staff work diligently to plant over 300,000 bulbs and 180,000 Biennials over a three-to-four-week period. This task is especially challenging for our gardeners as it requires plenty of hard labor. Anyone with a home garden can relate this, although on a much smaller scale. This is a great opportunity to see “first hand” how we create our spectacular spring show. Our autumn planting process begins with ripping out summer plantings, followed by rototilling the beds, and then a raking to level out each bed. Once complete, we give the soil a light sprinkling of our custom organic fertilizer. Now we are ready to plant! Biennials like Myosotis and Bellis are planted first, followed by the many varieties of bulbs. This is a particularly interesting planting time. Unlike summer planting which provides instant colour, fall planting requires many months of waiting before the colours are revealed. This is one of the reasons so many of us enjoy gardening, with the promise of what’s to come.

Craving autumn and all its glory? Perhaps a visit to The Gardens will help. To complement this cozy season, High Tea is served in our Dining Room Restaurant complete with unique tea blends, warm savoury pastries and delicious desserts.