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9 Reasons Why Victoria is Canada's Garden City

Here’s where you can fully experience Victoria's iconic blooms, flowers, and gardens!

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9 Reasons Why Victoria is Canada's Garden City

Posted on July 23, 2022

Home to the mildest climate in Canada and some of the country’s most breathtaking gardens, it’s no wonder Greater Victoria has been dubbed Canada's Garden City! From the hanging baskets decorating the downtown core, to the legacy of the Butchart family's garden, here’s where you can fully experience Victoria's iconic blooms, flowers, and gardens. 

 

1. The Butchart Gardens

What began in the early 1900s as a limestone quarry became a project born out of passion by Mrs. Jennie Butchart. Over decades, Jennie transformed the former land of the family’s industrial operation into a 55-acre garden. Almost 120 years later, it is a world-renowned garden with over a million bedding plants in 900 varieties, seeing over one million visitors annually. The gardens have even been designated a National Historic Site of Canada!

It is a spectacle in all four seasons. Spring at the Butchart Gardens calls for cherry blossoms and tulips to dominate the landscape. In the summer, be romanced under an archway of roses in the Rose Garden. Autumn brings enchanting shades of reds and oranges to the Japanese Garden and winter offers a time to learn about the history of The Gardens and experience the indoor spring prelude display. Christmas is known as the ‘fifth’ season here, as the Butchart Gardens are transformed by boughs of decoration, lights and festive displays.

When the weather is warm, a scoop of freshly made gelato in the Italian Garden is the perfect treat. Feeling peckish? Enjoy afternoon tea overlooking The Gardens or a delicious meal at The Blue Poppy Restaurant.  

The Butchart Gardens
Image by The Butchart Gardens

 

2. Downtown's Hanging Flower Baskets

A true Victorian trademark, Victoria's hanging flower baskets add flowering vibrancy our downtown. The plants are grown and constructed in the nursery in Beacon Hill Park, starting each April.  Every June, the plants are assembled and hung from lamp posts by the City of Victoria. After that... it's all about the maintenance! The flowers are actually watered at night, between 10:45 pm to 7:15 am. Trucks transport water in 2,250 litre tanks, and tall, hand-held wands are used to water the flowers. Each basket recieves 6.5 litres of water and fertilizer.

The hanging of the baskets was started in 1937 as a way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the City of Victoria's incorporation. Inspiration was taken from the moss-lined wire baskets in England. To this day, the baskets are admired by visitors from around the globe!

 

3. Abkhazi Garden

Discover the epic love story between a prince and a commoner that stretched decades, continents and war. Finally united in 1946, Peggy Pemberton-Carter and Prince Abkhazi settled in the neighbourhood of Oak Bay and began to build a beautiful garden together which has become a stunning example of West Coast design. Today Abkhazi Garden is known for its royal roots, spectacular grounds and majestic plants which over the last 50 years have grown to an impressive maturity. Visitors can enjoy the garden year-round and indulge in afternoon tea or lunch overlooking the property from the Teahouse at Abkhazi Gardens - the former residence of the Abkhazis. 

Abkhazi Gardens Victoria BC
Image by Deddeda Stemler

 

4. The Gardens at HCP

Connecting people with plants, the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific (HCP) is home to the Pacific Horticulture College and presents a year-round garden that everyone can enjoy. This not-for-profit garden is maintained by hands-on volunteers and is an incredible display of the community of garden enthusiasts. Visitors can participate in a self-guided tour or take a 45-minute guided tour for a more in-depth experience. The HCP also hosts a variety of workshops for children 5+ to adults. 

Gardens at HCP
Image by The Gardens at HCP

 

5. Hatley Park

Set in the municipality of Colwood, approximately 25 minutes from downtown Victoria, this Canadian National Historic Site resides on 565 oceanfront acres offering unparalleled views of the Juan De Fuca Strait. Discover the history of Hatley Castle on a guided tour and then take in the Japanese, Rose and Italian gardens at your leisure before wandering along some of the 15kms of pathway through old growth forest.

The Hatley Castle grounds are now home to Royal Roads University; but before that, they were home to a Military College, and before THAT - a home to the influential Dunsmuir family. The history is kept alive in the Hatley Park Museum located in the basement of the Castle, which houses an impressive collection of heritage stories, artefacts, and photographs.

Hatley Castle Victoria BC

 

6. Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park is the crowning jewel of Victoria’s public park system. This 200-acre park in the heart of the city offers an urban oasis for visitors and locals. Beacon Hill Park can be enjoyed by all ages as it provides ample foot and cycling paths, as well as playgrounds, a water park, putting green, baseball diamond, tennis courts, cricket pitch, sports fields, lawn bowling, and more! As you meander your way through this gorgeous park, keep your eyes out for the resident peacocks and ducks that can be found enjoying this green space.

Another incredible draw to Beacon Hill is the adorable Beacon Hill Park Children's Farm. This interactive, hands-on area is a delight for families of all ages; consisting of ducks, chickens, llamas, guinea pigs, sheep, pigs, and more. This petting zoo is also home to their famous goat stampede, which happen at 10:10am and 5:10pm daily. Watch as dozens, even hundreds of goats (depending on the year!) of all shapes, sizes, and colours run out from their overnight resting areas, down the path that runs through the petting zoo. It's great fun!

Beacon Hill Park

Image by Brett Ryan

 

7. Government House

Located in the Rockland neighbourhood, this 36-acre property is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor. The gardens are free to visit year-round, from dawn until dusk, and tours of the house are offered every Saturday. The grounds include formal gardens as well as a rare Garry oak ecosystem. From May through September, visitors can enjoy afternoon tea at Rudi's Tea Room and visit the interpretive centre. Please note that while Rudi's Tea Room's dining area will not be open for the 2022 season, there are picnic sets available to borrow for free for the perfect al fresco lunch on the floral grounds of Government House.  

Government House

Image by Deddeda Stemler

 

8. Finnerty Gardens

Finnerty Gardens is a beautiful, smaller garden located on the campus of the University of Victoria (UVic). Full of flowering plants, tranquil ponds, and forest paths, this beautiful garden is perfect for a stroll. It's also the home of one of the best rhododendron collections in Canada, hosting over 1,500 rhodo's and azalea plants! The gardens are open year-round, however, if you want to see the rhododendrons, the best months to visit would be April and May. 

 

9. The Victoria Butterfly Gardens

Experience the wonders of a tropical jungle, without having to leave Vancouver Island! Located up in Saanich, the Victoria Butterfly Gardens is an indoor rainforest paradise, home to a variety of tropical plants and thousands of butterflies. From carnivorous pitcher plants to moving sensitive plants, they've devised a careful ecosystem that hosts over 70 species of butterflies, large, small, and vibrant. That's not all - flamingos, painted turtles, parrots, poison dart frogs, koi, and more all call the Butterfly Gardens their home.  Because of their proximity to one-another, the Victoria Butterfly Gardens make a great complement to the Butchart Gardens for a fun, floral-filled afternoon.

 

Special Nods To...

While these gardens are smaller, we wanted to give some honourary mentions to the following spaces. These are all public spaces that can be enjoyed for free! 

  • The gardens at the Fairmont Empress. Immaculately manicured, vibrant, and a pleasure to stroll through. Look out for Roger the Marmot, who calls these grounds his home! 
  • The Premier’s Rose Garden behind the BC Parliament Buildings is a hidden garden that's even kept a secret from most locals! These gardens are accessible from Belleville Street. 
  • The Japanese Garden in Esquimalt Gorge Park - the oldest Japanese Garden in North America. Head here for a tranquil, humbling oasis.
  • Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary up in Saanich. Head here for a scenic stroll around this lake-turned-conservation park to catch sight of orchids, lilies, Garry oak and cattails.

 

ENJOY THE GARDEN CITY!