The Magic Of Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.

For nearly a century the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia has enthralled visitors from around the world. This article explores the elements of its success.

Every year, one million visitors from all over the world find their way by air, bus, car, and ferry, to Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island, fourteen miles north of Victoria, British Columbia. A spot known as the Butchart Gardens, which displays, from March through October, over 700 varieties of 1 million bedding plants. Moreover, first-hand descriptions by travellers conjure up visions of Heaven, Shangri-La, and the Garden of Eden, rolled into one. How has this Canadian, family owned and operated attraction earned such an outstanding reputation? Let's find out.

A spark of imagination, hard work, and sufficient wherewithal were the original components of the Butchart Gardens when, in 1904, the wife of a cement manufacturer undertook to fill a fifty-acre lime pit, left gaping by her husband's excavations, with quality top soil which she had hauled by horse and wagon from local farmers' fields. She began planting flowers, shrubs, and trees, and her husband helped by providing ornamental birds of every description for each aspect of the gardens, even to installing a crusty parrot in the main house. Jennie Butchart had begun to realize her dream, and her descendants over the years have done the rest.

In 1908, what is now the Japanese Garden was conceived, complete with appropriate vegetation, streaming waterfalls and sculpted shrubs; and in 1929, the Rose Garden, which today displays 250 varieties of roses and more than 3000 plants. Gardens which were gradually added over the years, and are on display today, include the Italian Garden, Ross Fountain, the Star Pond, the Concert Lawn, and the Show Greenhouse. It is reported that even in the 1920's, more than 50,000 visitors a year came to see the Gardens as word was spread of its visual glories.

Acres of floral and arboreal magnificence greet visitors as they move in awe along the winding pathways while panoramic views in demand of a camera open up at every turn. The Sunken Garden and the Rose Garden are the highlights of the site; but at every turn, blooming plants and myriads of sculpted shrubs materialize before one's eyes. Every month of the year, and every season has special highlighted trees and flowers. Eden must have looked like this!

The Butchart Gardens features tasteful, even unusual entertainment at different times throughout the year. For example, a Celtic quartet; buskers tapping to Dixieland jazz; concerts featuring the Butchart family's own self-playing Aeolian pipe organ; and even a meticulously choreographed musical revue performed for the enjoyment of family audiences.

In the evenings from mid-June to mid-September, a dazzling light show brightens the Gardens with many points of brilliance; and featured on weekends during the summer months are spectacular fireworks acquired from the best collections of the U.S., France and Spain. These are operated by a twelve-man crew and set to music by Jennie's great-grandson, Christopher Ross.

Christmas-time is a special event all its own when lights illumine the trees. Carollers in Victorian dress and a traditional brass band regale visitors to the main lodge and dining room, where the food is said to be of unparallelled quality.

Perhaps the glowing first-hand accounts of visits to the Gardens and its obvious success attest to the human being's search for perfect beauty; and where better than in nature can this be found? But there is more, for the lights and music, which are mad-made, create an ambience that has enthralled many. If there is magic here, it is the result of the combination of these elements, and, not to be forgotten, the dedicated work of family members for over nearly a century.

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