A Food & Travel Blog

The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island – A Beautiful Example of a Quarry Re-Purposed

03/04/2017 | By

Quarries are not generally noted for their elegance, but the glorious Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island show a makeover at it’s very best.

Having successfully avoided them all of my life, in the last two months I have surprisingly found myself in quarries – and loving the experience.

 Just recently The Bloke and I attended the acclaimed play adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, as part of this year’s Adelaide Festival. The play was staged on a quarry floor, in the foothills of Adelaide, and the audience was seated facing in to the quarry wall. It was an inspired choice of venue, evoking the agelessness of this ancient land. The last light of the summer evening bathed the yellow stone walls of the quarry in golden light, as we watched the tragic story of two Australian families unfold.


butchart gardens on vancouver island, the sunken garden

The Sunken Garden

And just a few weeks earlier, in the chilly northern winter, we were invited to visit the glorious Butchart Gardens, on Vancouver Island.

Fountains in the sunken garden butchart gardens on vancouver island

butchar gardens on vancouver island, winter treescape

butchart gardens on vancouver island snail fountain 

These gardens also speak of the history of the region, having been developed on the site of an exhausted quarry owned by Robert Butchart. He and his wife Jenny lived near the quarry. In 1909, when the limestone extraction was completed, Jenny set about turning the quarry pit into a sunken garden.

 Japanese garden, butchart gardens on vancouver island

butchart gardens on vancouver island, trickling stream

butchart gardens on vancouver island, red bridge

Clearly on a roll, she also commissioned Japanese garden designer Isaburo Kishida to design an oriental tea garden for their estate. Throughout the 1920’s she then turned her very artistic eye to the tennis courts and kitchen gardens, transforming them into an Italian garden and extensive rose gardens.

 butchart gardens on vancouver island, Japanese glen

butchart gardens on vancouver island, Italian garden

butchart gardens on vancouver island, view to house

A view from the Italian garden, back towards the house.

The Butcharts eventually handed the house and gardens over to their grandson, Ian Ross, who continued their legacy, developing the house and grounds into what is now one of the top tourist destinations in the region and a National Historic Site of Canada.

The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island are world renowned for their floral displays, and each year over a million bedding plants in some 900 varieties bloom from March through to October.

Statues and pond Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

Happily, this special spot is still family-owned, with the current owner proudly continuing the family legacy, hosting a continuing program of concerts, fireworks displays and community events.

spring cafeteria, Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

A quiet corner, featuring succulents, in what is the cafeteria in summer months.

Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island - orchids

Orchids in the spring display.

Spring, Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

The cafeteria, transformed.

While it was the dead of winter when I visited, there is still plenty to be enchanted by in these gardens. Thoughtfully, in the winter months the Butchart cafeteria is cleared and transformed into a glorious riot of spring colour. Parts of the house are open for visitors to explore and, no matter the season, there is much to give joy in the rest of the gardens.

Tod inlet view, Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

A Perfectly positioned window cut into a large hedge in the gardens gives the curious visitor a glimpse on to boats at Tod Inlet.

Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of  the Canadian Tourism Commission.

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  1. Irene Zagar

    Stunning…..such detail throughout the garden, beautiful.

  2. Sue Smith

    Thanks for the insight to Butchart. We will be there in 4 weeks time at height of spring and SO EXCITED to see this icon of gardens. We are on a tour but going a day earlier so that we will have 2 days to spend looking around, how lucky are we!

  3. Gweneth

    Loved the gardens.Well done.