I have a love affair with gardening. Not only do I find digging in the dirt to be a very satisfying activity, I thoroughly enjoy visiting gardens for inspiration. The gardens of Victoria in spring are exceptional places to visit. They’re very much alive and bursting with colour while the rest of Canada may or may not be buried under snow.
I think 3 of the best gardens to visit in Victoria include The Butchart Gardens, Abkhazi Garden and the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific. While they all tend to be at their prettiest from early spring to late fall, they can be visited year-round. All of them also offer either meals or high tea.
The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden
The 1.4 acre Abkhazi Garden sits on a stunning lot overlooking the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Georgia in a residential area of Victoria. The gardens are a work of love created by Prince and Princess Abkhazi, famous for a friendship and romance that spanned seven decades, and survived the horrors of WWII – including both of them being interned for a time. They didn’t start the garden until they were in their forties shortly after they got married in 1946.
The garden is famous in horticultural circles for its prized rhododendrons and rare flowers. I personally loved the Chinese fir that almost glowed on an overcast day. While you could run through the garden in 15 minutes, it’s a place that is meant to be savoured. Take your time as you walk the paths. Stop and listen for the birds and smell the proverbial flowers.
Lunch and high tea are both offered in the Teahouse – formerly the main residence of the prince and princess, with the last tea sitting and garden entry at 4 PM. In the winter (October – March) hours are reduced and the garden is open from Wednesday to Sunday. It’s located at 1964 Fairfield Road, about a 10 minute drive from downtown Victoria.
While high tea doesn’t come cheaply ($48 pp here) it’s considerably less than the $75 pp price tag at the Empress – and what a beautiful setting it’s in. Choose from teas with names like Alchemist Brew and Moonlight on the Grove and enjoy small bites of quiche, sausage rolls, sandwiches, scones with preserves and cream along with an assortment of goodies.
The Butchart Gardens
It was years of traveling to see my mother in Sidney before I got around to visiting The Butchart Gardens, mainly because I figured it was a garden catering to tourists. I was very wrong. While there are certainly busloads of visitors, the gardens are for tourists and locals alike with lots of great programming including concerts and fireworks. Despite the million plus yearly visitors, people get dispersed as The Butchart Gardens cover 55 acres. The gardens are truly gorgeous, especially the Sunken Garden, though that should come as no surprise when you consider that in peak season they employ 550 people.
READ: To learn the fascinating history of the gardens check out An April Visit to the Butchart Gardens
Allow at least 1.5 hours to wander through all the different types of gardens that make up The Butchart Gardens. For a real treat make a reservation in The Dining Room Restaurant. While you nosh in what has been called one of the top 100 restaurants in Canada by Open Table, you can enjoy an intimate experience looking out to the gardens. They offer high tea, lunch and dinner.
The Butchart Gardens are located 23 kilometres north of Victoria on the Saanich Peninsula and just 10 kilometres away from the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific. This is truly a garden not to be missed, no matter what the season.
Horticultural Centre of the Pacific
I mentioned the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific (HCP) in my blog about my experience on the harbour to farm bike tour in Victoria. I think these gardens fly under the radar of the general public but the locals are on-board, especially considering how many classes they offer onsite including a meadowscaping for biodiversity workshop.
The heart of the HCP is research, conservation and lifelong learning. But you will definitely be able to draw inspiration from all the different types of gardens including an edible garden, hardy fuchsia, urban and farm garden. Include a wander through the Japanese garden to admire the gorgeous bonsai trees.
Finish off a visit here with a meal or a drink at Charlotte and the Quail. Their menu is locally inspired; food is truly delicious and the presentation is outstanding.
I can guarantee that visiting these three Victoria gardens will lift your spirits and inspire you.
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Thank you to The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden for hosting my tea and to Tourism Victoria for hosting my visit and making it all happen.