Summer Gardens Insights 2024


By Brian Nixon, Horticultural Manager

Countless perennials line our pathways while colourful annuals remind us that summer is here. The vibrant blooms and lush foliage create a welcoming and lively atmosphere, making summer one of the best times of year to visit The Butchart Gardens. I invite you to explore our 55 acres of magnificent gardens filled with unique summer bounties. I promise that wherever your garden adventures take you, it will be a magical and unforgettable experience.

Summer did not come easy this year; we had a cooler wet end to spring that seemed to go on forever. However, the timing of the rains was perfect and played a crucial role in hydrating the summer annuals after being planted. The newly transplanted annuals responded quite well to the cooler conditions by putting on plenty of lush new growth. During extreme heat, these plants will often show signs of heat-related stress e.g., sunburnt foliage and wilting. Thankfully this was not a problem this year. After last year’s extended warm spring/summer, this was a welcome sight for gardening staff who prefer to work in cooler conditions.

Every year, The Gardens welcomes a variety of birds and bees that feed on the nectar of our summer flowers. Their presence not only brings life and movement to the garden but also plays a crucial role in pollination, ensuring the continued bloom of flowers and the health of the ecosystem. Last summer was the first time we designed and planted a wildflower meadow located past the Rose Carousel near the Single Jet Fountain. It was incredible to see just how many pollinators were attracted to the large selection of wildflowers. Due to the popularity of this display, we are pleased to announce that we have once again planted the meadow with wildflowers.

The wildflower meadow was such a huge success and it inspired a lot of positive feedback from visitors. I’d like to share a few details with readers on the makeup of the wildflower meadow. The seed mix is composed of 30 different varieties of flowers and is a custom blend that we created ourselves. This vast selection of seeds allows for a longer bloom time throughout the summer, but it also attracts many different types of beneficial insects. Although it can be hard to predict bloom time, last year the meadow began flowering in mid-June and continued for much of the summer. We hope to have similar timing this year.

Wildflower meadow

Transitioning The Gardens into a summer oasis is such an exciting time and a huge accomplishment for our gardening team. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to make this change happen over three weeks. While the spring floral display takes months to develop, the summer show is almost instantaneous. The majority of summer annuals that come out of the greenhouses are already in full colour, making for an immediate impact on our display.

The summer planting process begins in early May and is completed by early June. We enjoy this monumental task and take pride in what we do. The rewards for such a big job are endless. During your next visit, take a close look at some of the summer annuals and see if there is anything unique that catches your eye. One of my favorite summer flowers we have been using more frequently is bedding Dahlias. These Dahlias are a fantastic choice for summer gardens; their compact size makes them versatile and easy to manage while offering similar colour and vigor to their counterpart, the much larger classic Dahlia varieties.  It’s not only the big colourful flowers that make for a fantastic summer garden but also plants with interesting and unique qualities, such as Helichrysum thianschanicum and Alternanthera dentata. These plants can offset a colourful summer planting, but they are also nicely planted on their own.

Dahlias planted in the Italian Garden

Caring for The Gardens is the next important step in ensuring the spectacular display carries through the entire summer. There are many steps that our gardening staff take to give plants everything they need to be healthy during the warmer months. A few of the most important steps are listed below:

  1. Watering practices – provide plenty of water to newly transplanted plants and slowly ease off as they mature. Reduced water will help develop strong root systems by encouraging the roots to search for water. Overwatering can be detrimental to plants and is one of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced gardeners.
  2. Soil amendments – this one is very important in many different ways. Soil amendments add nutrients, improve soil structure, and also increase water retention within the soil.
  3. Mulching – suppresses weeds, reduces compaction, retains moisture in the soil, and protects roots from extreme temperatures.
  4. Right plant, right place – picking plants that are well suited to a specific location will have them performing well with limited maintenance.

To enhance your summer 2024 visit, we are thrilled to announce the return of our Plant Identification Center. The Plant ID staff are an integral part of our visitors’ experience, not only do they answer detailed plant questions, but they also help outdoor gardening staff with daily gardening tasks. Although there are many different plant identification apps available, you will not receive anywhere near the knowledge and service this team provides. On your next visit, I invite you to step in and say hello.

Plant I.D. staff located inside the Visitor Information Centre

The Butchart Gardens is a wonderful place to visit during the summer season, especially if you have not experienced a summer here before. The Gardens are buzzing with positive energy right now! Surround yourself with beautiful summer flowers, indulge yourself with a ride on the Rose Carousel, enjoy a bite to eat from one of our restaurants or Coffee Shop, extend your visit into the evenings to experience Night Illuminations (Wednesday – Sunday), and take in Evening Entertainment (Wednesday – Saturday) starting June 28, 2024.

We look forward to welcoming you during your next visit!