One woman’s vision forever transformed our notion of a garden. So begins the story of Jennie Butchart, who used horse and cart to transfer topsoil to the famous sunken garden at The Butchart Gardens in Vancouver Island, Canada.
With 55 acres of a former limestone quarry as her canvas, Jennie started the metamorphosis in 1904. She and her husband Robert established their home which they named “Benvenuto”, which means “Welcome” in Italian, near his quarry on Tod Inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula. In 1926, they replaced their tennis courts with an Italian garden and in 1929 they replaced their kitchen vegetable garden with a large rose garden.
In 1953, miles of underground wiring was laid to provide night illumination, to mark the 50th anniversary of The Gardens. In 1964, the ever-changing Ross Fountain was installed in the lower reservoir to celebrate the 60th anniversary. In 1994, the Canadian Heraldic Authority granted a coat of arms to the Butchart Gardens. In 2004, two 30-foot (9.1 m) totem poles were installed to mark the 100th anniversary, and The Gardens were designated as a national historic site.
Handed down through the family, Butchart Gardens are currently owned by her great-granddaughter, Robin, and receives over one million visitors per year.
There is a rose garden, Japanese garden, Italian garden, and the show-stopping sunken garden. To enter, visitors walk past pergolas with hanging baskets of giant begonias. Then visitors follow a pathway through a forested area. After rounding a corner the jaw-dropping spectacle of the sunken garden reveals its glory.
The vision is breathtaking and inspiring. There are 900 varieties of bedding plants. Photos DO capture its beauteousness, but I would compare a picture of The Gardens to a picture of the Grand Canyon – the image is there, but seems imaginary. Even in person, The Gardens have an ethereal quality that makes spending an afternoon walking the pathways seem dreamlike.
Jennie Butchart made her dream a reality. She dreamt of creating gardens that could be enjoyed by all for generations to come. We encourage you to visit The Butchart Gardens is you ever travel north to British Columbia. If that’s too far, just mark your calendars for the weekend of May 2nd & 3rd for the 2020 Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour.
|Contributed by Jennifer McInteer|
MLHMGT Board member