Butchart Gardens

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The following article was researched and written by
Tamara McMullen. More contributors.


Significance of Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens is an amazing landmark in Canada, and has been for nearly 100 years now. It is world renown for its beauty, its originality, and the wonderful experience involved in visiting it. The Gardens began as, and remains a family establishment, it is clear that passed on with the land is the tradition of hospitality. Each year over one million people, from countries spanning the earth, come to visit the gardens to regard with excitement and amazement the 55 acres of floral fantasy, and feel of the warmth of the place. Within the grounds there are over a million plants, in over 700 species to be seen, and much entertainment to be had.

The gardens are an amazing example of the love Canadians have of beautifying their surroundings, and their ability to persevere through extremely difficult work. It is a fantastic place to visit and will continue to be for at least the next 100 years.



Background for Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens proves that with a dream and hard work anything is possible.

In 1904 Mrs. Butchart, the creator of Butchart Gardens, went to Tod Inlet, in B.C. in order to be with her husband. Mr. Butchart had moved there about a year before in order to build a cement plant. The property he bought was rich in limestone- an important component of manufacturing cement. It was soon revealed that Jenny Butchart was not one to sit idle while her husband was busy running his business. In 1906 Jenny planted a few trees and shrubs around the property. She quickly enlisted the help of a landscaper named Isaboru Kishida. Weaving together Isaboru's ideas and knowledge, ad well as Jenny's vision and travel experience, they conceived the fantastic idea of what is now aptly named 'The Japanese Garden'. It included all of the appropriate plant life; such as bamboo, rhododendrons and azaleas with their spring explosions of bloom, and Japanese maples with their lacy leaves and blazing color.

In 1908 the supplies of limestone, though they had been large, depleted and ran out completely. When Jenny's friend made the careless jest that even she could not get anything to grow in the ruins of the limestone quarry, Jenny had to prove her wrong. Over the next few years she continued working in 'The Japanese Garden', while she planned how to turn the quarry into a work of natural art. It wasn't until 1912 that the physical labor on the garden commence. This garden, now often regarded as the most beautiful of all the gardens, was called 'The Sunken Garden'. It was quite the undertaking. Mrs. Butchart had to requisition topsoil from the farms nearby and it was brought in by the cartload. Jenny, her landscaper, and men loaned by Mr. Butchart from the cement plant, began to plant. They used thousands of varieties of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. Raised beds were created and ivy was planted in the steep walls. The garden took nine years from conception to completion, planting giving way to maintenance in 1921.

A year later, in 1922 Mrs. Butchart's need for creation started itching once again and she began the most formal of the gardens. 'The Italian Garden', in the place of the Butchart's former tennis court, is centered around a lily pond in the shape of a cross. There are twele surronding beds- each one representing one of the apostles.

In 1929 to 1930 she replaced the kitchen vegetable patch with 'The Rose Garden'. This, the last garden of Butchart Gardens, features 250 species of roses, offset by delphiniums, peonies and other stunning plants.

Butchart Gardens, also christened "Benvenuto" (the Italian word for 'Welcome'), includes numerous features aside from the four spectacular gardens; such as waterfalls, fountains, winding paths and beautifully curved bridges that mirror the achingly lovely curve in the branches of the weeping trees through the estate. Even more than the beauty of the place, Butchart Gardens had a reputation for upholding the name "Benvenuto" and showing welcome to all who come. Jenny Butchart even went as far as to serve tea to each person who arrived at her door. In 1939 the Butchart's passed the Gardens down to their grandson Robert Ian Ross, who continued both the care and traditions of the gardens.

During his ownership the gardens passed their 50th anniversary in 1954 and the Ross's began the Night Illumination show- a complicated, beautiful, and before unseen light display. For the 60th anniversary in 1964 they created the 'Ross Fountain', a fountain with sprays of water reaching up to 25 meters high, with patterns of flow that rarely repeats itself.

After many years of amazing ownership Robert Ross passed away in 1997 and the gardens were given to the management and their traditions "Benvenuto" still shows entertainment, beauty, and hospitality to any visitors who arrive.


Bibliography for Butchart Gardens

  • Allison, Kathy. Information Letter. McMullen, Tamara. Victoria, B.C. , December 28, 2002