I’m back! You might have noticed that I haven’t posted for a while. Did you miss me? I’ve been a tad occupied with my flat sale and moving house lately…but I often find myself reflecting on my holiday with Brett in British Columbia a couple of months ago.
After Brett and I had just become engaged, he wanted to show me around some of his favourite haunts. One day, he whisked me off for a romantic day out to a magical and enchanting place known as Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, near Victoria on Vancouver Island. Brett knows me so well. I’ve been a botanical nut ever since I was node-high to a dahlia. My love of nature stemmed from growing up in the English countryside, where the local river, fields and spinneys were my playground. I studied biology at school and university and spent hours in my youth collecting and pressing flowers or painting and drawing them.
My love of botany has continued to flourish over the years and, more recently, I studied a module towards a diploma from the Royal Horticultural Society course at Capel Manor College, based in Regent’s Park. This Thursday evening class became a lifeline for me during a stressful period of my life. I eagerly waited for the end of my working day when I was free to wander through the carefully and formally laid out gardens to my class. Instantly I felt the stress leave my body as soon as I stepped off the road and through the park gate, surrounded by the beauty of flowers, trees and birdsong.
Fast-forward a few months and here I was in Butchart Gardens, visibly moved to tears as Brett and I strolled around the pathways from one magical ‘garden room’ to the next. Jennie Butchart, who created the gardens in the early 1900s, was a true visionary, that’s for sure. Over many years, she transformed an exhausted limestone quarry pit from the family business into an array of characterful and themed gardens. She went to great lengths to arrange the transport of top soil by horse and cart into the quarry pit and she even scaled the quarry walls herself to place plants in precarious nooks and crannies!
The sunken gardens are spectacular and appear as though Monet and Sisley danced with gigantic paint brushes across the natural canvas. There are quiet, woodland glades providing a lush home for shade-loving and marshland plants, interspersed with woven willow animals. The pathways and layered planting of rockeries and mixed beds and borders lead the visitor onwards towards an authentic and tranquil Japanese garden complete with teahouse and red, wooden bridge and eventually to a dramatic, quarry wall backdrop to a stunning fountain display in the lake. I can appreciate how much back-breaking work goes in to planting thousands of bulbs to create the feast for the eyes laid out in the spring beds. The colour palette is exquisite!
I was in awe everywhere I looked and drank it all in. I wanted to remember planting and design ideas so that when Brett and I have our own plot somewhere I can get to work on creating our own garden of dreams. Although the sunken gardens are indeed incredible, I think my favourite gardens were the rose and Japanese gardens. I absolutely adore roses, especially those old fashioned varieties with lingering heady fragrances. The Japanese garden lured us into its peaceful oasis and we halted there a while.
Feeling slightly peckish from walking the length of the gardens a few times over, I decided to treat Brett to afternoon tea in the dining room in the old family house. Wow, what a delight! We started with trifle, followed by dainty sandwiches, cakes, scones and macaroons accompanied by delicious, heart-warming and piping hot cups of tea while we overlooked the charming courtyard garden. The experience reminded me of taking afternoon tea in one of my other favourite gardens – Kensington Palace. Next time you are in London, do pop in to the Orangery for tea, you won’t be disappointed!
Afterwards we wandered around again to work off a few of those calorie-laden delights and chatted to one of the gardeners, who told us about the planting schemes that change about four times a year. I asked him what happens to the plants when they pull them up and sadly, they are thrown away. It is such a shame. I wonder if there is any possibility of passing them on to individuals, charities or institutions, such as hospitals to make use of them? I know that some of the show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the UK are re-planted elsewhere after the show is over. I’m sure there must be a way so that these living beings do not go to waste! Come on Canada, you are an eco-friendly nation so how about some crafty, freecycling?
I think that was the only downside to a wonderful, romantic, inspiring botanical day out! Oh yes, that and the entrance fee of course, which must limit and perhaps exclude some people, because it would end up being a costly day out for families. I think gardens as beautiful and visionary as these should be made available and accessible to all people. Don’t you think everyone should have an opportunity of finding eden in British Columbia?
Thanks for reading. I hope you liked this post. Feel free to leave comments below and follow my blog for more stories and adventures coming to a screen near you very soon!
Peace, love and light,