Summer Garden Insights


By Brian Nixon, Horticultural Manager

With spring now behind us it’s time to appreciate the endless beauty that summer brings to The Butchart Gardens. As you wind your way along the pathways you will find yourself surrounded by dazzling summer annuals, captivating perennial borders and a backdrop of unique trees and shrubs. This is an exciting time for our horticulture department, as we wait in anticipation to see how our improvements from the previous summer will come to light, and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. Our talented gardening staff have put the finishing touches on summer planting for another year.

Summer bed planting

Summer is the most popular season to visit. After a quick stroll through the garden, it doesn’t take long to understand why – 55 acres of highly manicured gardens offering a picturesque postcard setting no matter where you look. Summer offers diversity throughout The Gardens, with vibrant displays of colour, complemented by the sound of water features, sure to relax one’s soul, providing an overall calming effect. The Butchart Gardens has been attracting visitors from around the world for over 100 years, and as the world of horticulture evolves our goal is to keep up with new trends while maintaining our important historic past.

The picturesque Sunken Garden

Given there are few limitations as to what we will plant in the garden during our warmest season, our horticulture team often tries to push the limits on which specific plant material we can grow in our region. Many of the plants displayed in The Gardens during the summer will return home to the greenhouse at the end of the season, as they are not hardy in our climatic zone. A few of my personal favourites in this category are – Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess Flower), Abutilon (Flowering maple), Brugmansia (Angels’ trumpet), and Fuchsia. These plants are commonly used in containers, but they are also interplanted within our garden displays located throughout The Gardens. These plants add a beautiful contrast to many of our meticulously designed garden displays.

Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess Flower)

Our horticulture team is hard at work preparing the garden for what we hope will be a long summer. The warm/dry summers can be stressful to some plants, therefore, we perform tasks that will help promote a healthy garden throughout the summer season. One of the most important tasks we perform during summer planting, to improve growing conditions for our plants, is soil amendment. Soil amendment is the process of adding material into your soil to improve water retention, drainage, fertility and other qualities. We amend our soils by adding our own compost blend to the annual flower beds, we then rototill, or hand dig the beds to evenly distribute this organic matter. This organic matter (compost) is highly rich in nutrients, and these nutrients are exactly what the plants need to thrive.

Transiting garden beds for the summer season

While on the topic of soil, I will briefly explain our on-site composting program. During the transition of seasons, we often receive questions from visitors about our composting program. This is most likely due to visitors seeing gardening staff transporting rich compost to many of our annual beds. All of the plant material removed from our garden is taken to our composting facility, and from here we will store the compost and allow it to break down. This is a four-year cycle from the time the compost is added (in the form of raw plant material), until the time when the final product will be reintroduced back into The Gardens.

Throughout the pandemic gardening has become more popular than ever, leading to an increase in the number of people who plan to “Live the Garden Life”. The positive benefits associated with gardening are apparent; it is good for our health and wellness, brings community together, and has significant environmental benefits. If gardening is something that you have never experienced, we encourage you to pick up a trowel and experience first-hand the joy of working with plants.

The beautiful Rose Gardens in full bloom

For veteran gardeners, and newcomers alike, this is a special year in Canadian horticulture as we celebrate the Year of The Garden 2022, as well as the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association’s (CNLA) 100-year anniversary. This is a Centennial Celebration of Canada’s horticulture sector to commemorate Canada’s rich garden heritage, celebrate today’s vibrant garden culture, and create important legacies for a sustainable future. We will be celebrating the Year of the Garden 2022, please visit our Year of The Garden page to learn more.

Each season offers an entirely new experience while visiting The Butchart Gardens. If you have a trip planned to visit this summer, we look forward to welcoming you. The Gardens will be at their peak bloom time from June through until September, or early October depending on the weather.

The Butchart Garden sign welcoming visitors in Waterwheel Square

We look forward to seeing you soon, and if you have already visited – Thank You for coming!