Archive for the ‘Botanical Gardens’ Category

Inspiration at Butchart Gardens

Last week we visited Victoria, British Columbia. During our visit we got to spend half a day at the Butchart Gardens. For a garden lover like myself this place is fantastic. For me it was the second visit, I’d been there over 20 years ago. For my wife it was her first visit.

In 1904 the Butcharts developed a quarry and cement factory at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island. They also built their beautiful home there. The quarry was rich in the limestone essential to making cement. They exported to the rest of Canada and to the US.

As the limestone was exhausted the Butcharts began to transform a barren and stark quarry – a giant hollowed out area – into beautiful gardens. They hauled in tons of soil by horse and cart from a nearby farm.

Between 1906 and 1929 they created a beautiful Japanese Garden. A sunken garden, Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and more followed until the entire quarry was transformed into a chorus of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

On his 21st birthday their grandson, Ian, was given the garden and he spent the rest of his life developing it and opening it to the public. The garden remains in the family having been passed down through the generations.

It took us over two hours to see the entire garden, walking slowly along perfectly maintained paths, across bridges and by water fountains and other fixtures. For me the showcase of the gardens are the immaculate lawns and the extensive beds of flowers and bushes. They plant over a million bedding plants each year. Nearly a million people a year visit from around the world.

I’ve included only one photo here of his amazing garden. To see much more go to their site here.

The Butchart gardens are in inspiration to any gardener. They show the potential. On returning home I dived into improvements in our gardens inspired by what I saw.

Our gardens surrounding our home have been a labor of love for 15 years and will continue to be so. The inspiration gained from viewing the Butchart Gardens only give me more energy to develop our gardens further.

If you ever get the chance to see these gardens in British Columbia I hope you take it. They are a ferry ride from Seattle, Vancouver BC or Port Angeles, Washington. It is well worth the trip.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


Zilker Botanical Gardens

Zilker Bot. Gardens, Austin, Texas, DRM

Zilker Bot. Gardens, Austin, Texas, DRM

A week ago we had the opportunity on a visit to family in Austin, Texas to see the Zilker botanical gardens there. The gardens include arid garden displays natural to the area, water features, a Japanese Garden and other features. A full walk-through took about an hour and a half though you could certainly spend more time. 

Coming from the lush Pacific Northwest I always find it interesting to see gardens like this in other areas with different climates. Unfortunately we were at Zilker during a drab time of year, the blooming will not start in earnest for another month or two I am told. Still one gets the flavor of a garden with many arid loving plants, cacti and other species. Missing is the lushness and over growth we are accustomed to here in Western Oregon. 

The sparser drier gardens of Austin, Texas have their own beauty despite the aridity. One gets the impression that because water is not plentiful the plants make use of every drop and conserve what they can. This part of Texas is just coming out of a prolonged drought and it shows. Where I live a drought (so far) means that the mud is not as deep or as frequently seen. In Texas drought means bone dry soil and reduced growth. 

We could appreciate the beauty and the fragility of the Texas landscape and gardens while still appreciating all the more the green and lushness of home. 

I find it fascinating that where we grow up seems natural and good. Landscapes and climates different from where we grow up seem alien and not necessarily as good to us. For Texans, native born especially, the arid landscape is natural and desirable. It is what they are used to. It is in their bones. For us here in the Northwest, especially west of the Cascades, the lushness and plentiful water seems natural and desirable. 

Occasionally I will encounter a transplant – someone who was born in one climate and moved to another and prefers the latter. I find this is an exception to the general rule, but it does happen. 

Zilker Bot Gardens, Austin, Tx DRM

Zilker Bot Gardens, Austin, Tx DRM

Of course there is no good or bad climate or landscape. They are all part of nature. We attach the labels based on what we prefer and what we are accustomed to. Still, as a gardener, I continue to appreciate the relative dampness of my realm. It is true that we are experiencing a drought of sorts in Oregon as well, it just looks much different than it does in an arid region.