The Butchart Gardens
The Butchart Gardens
Chancellor's Community Recognition Award
Butchart Gardens has been a symbol of sustainable entrepreneurship in Victoria from its inception. From the original vision planted by Jennie Butchart in an empty quarry created by her husband Robert Butchart’s cement business, to the modern day attraction that grew from those early actions, The Gardens has become an internationally-recognized tourism destination and strong contributor to the local economy.
The beginnings were humble, as Jennie sought to create beauty in an otherwise undesirable space. As the quarry on their property emptied, she arranged for tonnes of top soil to be brought in by horse and cart and used it to line the quarry floor. Her vision grew into the Sunken Garden. The floral aspirations didn’t stop there, as the Butcharts, under Jennie’s direction, established the Japanese, Italian and Rose Gardens between 1906 and 1929. By the 1920s more than 50,000 people were visiting her garden annually.
The family business gained new momentum when The Gardens were given to the Butchart’s grandson Ian Ross on his 21st birthday. A veteran of the Second World War, Ross transformed The Gardens into an internationally-recognized destination. Over the course of 50 years, he added outdoor symphony concerts, a variety stage show and in 1987 introduced the ongoing Magic of Christmas display. Perhaps one of the best known attractions on the site, the weekly fireworks, which continue to this day, was started in 1977 by Ross’s son Christopher.
Throughout it all, the Butcharts and the gardeners they employed were committed to sustainability long before “green” became a buzz word. It started with the notion of re-envisioning a cement quarry into a vital green space, and continues through responsible pest and plant management, recycling and building operations. Such a commitment is evidenced in The Gardens’ focus on hand weeding throughout the property, ensuring the health of more than a million bedding plants.
The Gardens, a national historic site of Canada, now attract almost a million people annually. Since its creation, The Gardens has been under the continuous care of a member of the Butchart family. Following the deaths of Robert and Jennie Butchart successive generation of Butcharts have overseen the operations. Robin-Lee Clarke, current owner and daughter of Ross, is the great-grand daughter of Robert and Jennie Butchart and she continues to safeguard and build on the legacy entrusted to her.