Michigan City   Sioux Falls   Billings   EBR-1   Craters of the Moon   Mount St. Helens   Copalis   Convention   Arlington   Friday Harbor   Victoria   Butchart Gardens   Chemainus   Haida Gwaii   Louise Island   Saskatoon   Munising   Pictured Rocks  

to the story's beginning            back to Victoria

Many connoisseurs consider Victoria's Butchart Gardens to be among the finest in the world. The site wasn't always a place of beauty.

Robert Pim Butchart owned a Portland cement factory in Owen Sound, Ontario, his home town. In 1904, he and his wife Jennie came to Vancouver Island to take advantage of the rich limestone deposits here. They established their home near the quarry at Tod Inlet, about 14 miles from Victoria's inner harbor. Mr. Butchart had customers as far away as San Francisco. Business was good; by 1909, the quarry was mined out.

Jennie Butchart had grand ideas, though. Importing tons and tons of topsoil from nearby farmland, she began transforming the exhausted mine into the famous Sunken Garden that we'll see here shortly. The project took twelve years. While working on her project, Mrs. Butchart hung from a bosun's chair to plant ivy in the crevices of the rock walls. The Butcharts named their home Benvenuto and began receiving visitors to the garden. During the 1920s, more than 50,000 people came here every year.

Today, Butchart Gardens receives nearly a million visitors every year. This private property was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004. As for all modern visitors, the display began for us right at the parking lot, the site of these scenes.

Visitors don't get the feeling of being too crowded: partly because the place is very large (55 acres), and partly because of a brochure that guides us through the garden with some kind of order. We'll visit the gardens in that order, approximately. Waterwheel Square is at the beginning and end of the tour. It's the best place to meet people if you didn't all come in the same car.

There are diversions to keep folks amused while they wait for … whatever they're waiting for. They recommend sliding the chess pieces rather than picking them up – the king weighs 50 pounds.

There are several carefully designed photo opportunities throughout the property. These people will soon find out why the bronze horse "Annabelle" looks like she belongs on a carousel.

The walk around Waterwheel Square to the Sunken Garden is lush.

The entry to the Sunken Garden is designed to unveil this gem all at once.

At the end of that rock-lined wall, we finally get to see how Jennie Butchart transformed that old limestone pit. What a difference! The lady at right with the large red purse would be able to see a tall chimney that is hidden in this photo. The chimney served the cement plant's kiln, and is the only remaining portion of the original factory.

This is the view back toward the Purse Lady, from atop the mound at the other end of the Sunken Garden.

There are plenty of flowers to stop and smell between those two vantage points. No roses, though. There's a reason for that.

William Westby, Mrs. Butchart's head gardener, laid this garden out. He supervised the massive task of draining the quarry. Then he sealed and lined it, and filled it from a natural spring to form a lake that's as much as 40 feet deep. Mr. Butchart stocked the pool with trout, and trained them to come to the surface to be fed when he clapped his hands.

In 1939, the Butcharts gave the Gardens to their grandson Ian Ross on his 21st birthday. Ross was involved in operating and promoting the gardens for the rest of his life, another 58 years. The people on that bench are watching the 70-foot Ross Fountain, which he installed in 1964. The display changes every few seconds.

Remember Annabelle? The bronze horse is near the Rose Carousel, with its fun for kids of all ages. This is the only carousel on Vancouver Island. If you're wheelchair-bound, you can use one of its two chariots. The Children's Pavillion is there too, with topiary animals on the roof and bugs on the outside wall.

There are two totem poles here, overlooking a large concert lawn and a fireworks viewing area. We weren't there at the right time of day for either event.

While we're distracted, this is a good place to point out the Butchart family's disdain for foreign currency. The U.S. Dollar has been weak this year, but not that bad.

Certainly not bad enough to throw our money away, but they do make the trash cans look nice.

As we strolled toward the next major attraction, we looked down at some more of the perfect flowers that were everywhere, …

… and we looked up at some of the tallest trees we've seen so far on this trip. The Coast Redwood at left was planted as a seedling in 1934.
They didn't tell us how old the firs were.  

We didn't see roses in the Sunken Garden because they're all in the Rose Garden. The Sunken Garden is set off by rock walls. To reach the Rose Garden, we walked through concrete arches covered with roses. Yes, the structure is concrete. It was cast in forms to make it look like logs.

Each rose in the flower beds is tagged with its name, country of origin, and the year it was registered with the American Rose Society. Sorry, I wasn't taking notes for this one.

There were just too many to take them all in critically.

The wishing well is a nice touch. The wrought iron frame was made in Italy.

Jennie Butchart Cherry Parfait
Canada France
1975 2003

In 1907, 65-year-old Japanese garden designer Isaburo Kishida was asked by his son Yoshitaro to take the long and difficult sea journey from Yokohama to Victoria, and join him in setting up a Japanese tea garden in the Esquimalt Gorge Park.

It was the first Japanese garden in British Columbia, but it soon started a trend among Edwardian high society. With the highly successful opening of the tea garden, which drew a record breaking attendance of 5000 people in three days, many people wanted a private Japanese garden of their own, including the Butcharts. So while the Sunken Garden was the first place we saw here, this one is the oldest.

A window in the Japanese Garden's border looks down at Tod Inlet, where Mr. Butchart once had a boathouse for his motor yacht Nooya.

The boathouse is gone, but we followed a path down to the dock. Here, Butchart Gardens offer a tour of the inlet, passing the old factory site and the shoreline of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. We skipped the tour, but we did relax at the dock for a while.  

The Sturgeon Fountain stands next to the Japanese Garden's entryway arch, on the site where there was once a magnificent tea house.

Today, the Sturgeon Fountain offers a commanding view of the Butchart residence across the main lawn. The people in the distance at left are near the Star Pond, with the Frog Fountain centerpiece. Mr. Butchart originally had this pond built for his collection of ornamental ducks.

Just past the Star Pond, we passed through an arch to an area that was originally the Butcharts' concrete-surfaced tennis court. Now it's the Italian Garden, the most formal garden on the property.

The bronze Mercury guards one end of the Italian Garden, looking out over an elaborate cruciform pond. At the other end of the garden, there was once a bowling alley on the second floor.  

Walking under the bowling alley, we arrive at the piazza, with several sculptures to enjoy. The donkey and foal are popular with children, who like to climb on for their "I was here" pictures. They were sculpted by Sirio Tofanari, who also made the Sturgeon Fountain. We'll get to the boar in the background, in a minute.

The Gardener
Nathan Scott

The boar is obviously a center of attention.
His nose will always be shiny.
There's a plaque to tell his story:

The Butchart Boar

The original Porcellino, or little pig, sits on the south side of the Straw Market in Florence, Italy. For generations his nose has been affectionately rubbed to bring good luck, so that today his snout is finely burnished.

About 1620 Pietro Tacca cast the "little pig" in bronze from the marble boar "Cinghiale," now displayed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. He completely changed the simple base of the earlier statue by adding a small pool surrounded by plants, frogs, snakes, and a turtle. It is also likely that Tacca restored the Cinghiale itself after fire partially destroyed the Uffizi.

Authorities have suggested that the boar was part of a larger group representing a hunting scene. The animal's unique position indicated neither repose nor attack, rather the wild beast awakened suddenly by the sound of the hunt.

This rare copy of Porcellino was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Ross on a trip to Florence. He is called TACCA in honour of the artist who created him, and he is dedicated to all the children and animals who visit the Butchart Garden.


There's a greenhouse next to the piazza. To nobody's surprise, it's exquisite.

That almost ends our tour of Butchart Gardens. They've saved a little delight for last, the Mediterranean Garden. If you were in a hurry, you might not even notice it, out there next to the parking lot.

Here's where we get another reminder that this place is snow-free. Unlike at the Halifax Public Gardens, these plants don't need any special protection in the winter months. They're in their natural environment here.

It's a perfect place to gather for some quiet conversation before leaving this paradise to return to city life. Also, for getting that one last perfect picture.  

About 35 miles northwest of Victoria, Chemainus was founded in 1858 to bring Vancouver Island's abundant lumber to market through a good natural harbor. The largest enclosed sawmill in North America operated here in the boom years. Late in the 20th century, the economics of the lumber industry had changed. After 120 years, the Chemainus mill closed in 1983, putting 700 people out of work. In a town of 4000, this was a devastating event.

Karl Schutz had the idea to turn the town into an outdoor art gallery. With a mix of government and local money, the Chemainus Mural Project was born. Despite gloomy initial predictions, the project has been an outstanding success. We first heard about this community over 3000 miles away, on Bell Island, Newfoundland. Bell Island had a similar, although less spectacular, revival with murals when its mine closed, taking the island's main industry with it.

42 murals are the backbone of a new community of artists and performers, drawing tourists to Chemainus from all over the world. The theme is life in Chemainus in the early days, with emphasis on the logging industry. Yellow footprints are painted on the sidewalks to help visitors find all the murals. One of the first things we found wasn't a mural, but one of nine or ten pieces of outdoor sculpture.

In 2003, a Chemainus art dealer approached local carver Roger Nygaard about carving a Peace Pole for public display. The original plan was for a wooden pole, but Nygaard was able to procure a piece of marble for this work. Going beyond the traditional design, he added a group of people on top, holding up the Earth, with an eagle as its crown. Traditional Peace Poles include the phrase "May peace prevail on Earth" in four languages; but this one has four different prayers, all in English:

May peace prevail in our hearts
May peace prevail in our island
May peace prevail in our country
May peace prevail on Earth

Weather and siting pose problems in keeping the murals in good shape. The committee has tried to avoid walls that face south. Also, many of them are in constant shade. While this may be good for preservation, it's not so good for photography. If you'd like to see much better records of this project, they're all displayed on the web site of the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society.

Steam Donkey at Work
Frank Lewis & Nancy Lagana, 1982
This was the first mural unveiled in the Chemainus Mural Project. A steam donkey is an engine used to haul logs out of the forest. It's stronger than a live donkey, and much more predictable. The horse in the center is waiting to take an end of the heavy line to the next log to be hauled out. The steam donkey is built on skids so its line can be attached to a tree. Then the machine could move itself to the next place where it was needed. In a few days, we'll see a real steam donkey, or what's left of one. The machine in this painting is now in the BC Forest Museum in Duncan.

The Thirty-Three Metre Collage
Frank Lewis, Nancy Lagana, & Paul Marcano, 1982
If you're a little rusty on the metric system, this painting is 108 feet wide. It shows harbor scenes that were common in the 1890s.

The Hong Hing Waterfront Store
Paul Marcano, 1982
The sign in the mural explains:

Hong Hing was actually the name of his store, his real name being Fon Yen Lew. After a half-century career as a shopkeeper, second-hand dealer, bootlegger, gambling house, and general busboy, he returned to China, presumably to die. Instead, he married a woman forty years his junior, who presented him with an heir before old Hong joined his ancestors.

Arrival of the Reindeer in Horseshoe Bay
Sandy Clark & Les Goward, 1983
A native princess watches the arrival of HMS Reindeer in Horseshoe Bay (now Chemainus Bay). The ship's captain was a friend of Isabel and Thomas Askew, whose daughter is the star of another mural in town.

Chemainus 1891
David Maclagan, 1983

Company Store
Dan Swatzky, 1983
This is the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Company Store, c. 1917. The store used a sort of credit-card system that smells a lot like the one-company-town system of payment by scrip. The buyer would pay with coupons. The store got credit from the lumber company, which then deducted the amount from their employees' pay.

After 65 years in business, the store closed in 1949. When the building was demolished a year later, it was discovered that its frame was made entirely of clear lumber. Some single pieces were over 40 feet long, and there wasn't a knot in any one of them.

Temporary Homes
David White, 1983
Even Subway gets a mural in Chemainus. Not every community is meant to last. These wall tents were well suited for lumber camps, which moved when they got enough trees from one place.

Native Heritage
Paul Ygartua, 1983
This is arguably the most powerful mural in Chemainus, painted by a Basque who was born in England. A dozen Cowichan tribes occupied this area for hundreds of years before European contact. Many of their descendants still live in and around Chemainus.
The three central faces are
 •  Ce-who-latza, Lyakun Village chief, constable of the native police, and a pilot in the Royal Navy;
 •  Clay-sa-luke, Chemainus Band Chief; and
 •  an unnamed Salish woman.

Julia Askew
First Child of European Ancestry Born in the Chemainus Valley

Elizabeth Smily, 1986
Julia Askew (1871-1942) was her parents' second child, but the first one born here. Her parents built the second mill in town, which her mother managed for several years after her father died. It seems natural that she would be chosen to grace a store for women.

Mill Street in 1948
Mike Svob, 1986

Chemainus Harbour 1910
E. Colim Williams, 1986

Chemainus Hospital
Doug Driedeger, 1986
This mural is on a drug store. The hospital in the painting was built in 1899, and still serves the community. The doctor behind the wheelchair is Herbert Rogers, first doctor to work in the newly constructed hospital. Dr, Rogers retired as the Medical Superintendent of Chemainus Hospital in 1936.

Chemainus – The War Years – Circa 1915
Susan Tooke Crichton, 1989

The Spirit of Chemainus
Dan Swatzky, 1991
This is not an old boat. The brig Spirit of Chemainus was built and launched here in 1985 as a tribute to the Chemainus Festival of Murals. She is often seen nearby in Georgia Strait and around the Gulf Islands.

The Lone Scout
Stanley Hiromichi Taniwa, 1991
The subject is Shige Yoshida, born in Victoria (1908) and raised in Chemainus. All of the Scouts in his Troop 2 were of Japanese ancestry – a first in Canada. He was one of a community of 300 Japanese in the region who were interned after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The artist was also evacuated at this time, settling with his family in Thunder Bay. When he returned to Chemainus as an adult, he learned that Shige Yoshida had been his father's good friend; he views this mural as a symbol of completion. Many of Taniwa's family are depicted in the mural. The artist's family home is right across the street.

Memories of a Chinese Boy
Cheng Shu Ren (Arthur Cheng), 1996
This mural portrays the story of Ning Chang, the first Chinese child born in Chemainus (1913). His father worked in the mines and his descendants still live in Chemainus.
The sign in the corner says,

When I returned to Chemainus, I went to school and helped my parents in the store. Our store was the centre of activity, especially used by the people from the islands as a waiting spot for boat transportation or for the right tide to set out on to meet friends, leave messages and for any other help the family could give. My Mother gave candies to the children. They called her Grandmother, while the customers usually called her Mother Chang.

– Ning Chang

Letters From the Front
David Goatley, 2002
This painting is right in place on the Post Office. "The Front" refers to World War I, the setting for the scenes in this collage. The Flanders Poppies symbolize remembrance.

First Chemainus Sawmill 1862
Sylvia Verity Dewar, 2003
This mural was commissioned for the 20th anniversary of the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society. The subject is the original 1862 sawmill. The artist used artificially brilliant colors because of the work's location in perpetual shade.

The water wheel is modelled on the sawmill's original powerplant, by Karl Schutzat.

Mural 41
Lurene Haines, (work in progress)
This mural, commissioned in 2009, will show late-19th-century scenes of a gathering at Mount Benton, on a site now occupied by a golf course. It's an ambitious project encompassing five different sections on different walls, and it looks like it isn't moving right now. The artist's blog and Flickr set have not been updated since 2010. We can only hope that our next visit will see this project complete.

The Festival of Murals Society's concept sketch for Mural 41 is reproduced here. It's a very wide photo, but you will be able to scroll from one end to the other. The odd shape is that of the building, which is on a hill.

Miss Haines completed Mural 41 in 2014, formally presenting it to the Senior's Center at an afternoon tea in September of that year. Since then, it has been called Chemainus Outdoor Gathering.

In an entryway across from Waterwheel Park, this painting reminds us that we will soon be on our way to further education in ancient civilizations.

on to Haida Gwaii

Michigan City   Sioux Falls   Billings   EBR-1   Craters of the Moon   Mount St. Helens   Copalis   Convention   Arlington   Friday Harbor   Victoria   Butchart Gardens   Chemainus   Haida Gwaii   Louise Island   Saskatoon   Munising   Pictured Rocks   References