Day Three: Jennie's Quarry

comments: 96


Victoria boasts one of the world's great green spaces. Conceived of and created in the early part of the twentieth century by Jennie Butchart, wife of Robert Butchart, who made his fortune mining limestone and manufacturing Portland cement, the Butchart Gardens began in the exhausted quarry on their property. Determined to beautify the ravaged  pit, Jennie arranged for tons of topsoil from neighboring farms to be delivered (by horse and cart), and painstakingly began planting the floor and the walls of the once-empty quarry. Today, a hundred years later, it is known as the "Sunken Garden," and remains an enchanted place of color and bloom.


It's hard for a photo to capture the magical, Alice-in-Wonderland quality of this scene. You must imagine the ivy-covered walls of the pit coming down on either side of this image; these photos are shot from up towards the top, where a little log cabin perches high above. You have a strange sense of vertigo looking down into and beyond the quarry floor.


But it's only the beginning, because the gardens, in their varied and sophisticated nooks and crannies, go on and on. For 55 acres, miles of daisy-lined paths, secret coves and willow canopies, apple orchards and rose bowers meander and beckon.


In autumn, there is a quiet, fading beauty to it all.


Jennie always wanted it to feel like a private garden, so there are no plaques, or nameplants, or educational displays to break up the vistas, small or grand. You look, you wander, you rest, you smell. You do not have to read, which is wonderful, somehow.


There is a great fireworks display right here, in the summer, I think. You look over this field from a wide lawn.


My favorite spot, though, had to be the apple orchard.


The great tangle of gnarled wood, curling leaves, ripe green fruits just gets me every time. I have always preferred orchards to just about every other type of human-planted spaces. There is something about all that wildness restrained into shady, dappled rows that pleases something deep within me. If I could have, I would've climbed into these perfect craggy branches and stayed the afternoon, eating apples.


Oh to be an apple-tree percher!


Oh for all days filled with sun-spots and sweet spots.


Oh for a tripod. Seriously. It was just too lovely. This was about as close as I could get to this blushing pom-pon without blur.


Tucked back in there is the house. It's hard to imagine what it must be like to wake up to this kind of yard, shrouded in morning fog, no people around, deer on the lawn.


In the early days, Jennie would serve tea to everyone who came to her garden; eventually when the number of cups reached into the tens of thousands, they convinced her to charge for it. But it's not hard to understand why the Butcharts wanted to share this place. If you'd worked so hard on something so beautiful, you'd want to show it to anyone who cared. Our tour guide said that they were known to invite visitors right into the house if it was dinnertime. By all accounts, the family was supremely generous and beloved by all.


There are a million ways to frame each quiet view.


The Japanese garden renders you quiet without your notice.




Far off, water.


See it: a wedding on the lawn, party dresses and champagne, paper lanterns and candlelit tables.


When we finally reached the beginning again, they were hanging Christmas lights on the big house. We were hungry — in the off-season, the cafes and restaurant are closed for anything but tea — and headed back to town.


We had taken a bus tour of the city that morning (I always like to do this in new cities, because I tend to get anxious unless I'm oriented in a general way to where I am) and had passed a restaurant downtown that I had read about in one of the travel magazines. At Luciano's, we had one of the best meals I have ever had, anywhere. I had the mushroom penne and a side of creamed spinach that was, no kidding, the most delicious creamed spinach I have ever tasted in my life. It. Was. AWESOME. Also, it was 5 p.m. and this was the first thing we'd eaten since early that morning. But still. Luciano made us very, very happy.


After dinner, we walked around, went back to the embroidery and yarn store, then bought a couple of books at Munro's, and Andy got some chocolates to take back to our hotel room for later.


Roger's Chocolates has been here, in this location, since 1891. It's like box of truffles inside, dark and luscious and decadent.


On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to look out across the harbor at the buildings of Parliament.


And up at the statue of this guy.


And then turned to cross the street to our hotel.


And went in, and up the elevator, and onto the sixth floor, just to take one last look down before turning in for the night.

Man, was I ever tired.


What a lovely tribute to Victoria. So glad that you and Andy had a wonderful time. I haven't been to the Island in years! But your pictures sure make me want to rediscover Victoria all over again.

Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful photos! You took me back to a time when my husband and I brought our four daughters up to Victoria for vacation. I remember seeing everything that you mentioned. And Buchart Gardens...breathtaking!

I'm so jealous! I visited Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, and the San Juan Islands for my senior trip. I would love to do it again. Thanks for sharing all your beautiful pictures.

ah... you are bringing back sweet memories. my husband and i went there on our honeymoon 12 years ago. we had high tea at the empress hotel and while enjoying the sights outside a bagpipe player in full dress serenaded us. it is an incredibly beautiful place. your pictures are amazing, the first few make me think of alice in wonderland.

My husband and I visited Butchart Gardens on our honeymoon, 10 years ago and I have been telling people about it since. Your photos are wonderful. It is a magical place. Victoria is so beautiful--clean and flower-filled streets and wonderful food. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.

wow, truly amazingly beautiful. The color!

Sounds like the most unbelievable vacation day...just perfect.

What a beautiful place! Now I really want to go there! I'm sure it will be many years before I can, but it will be on my list. :)

Victoria magazine recently did an article on Victoria and the hotel you stayed in.

wow. i visited victoria about ohhhh...25 years ago(!). you've just showed me i need to go back.

I visited Butchart Gardens when I was 10 years old or so. Even then, with my permed hair, sweatshirt loosely tied around my waste and my little pink camera in the ready position, I was in love. I haven't been back there since, but your pictures have made me terribly sentimental. Thank you so much, they are lovely.

Wow that garden is incredible. Makes me want to go!

I love Victoria! Your photos of it are so lovely. I'll be there tomorrow, so thanks so much for the restaurant recommendation -- I'll check it out!

Oh! I'm so glad you made it out to the Gardens! It really is a magical place. Seeing your photos makes me want to hop on the ferry and go RIGHT NOW!!

I am totally reliving my honeymoon with your trip. We went in early September (got home the day before 9/11) and it was just lovely. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos!

Oh my goodness gracious! That looks so enchanting! What inspiration for your gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing.

These pictures are so beautiful!

I too have thoughts of novels running through my head... I haven't been anywhere this good since my honeymoon to Ireland.

6 years ago!

oh my, i grew up just outside of victoria but have been living elsewhere now for 4 years and looking at all your photos has made me soooooooo homesick. thanks for sharing!

Thank you thank you for posting all these wonderful photos and descriptions. I've been to Butchart, I love Victoria, I grew up around Seattle in the Pacific Northwest...I love everything I'm seeing! Your photos are fantastic.

Oh, and I'm kicking myself for not recommending my favorite Greek restaurant, ANYWHERE. It's just a few blocks up from the Empress (but isn't everything just a few blocks from the Empress?)

So you were in Victoria (I being living here for the last 6 years so I can considere it my town, don't you think)
Isn't it beutiful there's so much to do and discover.
I'm glad you had a great time with you Hubby.


I'm so glad you had a fun trip to Victoria! I grew up living about as close to Butchart Gardens as possible (we could watch the fireworks from our neighbours' roof!), went to elementary school with some Butcharts, and moved back to Victoria about 6 years ago after moving away. I love it so much, and it's so fun to see your pictures and hear your stories!

I'm also glad you got to Munro's and got some Roger's chocolates! Those are two of my favourite downtown places!

Makes me want to go there - AND I live in Victoria! Your photos make the everyday sights so lovely, you give the old town a wonderful sparkle this old timer has forgotten is here! Thank you!

What a great trip. Thank you so much for describing it - it makes me feel like I got to tag along with you!

Sweet fancy Moses! Victoria has just jumped to the very top of my list. It looks absolutely spectacular. Thank you for sharing it with us!

I've so enjoyed your photos and stories of Victoria. I was there about 8 years ago and visited all the same places. It is truly a magical place.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at