By Joanne Reid
It’s early morning in the beautiful city of Victoria, British Columbia, and already we are on our way to The Butchart Gardens, located in the Brentwood Bay area. The gardens are on 55 acres of land originally purchased and used by the Butchart family to build a cement factory (due to its rich lime deposits). However, once the area was depleted of lime deposits, Butchart’s wife, Jennie, had topsoil brought in to line the abandoned quarry, transforming it into the Sunken Garden.
The flower-lined pathways throughout the gardens deliver you from one spectacular site to the next. Over the years the property was developed to include the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, and Mediterranean Garden. It now boasts 900 varieties of plants, providing blooms from March to October. The current owner of the gardens, Butchart’s great-granddaughter, has added the Rose Carousel in the Children’s Pavilion. Maintenance of these breathtaking gardens requires the work of 50 gardeners.
The property is family friendly and all public areas are wheelchair accessible. Designated as a national historic site, the gardens receive nearly 1 million visitors each year. While open to the public year round, the best time to go is June through August. They open daily at 9 a.m. Closing varies with the season. The ideal time of day to visit is either early morning or late afternoon as crowds can be huge from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Rate for admission to the gardens also varies by season (from $18 to $32).
During the months of July and August a variety of concerts is held at the Concert Lawn Stage. These are included in the admission cost to the gardens. Fireworks choreographed to music take place on Saturday evenings from July 1 through September 2. (Visit Butchartgardens.com.)
There are several restaurants on site including a coffee bar, a casual dining venue (The Blue Poppy), and of course, the formal dining room, nestled within the former residence of the Butchart family. Seating is from 5 until 8 p.m. mid-June to mid-September and reservations are highly recommended (250-652-8222). Afternoon tea is also available from April 1 through January 6. The restaurant uses ingredients from surrounding farms, and dishes are seasonally inspired and paired with B.C. wines. During my visit our meal consisted of roast half rack of lamb with goat cheese shallot tartlet, fig arugula salad, and wine… delicious.
As dusk approaches, the gardens come alive with thousands of lights. Fading of the sun accompanied our move to the directed area of seating on the lawn to watch the evening fireworks. If you plan to stay, be sure to bring along a blanket for seating and warmth. The temperature can drop substantially as the sun sets amidst these acres of lush vegetation.
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