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Butchart Gardens

I’m so thankful there are people in this world who can see something in a whole lot of nothing.

Jennie Butchart was one of those people. She looked out over a dug-up limestone quarry and saw a garden.

Painstakingly planted and nurtured by Jennie and her descendants, the Butchart Gardens are the crown jewel of Victoria’s gardens — a city whose nickname is, appropriately, Garden City.

There are four gardens at Butchart, each one unique and each one remarkable. The Sunken Garden was the first to be developed, on the site of the old quarry. As the limestone was exhausted, Jennie began planning her garden. She had top soil brought in by horse and cart and the five-acre garden took nine years to build.

Next to be built were the Japanese Gardens. In the springtime, it is bursting with colour when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom. In the fall, the Japanese maples glow orange and red.

The Butchart family’s former tennis court was eventually transformed into the Italian Gardens.

Last to be planted was the Rose Garden. Today, it has 30 rose arches and 280 varieties of roses.

New to me was the Mediterranean Garden — a fifth garden that has been added since my last visit.

My friends and I spent most of a Sunday marvelling at and photographing the flowers at Butchart Gardens. We wondered aloud whether the colour palette of the Sunken Garden changes from year to year. We enjoyed gelato in the Italian Gardens. And we all agreed that the one-year pass is an incredible deal (paid for in as few as two visits) because the gardens need to be seen in all four seasons.

I was a teenager the first time I went to Butchart Gardens, but regardless of whether you see it only once in your lifetime, or you return dozens of times, know this: each visit is as mind-blowing as your first visit.

Through My Lens: Salt Spring Island Cat

This is a travel blog, yes, but who doesn’t run into a cat or three while on her travels?

This is Amy. She was keeping me company while I enjoyed myself in my friend’s garden on Salt Spring Island the other weekend.

The best travel days always include gardens. And cats. Truly.

The Gardens of Schloss Schwetzingen

Remember Karl Theodor? The fellow I kept bumping into in Heidelberg? Turns out he had a summer home. (And was quarrying stone from Heidelberg Castle to build it. Tsk, tsk.)

That home would be this one, Schloss Schwetzingen or Schwetzingen Castle.

Karl Theodor spent a great deal of effort and expense on designing some rather splendid gardens behind the castle.

Which is what my friends and I came to see. There are several of them, all exquisitely landscaped.

There were also lots of ponds, along with the requisite ducks and geese.

More than 100 sculptures.

A few “follies,” as they call them in formal gardens, such as this mosque.

And a temple to Apollo.

There were so many gardens, in fact, that we didn’t even get to them all.

Oh, and guess what? Just outside the castle is Karl Theodor himself. I think this likeness has something to do with the fact that he fathered seven illegitimate children by three different women.

Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour?

Through My Lens: Jardin du Luxembourg

It’s been more than six years since I was in Paris and although it felt like I had never been away, one of the hardest things for me to get my head around this time was the weather.

On my last visit, I struggled to keep warm during a snowy winter that felt far too cold for my thin Vancouver blood.

This time, we were immersed in heat and humidity. Although we were spared the experience of one of Paris’s infamous heat waves, I did wonder which is worse when travelling: being too hot or too cold? I don’t know the answer, but the question is a reminder that weather always plays a factor when forming an impression of a place.

However, this I do know: a definite bonus about visiting Paris in the summertime is being able to see the gardens in full bloom. One of my favourites is the Jardin du Luxembourg, or Luxembourg Gardens. Located in the 6e arrondissement, they were built for Marie de’ Medici, widow of King Henry IV, to go with her new palace, called, appropriately, the Luxembourg Palace. That’s it in the photo. These days, it’s where the French Senate meets.

Through My Lens: Nitobe Memorial Garden in the Fall

Nitobe Memorial Garden Fall

More than a year ago, I posted a photo of Nitobe Memorial Garden in all its spring glory.

Here it is in the fall. Glory.

Through My Lens: Nitobe Memorial Garden

Nitobe Memorial Garden

I took this photo last Friday in the beautiful Nitobe Memorial Garden. This garden is located at the opposite corner of the UBC campus from my office ― which makes for a nice walk when I’m on my lunch break. As I’ve noted before, I think UBC is a beautiful campus. The Nitobe Memorial Garden only reaffirms my belief.