The world-famous Butchart Gardens is a group of floral display gardens located in Brentwood Bay, about 20 minutes north of Victoria. It is an internationally-renowned tourist attraction that receives more than a million visitors each year. High class food service and entertainment complement the meticulously maintained gardens.
The gardens are named after Robert Pim Butchart (1856–1943), a cement manufacturer born in Ontario. Butchart and his wife Jennie Butchart (1866–1950) came to the west coast of Canada because of rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production.
In 1904, they established their home near his quarry on Tod Inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. They equipped it with an indoor salt water pool, a bowling alley, a panelled billiard room, tennis courts and a 16-rank roll-playing pipe organ.
In 1906, Jennie created a Japanese garden there with the help of designer Isaburo Kishida. In 1909, when the quarry was exhausted, Jennie set about turning the eyesore into a sunken garden, which was completed in 1921. They named their home “Benvenuto” (“welcome” in Italian), and began to receive boat-loads of visitors to their gardens. In 1926, they replaced their tennis courts with an Italian garden, and in 1929 they replaced their kitchen vegetable garden with a large rose garden to the design of Butler Sturtevant of Seattle.
In 1939, the Butcharts gave the Gardens to their grandson Ian Ross (1918–1997) on his 21st birthday. Ross was involved in the operation and promotion of the gardens until his death 58 years later.
In 1953, miles of underground wiring was laid to provide night illumination, to mark the 50th anniversary of The Gardens. In 1964, the ever-changing Ross Fountain was installed in the lower reservoir to celebrate the 60th anniversary. In 1994, the Canadian Heraldic Authority granted a coat of arms to the Butchart Gardens. In 2004, two 30-foot totem poles were installed to mark the 100th anniversary, and The Gardens was designated as a national historic site.
Ownership of the Gardens remains within the Butchart family; the owner and managing director since 2001 is the Butchart’s great-granddaughter Robin-Lee Clarke.
In the early days, weekly symphony concerts were hosted. Nowadays, during the summer, an eclectic mix of daily entertainment awaits visitors to the gardens along with live entertainment at Christmas time.
In 1977, Ian Ross’s son Christopher (1944–2000) introduced fireworks on summer Saturday evenings, modelled on the grand fireworks of 18th century France.
In Decembers, Christmas lights and seasonal decorations adorn the gardens along with an ice-skating rink.