Last week we took a trip to beautiful Victoria, BC. I invited my mom so we could spend some quality mother-daughter time and The Butchart Gardens was at the top of our list of places to visit. Though it was early March, there were some Spring flowers already in bloom and the special Spring Prelude display, their beautiful indoor garden, was simply beautiful. The weather was gorgeous, full blue skies and sun, and we thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the gardens. The beauty and serenity of The Butchart Gardens cannot be overstated. We were so impressed that I wanted to tell you all about this magical place!
Join me for a Four Seasons Virtual Tour of the gardens, a walk through Spring Prelude and the Historical Display, and pull up a chair and join us for High Tea!
Named one of the Top 10 Magnificent Gardens in the world by National Geographic, ranked #3 Top 10 Best Public Gardens by USA Today, and numerous other accolades by Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, TripAdvisor and more, The Butchart Gardens is one of Victoria’s most visited tourist destinations, attracting almost a million visitors every year. In 2004, The Gardens was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
The Butchart Gardens is a total of 135 acres, 55 acres of which are fully manicured and planted. During peak season The Butchart Gardens employs a staff of 550. The Gardens has 50 full-time gardeners all year round and during peak season they employ up to 70. Each year over a million bedding plants in some 900 varieties give you uninterrupted bloom from March through October.
Originally owned by Jennie and Robert Pim Butchart who was a pioneer in the cement industry, the Butchart’s came west from Ontario, Canada because of the rich limestone deposits and there he built a cement plant. In 1904 they established their home near his quarry. In 1909 the limestone quarry was exhausted and Jennie Butchart, not feeling terribly inspired by the sight of the barren pit, set about to transform it into what would be called the Sunken Garden. It took her 12 years and it was finally completed in 1921.
The Sunken Garden (also pictured at the very top) is so beautiful, peaceful and serene.
In 1926, the Butchart’s tore out their tennis courts and replaced them with an Italian garden. Next, in 1929, they transformed their vegetable garden into a large rose garden. During this time frame they also completed the Japanese garden. Even by this time, more than 50,000 visitors came to see the gardens each year.
Ten years later in 1939, the Butcharts gave the Gardens to their grandson Ian Ross on his 21st birthday. Ross saw its potential as a major tourist attraction and after his service in WWII worked to promote the gardens for the next 58 years until his death. The gardens remain in the Butchart family and are now owned and managed by Ian Ross’ sister, Jennie and Robert’s great-granddaughter, Robin Clarke.
We arrived at The Butchart Gardens about twenty minutes before our reservation at The Dining Room for High Tea. So we spent that time touring the Spring Prelude, their indoor garden display that runs from January 15-March 31. I had read about it online but it was more impressive in person than I had imagined. Like a gigantic greenhouse on steroids, it’s literally bursting with color and fragrance.
Our walk through Spring Prelude was the perfect segway to High Tea.
We were seated at a table in the corner of the dining room where the cheery sunlight came through the windows and potted flours sat on the floor and window sill. It was such a charming atmosphere!
Our waiter brought us the High Tea menu with an overview of what would be served.
Our meal started out with tea and some candied ginger scones with whipped vanilla Devon-style cream and strawberry preserves. The scones were absolute perfection.
I would have been perfectly happy with a couple more of these and then just skip to dessert!
The food arrived and the presentation was gorgeous. The three-tiered tray consisted of savory pastries at the bottom (which is what you start with and work your way up), followed by a variety of sandwiches, and dessert on the top.
The next day we had Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress and I have to say, in terms of the food itself, the selection at Butchart Gardens was better. Not to mention it’s significantly less expensive (if you’re visiting the gardens anyway – admission is required). The servings were more generous and included savory pastries, something The Empress doesn’t include. The pastries included Cornish pasties, caramelized leek and aged cheddar quiche, and chicken and mushroom vol-au-vent.
The sandwich fillings were also more flavorful (eg, smoked salmon rolls, Moroccan chicken salad). While the desserts weren’t quite as dainty or fancy as at The Empress, they were more enjoyable. The Battenberg cake covered in marzipan and shortbread lemon bars were scrumptious. For our tea we chose Lemongrass & Ginger. The lemongrass flavor was subtle and not overpowering, and the tea was delightfully refreshing.
The staff was very friendly and professional and the atmosphere was lovely. The Dining Room is small, cheerful and cozy and we really enjoyed our experience.
Incidentally, The Dining Room serves both High Tea and Afternoon Tea depending on the time of year. High Tea, which is what we had, is served during the cooler months and includes warm savory items.
And should you find yourself unable to finish everything on your plate and don’t want to take the leftovers home with you, as part of Butchart Gardens’ environmental initiatives, all food waste and coffee grounds from the restaurant and kitchen are composted for the gardens. That’s efficiency!
And if you’re interested in creating your own High Tea at home, be sure to check out my recipe for Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes, a finger-food version of a quintessential British dessert!
After High Tea, before taking a walk through the gardens, we took a tour of the Historical Display. From January 15-March 15th visitors are invited to visit the Butchart Residence to see how the family lived in the early 1900’s.
The Butchart’s traveled the world and were avid collectors and there are a lot of photographs and memorabilia on display. The staff was very friendly and eager to answer our questions.
And now let’s head outside to the gardens!
One might think that the Butchart Gardens is a place to visit in the Summer. And it most certainly is. But in fact Butchart Gardens does a world-class job of featuring all four seasons, including a special Christmas display.
Come take a four-season virtual walk around the gardens! The following photos are courtesy of The Butchart Gardens.
Wasn’t that simply breathtaking? I look forward to eventually experiencing each of the four seasons at The Butchart Gardens!
In addition to The Gardens themselves, there are several other activities available at Butchart Gardens, including boat tours (a 45-minute history and wildlife cruise around Tod Inlet and Brentwood Bay), Living Fossil Walk, the Children’s Pavilion and Rose Carousel, the Family Walk (a great way to get your kids involved), a Greenhouse Tour (they have 26 of them!), Ice Skating in the Winter, the Night Illumination, and Fireworks. The Butchart Gardens has several eating options, a Gelateria (yes, please!), and gift shops.
A trip to Victoria simply isn’t complete without a visit to The Butchart Gardens. You will love it! We look forward to a return visit.
For more information on The Butchart Gardens, visit their website: The Butchart Gardens
The Butchart Gardens: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada, +1 250-652-4422
Disclosure: We enjoyed a complimentary visit to The Butchart Gardens. All opinions, as always, are entirely our own.