British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada, renowned for its stunning natural scenery. Within this picturesque region nestle smaller equally stunning gems; the gardens of Victoria, BC.
The yearlong mild coastal climate found in Victoria is perfect for not only a variety of outdoor sporting activities, but for the passionate gardener as well, earning Victoria the apropos moniker the City of Gardens.
The Butchart Gardens
With nearly one million visitors per year, a visit to the region isn’t complete without a visit to the Butchart Gardens. Inarguably the most popular British Columbia garden, with over 55 acres (22 hectares) that encompass over a million bedding plants, there really is something here for everyone. Even when most plants are slumbering during the winter months, Butchart Gardens puts on a holiday light display that’s out of this world.
Jennie Butchart is the woman responsible for many of the display gardens at Butchart. Her husband, Robert, made his fortune manufacturing cement with limestone from a nearby quarry. The couple made their home near there on Tod Inlet, whereupon Jennie hired the garden designer Isaburo Kishida to design a Japanese garden. The garden was so popular, additional gardens came to be added through the succeeding years.
While Butchart Gardens is likely the most famous of the gardens in Victoria, just five minutes away is another not to be missed gem — the Butterfly Gardens. Located in Brentwood Bay, north of Victoria, the Butterfly Gardens is an indoor tropical jungle rife with butterflies, tropical birds and plants, and many other heat loving animals. On the grounds is also an Insectarium which houses… well… insects of course! But it is also home to other invertebrates native to jungle climates.
Other Victoria Gardens
In 1946, Victoria became the adopted homeland of Prince and Princess Abkhazi. Here they worked together for over 40 years to create a landscape that is a striking example of West Coast garden design. Within the discreet hedge surrounding the property lie dramatic glaciated rocky inclines surrounded by mighty Garry oak trees interwoven with conifers, maples, rhododendrons and understory native specimens. The Abkhazi Garden is truly a wonder and not to be missed.
Just a 25 minute drive from downtown Victoria is the Hatley Park National Historic Site. Within the property you can not only view the castle but also marvel at the spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Then wander through the formal rose, Japanese or Italian gardens or hike the 9 miles (15 km) of old growth forest trails.
North of downtown Victoria are the Gardens at Horticulture Center of the Pacific (HCP). Here you will find a hands-on Children’s Garden and the largest outdoor Bonsai Garden in Canada. Tended by a volunteer staff, HCP encompasses 9 acres (4 hectares) of demonstration gardens with an additional 100 acres (40 hectares) of Conservation Park.
While the gardens above do charge an admittance fee, there are plenty of free Victoria BC gardens to explore. Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of BC and is open to the public. Its 36 acres (14.6 hectares) are tended by volunteers and encompass native plant life as well as specimen, ornamental and edible plants.
Finnerty Gardens located on the campus of the University of Victoria has a superb collection of rhododendrons along with 4,000 other trees and shrubs and is also free. Finnerty Gardens is a true gem amongst British Columbia gardens.
Just wandering the streets of Victoria will give plenty of opportunities to admire the flora of the city. While the lower states are still mired in snow and ice, Victoria’s mild climate elicits blooming as early as February. For over 75 years the city has taken advantage of the early bloom time and drapes the streets with colorful hanging baskets, each a Victoria BC garden in miniature.