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An April Visit to the Butchart Gardens

The famous Sunken Gardens in spring
The famous Sunken Gardens in spring in the Butchart Gardens
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I always love to visit the Victoria area in spring, especially if Calgary is still blanketed in snow. There’s nothing like arriving to a landscape of colour. On my wish list for my time in the area was an April visit to the Butchart Gardens. I’d been before but there’s a timeless appeal to the gardens and April, with all the spring bulbs in bloom, is spectacular. The fall is also a stunner of a time to visit too.

I took my mother with me and our first stop was the conservatory. We ate lunch – though we could have had high tea in a delightful setting. On the day we visited the Butchart Gardens in April, there was hardly a soul around so there wasn’t much of a wait. I can’t imagine what it would be like on Mother’s Day.

Lunch with my mother at the Butchart Gardens
Going for lunch was a favourite outing with my mother on a visit to Sidney

History of the Butchart Gardens

The year is 1904. Mr. Robert Pim Butchart, the original owner, has been mining the limestone quarry for his Portland cement business. His wife, Jennie Butchart, who obviously knows a thing or two about design, has the brilliant idea of turning the quarry into a garden.

He obviously shares her vision and so begins the transformation of the quarry into one of Canada’s premier tourist attractions and a National Historic Site – though that didn’t happen until 2004.

Jennie Butchart was a gifted garden designer. She used the rock outcropping to great advantage. Then the bones, the permanent and structural components of the garden, like the trees, shrubs and walkways were so well thought out that they have survived to the present day. 

Over the years The Gardens have been expanded to include the Rose, Italian, Japanese and Mediterranean Gardens. Plants from their travels – both rare and exotic, were added over time. On top of that thousands of bulbs, annuals, perennials and roses were added to create the stunning garden you see today.

By the 1920’s, 50,000 people visited each year. Today that number is closer to one million people per year.

Colourful plantings of tulips and forget-me-nots at the Butchart Gardens
Colourful plantings with lots of texture using the colour wheel

A few cool facts about the Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens cover 55 acres. To keep them looking so impeccable, it takes 50 full time gardeners, 12 part-time gardeners as well as 550 staff in peak season. There is never a weed in sight, or a blade of grass where it shouldn’t be.

One fact I read states that the Butchart Gardens are entirely self-sufficient with regards to their irrigation supply. Every year millions of litres of rainwater are collected via runoff from the parking lots and stored in a number of reservoirs and wells.

The famous Sunken Gardens in spring
The famous Sunken Gardens in spring
Colourful plantins in the Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens
Plantings in the Sunken Garden at the Butchart Gardens in April

How to make the most of your visit to the Butchart Gardens in April

There’s been a lot of thought put into how to manage people and get them moving in an orderly direction. When you buy your tickets you get a map and a guide with a suggested walking route. Follow it, because it makes sense and you won’t miss any of the gardens.

The average suggested time in the gardens is 1.5 hours – but if you’re a photographer or keen gardener I think you could easily spend a half day.

There are places to pick up coffees and snack along the way plus two restaurants near the ticket office. There’s even a Children’s pavilion and Rose carousel – and if I was a kid I’d be making a beeline right to the rides.

After walking through the Sunken Gardens and past the Rose carousel you can saunter through the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden. Paths lined with gorgeous spring bulbs in great colour combinations lead the way.

From the Japanese Gardens you can do a quick side trip down to the waterfront. You might see the odd kayaker, seal or even a float plane landing with guests. Near the finish of the walk you pass through the Italian Gardens. In May they’re a colour coordinated delight of pinks, blues and whites.

I think this quote says it all. Bad Gardens copy, good gardens create, great gardens transcend. (Ken Wilbur)

The Butchart Gardens belong in the great gardens category!

For those of you visiting from afar, you might enjoy the private group tour with Viator that includes Victoria and the Butchart Gardens.

Pretty pink combo of flowers at the Butchart Gardens
Pretty pink combo of flowers
Soothing scene of ponds and willows at the Butchart Gardens
The area around the ponds is always a soothing one
The pond with draping willows at the Butchart Gardens
I have garden envy when I come upon this scene
Yellow tulips and nlue forget-me-nots at the Butchart Gardens
You’ll come away with lots of planting inspiration
The gardens are kept in impeccable shape
The Butchart Gardens in April are in impeccable shape
The area around the stairs draws your eyes up
The area around the stairs draws your eyes up
I love the contrast of textures in this spring planting at the Butchart Gardens
I love the contrast of textures in this planting
A bit of whimsy with these mossy dragonflies on a concrete wall
A bit of whimsy with these mossy dragonflies on a concrete wall
Native art in the Butchart Gardens
Native art in the garden
Coast redwood trees are giant compared to everything else in one section of the garden
Coast redwood trees are giant compared to everything else in one section of the garden
Magnolia blossoms are at their peak in April
Magnolia blossoms are at their peak in the Butchart Gardens in April
The fountains near the back of Butchart Garden
The fountains near the back of the garden
Fountains lined with tulips and forget-me-nots at the Butchart Gardens
Enjoy this view from the dining room of the Butchart Gardens in April
Looking out to Tod Inlet from the Butchart Gardens
At the back of the gardens near the large fountains you can get a view out to the water

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Where are the Butchart Gardens?

The Butchart Gardens are located on the Saanich Peninsula near Brentwood Bay. They are about 20 kilometres from Victoria and a 20-minute drive from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

                     

Useful information about the gardens

The gardens are open year round. In the summer (June 15-September 3) you can visit from 9 AM until 10 PM. Visit their website for information on the other months.

Spring time admission prices are $32.40 for adults, $16.20 for youth 13-17, and $2 for children 5 – 12. Plus tax. Prices vary depending on whether its low or high season.

Plan on a trip to see the fireworks in the summer.

Every night in July and August concerts are offered – from Jazz to Folk to Celtic to Vocal.                  

If you want to treat yourself on a visit to the Butchart Gardens

Travel by seaplane from Victoria’s Inner Harbour to the Butchart Gardens on Tod Inlet, enjoying superlative views along the way. Enjoy a three course meal followed by an evening stroll in the gardens. Return to Victoria by limousine. If that sounds appealing book here with Get Your Guide.

Further reading on things to do in the Victoria area

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Butchart Gardens near Victoria BC are fabulous, especially in spring

 

 

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