"There has never been a year where we have so eagerly anticipated the arrival of spring in our garden," Rick Los, Director of Horticulture at the Butchart Gardens, writes in the Spring 2017 Garden Notebook:
With all the talk of global warming we were expecting and planning for another early spring, but in a humbling change of events, Mother Nature decided to cool our region off significantly during the past few months. That being what it was, the garden itself did not suffer any unexpected physical damage. However, in comparison to last year, our floral calendar is almost a full month behind.Reading this was no surprise. That's pretty much the case across the Greater Victoria area and across the entire Pacific Northwest. I debated whether I even bother to go to the Butchart Gardens but then curiosity won out. I wanted to see what it looks like without the explosion of color that is its hallmark.
At the edge of the parking lot is a small area that features some succulents, like the large agave in the distance (the area was closed off so I couldn't get closer)...
...and these Yucca rostrata that seem completely impervious to the weather:
Clues to how much it rains here are everywhere. The Butchart Gardens is located in Brentwood Bay, about 20 km north of Victoria, and this area receives significantly more rainfall than Victoria proper.
|Rain shelter at the edge of the parking lot, its roof covered with a thick layer of moss|
A great service provided by the Butchart Gardens:
|Complimentary loaner umbrellas available in many places|
From mid-January until the end of March, the Blue Poppy Restaurant becomes an indoor garden called "Spring Prelude." This is the place to go if you need a quick flower fix. The plantings combine tropicals, flowering bulbs, annuals, and perennials that bloom indoors weeks, if not months, before they would outside. There even were shrubs and small trees, as you will see below!
|Cherry and redbud, all indoors|
|Aloes and other succulents in a fountain underplanted with hyacinths--who would have thought?|
I wasn't sure I'd like the Spring Prelude because it's a bit over the top (OK, a lot) but in way, that's what makes it so charming. How can you resist so much beauty! I didn't even bother, I simply surrendered myself to it. And loved it.
Now let's take a look at what the gardens looked like outside.
|A sea of green instead of washes of color|
|No flowers, but nice patterns!|
The Sunken Garden, and the Japanese Garden you'll see in a moment, demonstrate what a strong backbone of trees and shrubs the Butchart Gardens has. Even with relatively few plants in bloom, these areas are arrestingly beautiful.
|Sunken Garden panorama|
|Mound in the middle of the Sunken Garden|
|Descending into the Sunken Garden|
|Much of the color comes from heathers|
|These should be in full bloom by now|
|My favorite vignette in the Sunken Garden|
|This Japanese maple is perfection|
|Ross Foundation in the lower reservoir|
|Cherry (or plum?) just starting to flower|
|My favorite photo of the day. This high school group made liberal use of the loaner umbrellas.|
|Pops of blue from Scilla siberica|
|Crocus in the Rose Garden|
The Japanese Garden is an oasis of green, ranging from muted to vibrant. Pops of red from man-made structures like this torii gate and curved bridges inject a jolt of energy.
In case you were wondering: There were relatively few visitors in the Japanese Garden (aside from the group of high school students you saw climbing up the mound in the center of the Sunken Garden). It felt heavenly being able to enjoy all this beauty without the usual distractions.
Before we leave the Japanese Garden, here's a peek at Butchart Cove on Tod Inlet through a window in the trees. Boat tours are offered in the summer.
The Italian Garden in front of the Butchart's former residence is planted in bulbs, most of them still a week or two away from flowering. I actually prefer this muted palette over the loud colors of the summer plantings.
If you're thinking of visiting the Butchart Gardens this year, I think May would be a great time. The spring plantings should finally be in full bloom.
For a history of the Butchart Gardens, check out my post from July 2015.