Eighteen years ago, I took a solo trip to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the highlights of my trip was my first visit to Butchart Gardens, fifty-five acres of botanical paradise a short distance from Victoria. Usually, botanical gardens look their best in bright sunshine. Curiously, Butchart shone as much in the rain as it did, later that afternoon, in bright sunshine.
I spent hours exploring the grounds, rewarding myself with a delicious English tea for lunch.
Back in 1904, the grounds were part of a large limestone quarry that looked dismal, until the wife of the owner Click here to see how Jenny Butchart turned that ruined earth into a small paradise. Today it is a National Historic Site that draws thousands of visitors from around the world.
A few years later, I returned with Martine, who also fell in love with the place.
Come to think of it, Butchart Gardens was one of two botanical gardens we visited in Canada. The other one was in Annapolis Royal, clear on the other side of Canada. I will write about it at some point in the coming week or so.
The Sunken Garden at Victoria, BC’s Butchart Gardens
I have over twenty thousand photographs stored in the cloud at Yahoo Flickr. Sometimes, when I don’t know what to write about, I just scan through some of my older pictures. This time I decided to look back ten years. My vacation that year was to Seattle and British Columbia. The pictures of me at that time showed me to be much heavier, probably close to 230-240 pounds. Now, thanks to diabetes, I am closing in on 200 pounds.
The pictures of Martine show her to be much happier. Ever since 2013, when she started complaining of back pain, she has been less willing to travel. The last good trip we took together had been in 2011, when we spent three weeks in Argentina and Uruguay. There was a period of several years recently when she has been depressed and made several attempts to live elsewhere on her own. Lately, she has been less depressed and even laughed on occasion. Still, she has let her passport expire and shows no interest in traveling abroad any more.
Probably Canada has been her favorite foreign destination, to Victoria, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, and particularly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
My favorite destination in the trip we took ten years ago was Butchart Gardens just north of Victoria. Both Martine and I love botanical gardens, and Butchart is a world-class place for people like us. My favorite part is the Sunken Garden, which used to be a quarry. It took nine years to convert the five acres of disused quarry into a faerie-like collection of beautiful flowers, trees, and shrubs. And, because we are much farther north, the nature of the plants is so different from what we have in Southern California’s Mediterranean climate.
On Wednesday, I drove down to the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The garden admission price for seniors was only $6.00, and I wanted to go somewhere where I could take a nice walk and sit down to read a book.
There is an interesting story behind the garden. At one time the land around there was under the ocean, and a layer of diatomaceous earth formed. This mineral substance is used for filtration and for insulating or strengthening building materials. Consequently, in 1929, the Dicamite Company began strip-mining the diatomaceous earth, followed by the Great Lakes Carbon Company. By 1956, the mining activity came to an end; and the site was sold to the County of Los Angeles, which used it as a sanitary landfill.
Those days fortunately are over. It was decided to turn the property into a botanical garden, which it is today. There is a road around the property which makes for a nice mile plus walk, and there are numerous trails that cut through the center. There used to be a lake, but I suspect it was allowed to sink or evaporate during the recent California drought.
California Poppies (Our State Flower)
Nowadays there ever more interesting plants on display, from the monstrous Moreton Bay Fig Trees to California Poppies—not to mention Angel’s Wing Cacti. I like the idea of properties being returned to nature, even if it is under manicured circumstances. That’s what happened on Vancouver Island in Canada, when a disused quarry outside of Victoria became the world famous Butchart Gardens. The South Coast Botanic garden isn’t quite there yet, but I have high hopes.
Everyone knows that gardens always look their best under bright sunlight. There is, however, one garden that looks great even on a rainy day. I am referring to Butchart Gardens, near Victoria, British Columbia. There is something about the plants there that shine in all weathers. When in Los Angeles, I love to hang out at Descanso Gardens, Huntington Gardens, the Los Angeles Arboretum, and the South Coast Botanical Gardens—but none of them hold a candle to Butchart Gardens.
The only garden in North America that I could conceive of as competing with Butchart is in Nova Scotia at Annapolis Royal: The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. Perhaps it has something to do with both gardens being more in the temperate climatic zone. In Los Angeles, at certain times of the year, even the most beautiful plants can look a little dusty and bedraggled.
Sign at the Garden Entrance
I have visited both gardens twice, and I love both of them. But then, I wouldn’t be at all surprised that there are other great botanical gardens of whose existence I am not aware. As much as I have traveled, I have seen only little bits here and there. Martine and I went to Annapolis Royal to see the citadel, not even knowing of the garden’s existence. The citadel is nice, but the gardens are spectacular.