"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, July 30, 2012

Butchart Gardens: Part II

We're back at Butchart Gardens for the afternoon and evening, this time with Kona too.  (If you don't care for gardens and flowers, sorry, but you might as well log off now.) Upon entering the Gardens, visitors are greeted by a cafe, gift shop, information booth and several gathering places to eat and meet.  Near this entrance area there is a dining room and a conservatory for delicate hot-house flowers.  I haven't mentioned it yet, but the fragrance everywhere was heavenly.

Three views of the gardens surrounding the dining room:

Conservatory hot-house specimens:

I thought I'd let the flowers speak for themselves for awhile. (If only they could share their scents as well.) These are some of the more effective groupings I noticed.  Groupings or pairings are characterized by contrasting or complementary colors, forms and textures of blooms and foliage. I tried to capture that in these pictures:

The next two flowers are fancy begonias that were looking down from hanging baskets. The baskets' heights allowed me to get under them and shoot up into the light - a very unusual situation that had some kind of Georgia O'Keefish results.

And now for the part of the gardens that is most often photographed: the Sunken Gardens.

This part of the Butchart Gardens has the most fascinating history. Originally this land was not a garden, but a limestone quarry. The Butcharts lived adjacent to the quarry, as did many of the workers. They also had a cement factory to process the limestone from the quarry.  As the quarry became worked-out, Jennie Butchart conceived the idea to beautify the remaining limestone pits. In these pictures you can see the underlying structure of the old quarry's pits and cliffs. Now they are covered with ivy and other plantings and the bottom is dense with flower beds, shrubs and trees.  Eventually the Butchart family opened the Gardens to the public and began charging an entrance fee to support their ongoing development.

 If only all the quarries and mines (and landfills for that matter) could be transformed into places this beautiful!

A waterfall runs down the side of one of the old quarry walls.

Here's the same view as the first picture (above) but later in the day with the sun casting bold shadows.

A walk through the Sunken Gardens leads to serene nooks and open spaces, as well as ponds and fountains.

The Butchart family still owns and operates the Gardens, and has expanded their offerings to include concerts, children's activities, ice skating the winter and fireworks in the summer.  The evening we were there the Victoria Symphony was playing, so we stuck around. More about that in Part III.

Butchart Gardens: Part I

Our last day in Canada was spent visiting one of the best loved gardens in North America. Because Butchart Gardens was so close to where we were staying, Oceanside RV Park, in Sidney, BC we made the visit in two parts.  That way we could go back for lunch and take care of Kona in the RV before an evening visit. Well it turns out that Butchart allows dogs (bow wow!) so we took her back with us when we returned.

It was such an extended and full visit, that I've divided it up into three posts. I'll roughly present our visit chronologically, but because we revisited many of the gardens several times, I'm going to use some creative license to avoid too much repetition. The changing light throughout the day totally changed our photographs, so that some pictures of the same view looked very different. Needless to say we took more pictures than we'd ever use in twenty blog posts.

The garden is comprised of 55 landscaped acres, and is divided up into four major gardens and several smaller ones. Everyplace you look is landscaped and planted with flowers, even the garbage cans.

The Gardens are bordered on three sides by water and right away we decided to take the little boat ride around Butchart Cove and the nearby waterways.  We opted for one of the earliest rides of the day, so we needed to head pretty much straight across the gardens toward the boat launch. Along the way we passed through the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden and took a few pictures as we went.

Not all the flowers along the way were roses. There were masses of perennials and beds of annuals, all arranged in geometric patterns. This part of the gardens somewhat formal but in places it is loosely arranged like an English country garden might be.

Looks like a straight shot, right? Well even though we had a map, the gardens are laid out in such a way that it is actually not so easy to travel from one side to the other and we had to back track a few times and get their via kind of a convoluted route. Of course it was all beautiful along the way.

The roses and the blue delphiniums they used for contrasting punctuation were gorgeous. I've been to a few rose gardens, and this is by far the best. As I've mentioned before, flowers really seem to love this climate.

This is just a small fraction of the roses that were in full bloom.

We finally found our way to the Japanese Garden and through this classic gate. 

The paths led through various viewpoints, up and down little hills, over ponds and streams, and through groupings and glades. In places it was very cool and dark.

 The Japanese Gardens is one of the oldest in the park, having been started by Jennie Butchart in 1906 with the assistance of Isaburo Kishida. Its maturity is evident in the depth and size of its plantings.

Finally we reached Butchart Cove and our little boat.

Along the way we passed this sailing boat tricked out like a pirate ship. 

After that relaxing boat ride we headed back through the Japanese Gardens and on to the Italian Garden. A look back provided one last view of the Cove.

The Star Pond behind the lawn.

Between the Italian Garden and the Rose Garden there are two large expanses of lawns that provide soothing relief for the overstimulated eye. You probably need it too by now.

The main focal point for the Italian Garden is the Star Pond, filled with lily pads 

and surrounded by a short geometrically carved hedge.

Dividing the pond from a classic courtyard is a wall created by another 8-10' perfectly shaped hedge with two arched doorways.

Once inside the courtyard, the feeling and the colors are bold, hot and steamy, in contrast to the cool wetness of the Japanese Garden and the bubbling Star Pond.

The plant combinations throughout the Gardens are wonderful, and especially dramatic in the Italian Gardens.

From the one side of the Italian Garden you can look up the terraces toward the delicate pastels of the Rose Garden.

 More dynamic plant pairings...

From the Italian Gardens we took some time to go home for lunch and rest our feet and eyes. 
Part II coming soon.

Friday, July 27, 2012

From Campbell River to Victoria

Our three weeks in Campbell River have come to an end and we've moved to Sidney, BC, close to Victoria. The night before we left, we had a marvelously cloudy sky.

I took one last walk around Salmon Point Marina and RV Resort and took a few pictures of the flower beds that are beautifully maintained in strategic locations.  The whole place is really very well taken care of, very clean and comfortable, and with great scenic views of the strait and the mainland. The only drawback of this place is how close together the sites in the lighthouse section of the RV park are. But we'd stay here again. 

The drive to the southern or lower end of Vancouver Island took us about three hours. Our new location is near Sidney, in a park called Oceanview. It's also nicely landscaped and the sites are little roomier. There isn't a good place to walk Kona, but there is a nature trail out to the ocean beach (no dogs allowed).

We took a little evening drive up to the town and port of Sidney. It's a sailing port and it also has lots of condos right on the water for retirees who want to watch the boats come and go from the marinas.  The evening light made for some nice photos.

Fireweed growing along the water in Sidney

We're only here for two days, and our first outing was into Victoria to have afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. 

Our reservation was for 1:15 and we arrived a little early so we could look around inside and out. The Empress sits right on the harbor. It is really the central most impressive structure in the city, except for maybe the Parliament building, which sits perpendicular to the hotel and also overlooks the harbor.  

Like the rest of Vancouver, there are beautiful flower beds everywhere. Along the harbor "Welcome to Victoria" is spelled out in white and red begonias (below) providing the backdrop for First Nation vendors of carvings and other crafts. (First Nation is how the aboriginal or native people are referred to in this area.) 

Everywhere on Vancouver we've seen totem poles in prominent places. This one is at the harbor side between the Parliament building and the Empress.

Inside the Empress we explored through several grand rooms. I think this one was a ballroom.

This is the lobby...

The dining rooms...

And this is the tea room.

Tea was a fixed price arrangement, and all you could really choose was the kind of tea you wanted. We chose the Empress Blend. First course was fresh strawberries and whipped cream and the tea, all graciously served in beautiful china cups and plates. 

Next arrived the try-level dish of treats. Lowest level was finger sandwiches: smoked salmon pinwheels, egg salad on croissants, cucumber and cream cheese, roasted tomato on crostini, and chicken curry salad on brown bread. Middle level was current scones and clotted cream. (In England as a teenager I avoided clotted cream because it sounded gross, but now I've learned its just a heavy whipped cream, and yummy.) Top level was chocolate shortbread cookies, cake with marzipan icing, lemon meringue, cheesecake, and some other little cookie sandwich with dark chocolate.  We ate the whole thing! Well almost. I did stash a few of the more sturdy cookies in a little plastic bag to take home with us. I didn't see anyone taking away doggie bags or styrofoam boxes.

It was a pretty pricey affair, but they did give us a couple of boxes of tea to take home with us, to ease the sticker shock. It was certainly a special, memorable and high quality experience. Was it worth it?  I don't know.  I think I'd rather go whale watching.