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THREE SISTERS AND TWO MOTHERS PARADED THROUGH BUTCHART GARDENS on Wednesday afternoon and were rewarded with the stunning sight of thousands and thousands of blooming tulips and more. It was a fitting way to spend a pre-Mother’sDay in May. The sisters gifted the trip to Victoria, British Columbia to the mothers (one MIL) at Christmas. We all decided that May would be optimal for spring flowers at the Butchart Gardens. We departed Seattle for a 3 hour ride across Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, on the 8:00 a.m. sailing of the Victoria Clipper. From the harbor in Victoria we boarded a bus to Butchart Gardens, about an hour north. Weather was partly cloudy and a little cool to begin our walk, but the sun made full its presence later in the afternoon. A panoply of color and form greeted us at every turn.

The gardens were created in an old limestone quarry by Jennie Butchart, wife Robert Butchart the quarry owner: “As Mr. Butchart exhausted the limestone in the quarry near their house, his enterprising wife, Jennie, conceived an unprecedented plan for refurbishing the bleak pit. From farmland nearby she requisitioned tons of top soil, had it brought to Tod Inlet by horse and cart, and used it to line the floor of the abandoned quarry. Little by little, under Jennie Butchart’s  supervision, the abandoned quarry blossomed into the spectacular Sunken Garden.

By 1908, reflecting their world travels, the Butcharts had created a Japanese Garden on the sea-side of their home. Later an Italian Garden was created on the site of their former tennis court, and a fine Rose Garden replaced a large kitchen vegetable patch in 1929.” —Butchart Gardens.com

The floral fantasy is the garden’s overwhelming use of tulips and narcissus at this time of the year. Could this ever be possible in your yard? I doubt it–a full time job just to deadhead. My only complaint is a lack of identification for the tulip and narcissus varieties. The garden planners have made extensive use of airy, blue and white Forget-Me-Not, myosotis scorpioides as filler to beautiful effect.

There are broad vistas layered with color and structure throughout the garden to draw one into the garden. Is this a garden or an arboretum? It certainly combines all the elements of each.

In a garden that is a marvel of design and color, the sunken garden is the centerpiece. It is a startling, OH MY GOSH! sight as you come around a shaded, curving path that opens out to this view.

Thousands of tulips are woven together with Japanese maples, rhododendrons, azaleas, and conifers to spectacular effect. At the far end of the sunken garden is the quarry lake.

This flowering cherry had great form and lush blossoms and situated above the path so you are forced to look up into it. The white is kind of blown out in this photo, but not too bad.

Strolling along the paths here is like being the proverbial kid in the candy store, where do I look next? Candy colored flowers abound. Another filler with tulips is erysimum cheiri, commonly known as Wallflower and charming little English daisies, bellis perennis, in myriad colors.

The very seductive peony-flowered tulip, ‘Angelique’.

Looking back into the sunken garden.

Walking up out of the sunken garden we spotted this clever use of old quarry carts in a boggy area below the path.

Walking out of the sunken garden brought us to a broad, open lawn planted with cherry, very old apple and rare specimen trees. Looking out over all of this were a couple of totem poles. This little scenario caught my eye: from one bird to another…

Here is one of the rare specimens, wollemia nobilis from Australia and until quite recently (1994) thought to be extinct. A garden caretaker gave me a quick lesson about its history. This one was planted about six years ago and appears to be thriving.

Let’s wrap up the tour with a few shots from the tranquil Japanese Garden before heading back to Victoria and little rest in our rooms before heading back out for dinner and a little walk around the inner harbor.

Who doesn’t want a beautiful moss garden with maidenhair fern and a running stream?

And finally, a look at the harbor and the Provincial Parliament building. After a morning walk with Deb, our last day was spent wandering the downtown area with a little shopping thrown in. We had a lovely time over two days. We’re already making plans for our next mothers and daughters trip: taking the train to Portland, Oregon around Rose Parade time in June 2011!

P.S. We finished the afternoon with a group photo that Deb’s mother-in-law Patsy took of the four of us in front of a small flowered lilac, syringa meyeri that we all loved. Just have to find it locally Grows to about 5ft x 5ft, not too large.