Tim Collins/News staff
In many ways, Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie were the model of responsible environmentalism in the face of an industrial altering of the landscape. Robert had come to the Saanich Peninsula in 1904 to launch a successful quarry and cement operation at Tod Inlet, an industry that made him a very rich man, but left a severely altered landscape as the limestone was hewn from the earth, leaving a gaping hole behind.
But, unlike too many others, the Butcharts were not the sort to leave a scar on the land as their legacy.
With Robert’s enthusiastic support, Jennie had tonnes of top soil brought in by horse and wagon to line the floor of the abandoned quarry and , little by little, she transformed it into a spectacular sunken garden.
The work continued for decades until, today, Butchart Gardens (in 2004 designated a National Historic Site) features over a million bedding plants in more than 900 varieties of flowers and plants. More than a million people visit the gardens annually, marvelling at the riot of color and beauty found along every pathway and around every corner.
But Butchart Gardens offers so much more than the gardens.
Throughout the summer the Garden’s Spectacular Summer Evenings concert series provides music, dance and wonder on the stage at the concert lawn. The musical offerings are as varied as the garden’s flowers, featuring everything from country to dixieland, to contemporary and classical.
After dark the gardens take on a new life as the artistic lighting features come to life, and on Saturday evenings a spectacular fireworks display lights the sky to the strains of a synchronized musical backdrop.
And while the beauty of the gardens nurtures the souls of visitors; food carts, home made gelato (in the Italian Gardens), made to order picnic lunches, the cafe and even the formal dining room in the original Butchart residence all combine to sate the appetites of visitors.
Pets are also welcome at the Gardens and doggie treats and even doggie water fountains are available on site. Four legged friends are required to be on-leash, of course, but with all the sights and sounds at the attraction, they don’t seem to mind.
Dale Ryan, the Garden’s Director of Public Relations, recounted that the gardens’s have always been intended to have something for everyone.
“For some people the quiet contemplation of the beauty of the place is all they seek, and for others we have the concerts, the fireworks, the dining and even the very special carousel for the children. It was Mr. and Mr’s Butchart’s wish to give back to the community and we continue to offer something for everyone who comes to visit.”