While Victoria is appropriately known as the Garden City, gardeners – and garden enthusiasts – will find a lot to love throughout much of Vancouver Island!
Exploring the South Island gardens
Best-known of all British Columbia gardens is the world-famous Butchart Gardens, and a visit to this National Historic Site is a must. Still in the Butchart family after its founding more than a century ago, the 55-acre garden is open daily with its ever-changing, year-round spectacle of blooms and floral displays.
Spring is the season of cherry blossoms and a stunning display of more than 300,000 bulbs while summer brings a riot of colourful blooms. Autumn is beautiful with the changing of the colours – especially the Japanese Garden, the first in North America, created by Jennie Butchart and Isaburo Kishida. Come winter, it’s the Magic of Christmas, Dec. 1 to Jan. 6, a magical display of Christmas lights and decorations, complete with festive entertainment, outdoor ice rink and the Twelve Days of Christmas display tucked about the grounds.
Victoria’s “Garden for Gardeners,” the gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific feature nine acres of spectacular gardens showcasing more than 10,000 varieties of plants. Highlights include the Bonsai Garden – Canada’s second-largest, with more than 60 bonsai trees on display – the Takata Japanese and Zen Garden, and the Rhododendron and Hosta Garden.
Near downtown Victoria, Abkhazi Garden – “the garden that love built” – showcases the local landscape beautifully, with beds of Japanese maples, numerous bulbs and rhododendrons against a backdrop of towering Garry oaks. Enjoy afternoon tea during your visit.
In the nearby Rockland neighbourhood, the Government House Gardens boast a stunning series of gardens around the home of BC’s Lieutenant Governor. Stroll the Victorian Rose Garden, enjoy city views from the Terrace Gardens, stop by the duck pond and take in the spring-blooming rhododendrons. The grounds are open daily and admission is free to enjoy the 36 acres of manicured gardens, native woodlands and heritage buildings.
The University of Victoria is home to Finnerty Gardens, an 6.5-acre urban woodland oasis featuring a spectacular collection of more than 200 rhododendron species and azaleas. Admission is free, and the gardens are open year-round on the southwest corner of the UVic campus.
In the Capital Region’s West Shore community, Hatley Park boasts beautiful Japanese, Italian and rose gardens surrounding Hatley Castle, once home to the Dunsmuir family, who also built Victoria’s Craigdarroch Castle, and now home to Royal Roads University.
Gardens of the Central Island
In Qualicum Beach, Milner Gardens & Woodland is a charming seaside garden named by Canadian Geographic Travel as one of the Ten Best Public Gardens in Canada. Explore 70 acres of unspoiled natural beauty, with winding pathways through an ancient coastal Douglas fir forest and 10 acres of woodland gardens lined with rhododendrons, cyclamen and trilliums, before enjoying a traditional English tea service.
On Vancouver Island’s west coast, the Tofino Botanical Gardens feature 12 acres of cultivated gardens, wild coastal forest, shoreline and sculpture. Explore the relationship between culture, nature and temperate rainforest conservation in this year-round celebration of nature.
North Island gardens await
In Comox, Filberg Lodge and Park is a nine-acre beautifully landscaped waterfront green space featuring heritage buildings, including the 1930s Craftsman-style lodge, 130 varieties of trees, seasonal gardens and rhododendrons.
Nearby in Courtenay, the 24-acre Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens features one of the largest rhododendron collections in Western Canada with more than 3,000 plantings, plus native plants, birds and wildflowers.