More Butchart Gardens flower power—and a dose of Japanese tranquility

My last post left off at the Sunken Garden. From there I continued counterclockwise, first to the Rose Carousel, then to the Japanese Garden via the Rose Garden and finally on to the Italian Garden. Here is a handy map if you want to follow along or if you’ve been to Butchart Gardens and want to refresh your memory. Close to a million people visit the 55 acre (22 hectare)  garden every year, so many of you have probably been there at one point in your lives.


Rose Carousel. Check out the variety of plants growing on the rooftop.


Another inspired foliage combination: coleus and Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculata’


Fuchsia triphylla ‘Firecracker’


More awesome coleus. If they thrived in our climate and required less water, I’d grow expanses of them under the bay trees in our backyard.


Sunflowers and black-eyed susans outside of Annabelle’s Café


The most attractive garbage cans I’ve ever seen—featuring succulents even!


These 30-foot (9.1 m) totem poles were erected in 2004 to mark the 100th anniversary of Butchart Gardens.



This sighting of a monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) made me very happy. It seems that monkey puzzle trees are very happy in Victoria. I’ve seen quite a few all over town since then.


Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)


Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)


Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)

The dahlias in the beds bordering the Concert Lawn are in their prime. Lots of visitors were taken with them.







Is the selfie-stick the new tripod?


I have no idea what this dahlia variety is…


…but I would grow it in a heartbeat if it liked our climate


Common in Victoria but exotic to me: purple-leaved castor bean plant (Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita’)


Concert Lawn


Perennial plantings next to the Rose Garden:




This Torii gate marks the entrance to the Japanese Garden. A cooperative effort between Jennie Butchart and Japanese designer Isaburo Kishida, it was the first garden to be completed on the estate (1907).


While the rest of Butchart Gardens is dominated by over-the-top displays of flowering plants, the Japanese Garden is a tranquil oasis of green, turning shades of orange and red in the fall (someday I will experience it in person).


I know a little bit about Japanese gardens but I’m not an expert by any means so I can’t say with authority how “authentic” this garden is. Unless you’re a purist, it probably doesn’t matter. Personally, the Japanese Garden is my second favorite section at Butchart, after the Sunken Garden. I love the limited color palette (the perfect antidote to the Technicolor production that is the rest of Butchart Gardens) and its relative isolation next to Butchart Cove.






Alan, this is what you need to keep your bamboos from leaning over


Entrance to the Japanese Garden from Butchart Cove




Does anybody know what this tree might be?


I was obsessed with this red-and-black lacquered bridge…


…although this traditional version is just as nice


For being so small, the Japanese Garden is really very nice

Now we’re in the Italian Garden, completed in 1926. It’s the garden closest to the former residence, now the Dining Room Restaurant and (I assume) administrative facilities.






By now I was getting close to my point of saturation. But I found it impossible to put down the camera. Butchart Gardens is the ultimate enabler of floral addiction!


Celosia celosa resembling flames


I tried to resist but I ultimately gave in to the allure of this combination of wax begonias and Dusty Millers




Oh what the heck, what’s the point in fighting? Just give up and admit that you like it!


More! More! More!


Brugmansia near the entrance


Spotted right outside the restrooms in the entrance plaza. I felt weird pointing my camera towards the restrooms, but by then I had ditched every ounce of willpower and completely surrendered myself to the spell of Butchart Gardens.

When we visited Butchart Gardens last summer, I was overly critical of how over the top everything was. In hindsight, I now realize how arrogant that was. Who am I to imply something is inferior just because it’s not my taste? If Butchart Gardens is the Disneyland gardens, so be it. A tremendous amount of work goes into making the garden look as pristine as it does, year in and year out. I have the utmost respect for that.

All of that was going through my mind as I was making the 25-minute drive on Tuesday from our vacation rental. I was determined to let go of all prejudgment and enjoy what I love so much: plants in their infinite variety. That attitude worked very well. So well, in fact, that I was beginning to feel myself fall in love with flowering annuals.

What would happen if I lived here on Vancouver Island? Would I be growing annuals, too?

A year ago I would have said “never in a million years.” Now, I’m not so sure.


Victoria and Vancouver Island, BC, September 2016


  1. Is does make me think of Disneyland but I have to admire those glorious swaths of green (in summer!) and the bright floral color. Of course, I also noticed all the raincoats. If we got regular rain, I expect we'd garden very differently.

    1. People in Victoria were complaining about the drought this summer. Not to belittle it, but drought definitely has a different meaning there than it does in California.

    2. Hi Gerhard I don't know if this address or post still exists. I was looking at your pictures of the red and white collarette dahlias that were in Burchart Gardens. Do you know the name of the variety? I have been looking for it. Thank you. your photos are beautiful. Char ryan

  2. The water and rain available is unimaginable after five years of drought. I like the over-the-top color, but also the very restrained Japanese-style garden. Is the place constantly mobbed with people? Those scooters on narrow paths would be a pain to avoid.

    The Dahlia is a "collarette" form. It is similar to one called "Wheels". I had it a few years back but it did not survive the winter. The variegated foliage tree--would that be a dogwood?

    1. The paths in the Japanese Garden are narrower than elsewhere and while they were jammed at times, it usually didn't take long for everybody to get out of a picture I wanted to take. I had the feeling that fewer people go to the Japanese Garden than the other gardens at Butchart.

      When I arrived shortly after nine, there were very few cars in the parking lot. I was able to park right at the entrance. An hour later a few buses must have arrived because out the blue I encountered waves of people. Cruise ship passengers get bussed from Victoria to Butchart Gardens.

      Thanks for the dahlia info--and the dogwood ID. Loree concurs.

  3. What a beautiful lush place...kind of tropical in a way! With all our rain Houston is turning back into the jungle it was when I moved here. Funny thing colocasias that we haven't seen since before the drought 8 years ago are popping up every where. And the frogs are back in the full form. The down side we have lost 2 months of working days...ouch!

    1. I would love to get a behind-the-scenes tour. I have so many questions about all the tropical plants. Even in Victoria's mild climate, the bananas, elephant ears, etc. must get whacked to the ground by the occasional frost. Are the corms/tubers removed and stored inside in the winter?

      Please send some of your Houston rain to California! We need it so badly!

  4. I second Hoover's ID of the Dogwood. And am surprised at the amount of green. We're still in the dormant brown days here in Portland.

    1. That variegated dogwood was very elegant. Of course many dogwoods are. Thansk for the ID.

      "Dormant brown" pretty much describes California 8 months out of the year!

  5. So lush, so much color, but still doesn't persuade me as a "must visit" garden. Not when there is so much else in the PNW I've never I sited before. Although that said, I do have a fondness for Dahlias, Begonias and the occasional Coleus in my garden(s).

    1. I know just what you mean. But you come to this with a different esthetic (not to mention experience) than a regular gardener :-).

  6. There are things here that I'd love to see, but I'd hate other parts. That's how I feel about Missouri Botanical Garden too, although there are few hated parts. :)

    So I just need some bamboo timber and the space to make "tunnels" from them, and my bamboo droop problem would be fixed? ;)

    1. Wouldn't it cool to have a bamboo tunnel? You, more than anybody else I know, have the skills to create one :-).

    2. Wouldn't it cool to have a bamboo tunnel? You, more than anybody else I know, have the skills to create one :-).


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