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Pacific Northwest travelblog: Butchart Gardens at night

Trish the Dish stands atop the Sunken Gardens. (Photo by Berry Tramel).
Trish the Dish stands atop the Sunken Gardens. (Photo by Berry Tramel).

Trish the Dish and I went to Butchart Gardens last year on our trip to Victoria, and I spent most of that day’s travelblog telling you how inadequately I was describing it. So I don’t know why this year will be any different.

But here goes. We decided to return to Butchart (pronounced Boo-Shar) Gardens because some things are just too magnificent to see only once, and because Butchart Gardens offered a different viewing experience. The gardens at night.

Butchart Gardens is a North American treasure, listed as a National Historic Site of Canada.

Jennie Butchart, the wife of limestone industrialist Robert Butchart, envisioned a grand garden when the limestone quarry was exhausted.

One thing led to another, and today Butchart Gardens is 55 acres of indescribable floral gardens, set against the backdrop of the fabulous trees that overlook Brentwood Bay. Tourists from all over the world come to Butchart Gardens.

The cool thing about Butchart Gardens is that it remains in the Butchart family. Well, that’s not the only cool thing. It’s one of the most serene and beautiful places on Earth.

The setting is otherworldly. Literally every 10 seconds, the Dish got an idea for something she’d like to do in our backyard. The Sunken Garden, once a quarry, remains stunning. Here; I’ll try to describe it.

Many Oklahomans have been to Red Rock Canyon, near Hinton. Now picture Red Rock Canyon surrounded at the top by stately trees of all kinds, including redwoods. Then picture the canyon bed arrayed with elaborate flowers of all colors and kinds, meticulously manicured and designed, with shrubs and trees and fountains and trails interspersed.

That’s the Sunken Garden. There’s a Rose Garden, and an Italian Garden, and a Japanese Garden, and a Mediterranean Garden. All different and all beautiful (though the Rose Garden is the least impressive).

And you might think that once you’ve seen it, no reason to see it again. Except Butchart Gardens are illuminated at night, with subtle lighting, and doesn’t close until 11 p.m. So the Dish and I went back Monday and were glad we did.

First, we toured the gardens before sundown, with evening shadows, and the gardens were alive with a wild combination of shade and sunlight. Then we toured the gardens at night, and it was like going to the ocean after dark. A different place. Both awesome and ominous at the same time.

In between, we joined 1,000 other visitors on provided benches, lawn chairs or blankets to take in the nightly summer concert series. The Marc Atkinson Trio, with Cameron Wilson, played a variety of jazz/folk songs as the sun set over the trees along Brentwood Bay. We listened for about 40 minutes, then we set out on our night tour of the gardens, and you could hear the music floating through the entire park.

Butchart Gardens costs $35 to enter, and it seems well worth it to me. It’s a place you’ll try to describe to friends for the rest of your life. The Dining Room, an upscale restaurant that is part of the original Butchart home, is one of three places to eat on the grounds, and there is an expansive gift shop with floral seeds.

The whole place is amazing. I would recommend it to anyone.

Monday was a day where we both had lots of work to do – including listening to the Big 12 teleconference – and the Dish had a conference call she had to be on that lasted three hours. So we had to sprinkle in pleasure. We walked around the Victoria harbor a little, found a couple of cool areas in downtown we hadn’t seen before and then grabbed an ice cream cone at Chocolat Favoris, a dip-cone specialty place that is all the rage in Victoria. They didn’t have maple ice cream this time, so I was bummed. But it still was good.

After our work, we walked across the street to National Car Rental and rented a Mazda for the 20-mile drive up to Butchart Gardens. We drove around town a little and found a couple of shops the Dish spotted, then we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for a late lunch/early dinner.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a picturesque marina that includes working fishing boats, house boats used as short-term rentals and a lively commerce of eateries and tourist adventures like kayaking and whale watching. All right on the dock.

We ate at Barb’s a notable fish place; another cod dinner that was excellent. I’ve loved fish all my life, and I’m about to win over the Dish. She’s eating cod four times in the last three days.

On the way to Butchart Gardens, we drove up to Sidney, a seaside town of about 11,000, not far from the gardens. Last year when we toured Sidney, it was a Thursday, and every Thursday Sidney has a massive street market. We decided to check out the town when it was a little less hectic. Very charming. Not overly touristy. Looks like a nice place to live near the water.

Then to Butchart Gardens and the beauty beyond compare.

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Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›