When John and I went to Canada in 1988 in search of his brother Sam (see Tea Towel Blog on Niagara Falls), we planned the trip so that, if we didn’t find him in the three days we had in Toronto, we would fly across Canada and spend the next 15 days on holiday exploring a completely different area and not bemoaning our lack of success. In the end, we had the best of both worlds – spent three days with Sam and the rest in the Rockies and Vancouver. We flew to Calgary, travelled through Banff and Jaspar, continuing by train down the back of the Rockies to Vancouver where we spent 5 days.
I loved Vancouver as a city. Metropolitan but beautiful. Fantastic parks like Stanley Park, the amazing Museum of Anthropology and the Skytrain. All great memories. However, we did take the boat to Vancouver Island in order to visit the Butchart Gardens. This is where my first tea towel comes from. It has faded slightly with age but is still in excellent condition. It depicts the tall conifers that act as a background with the central picture being that of the Ross Fountain. Using the tea towel reminds of just how beautiful the Butchart Gardens were. However, having taken a brief look at the internet I think today, 27 years on, they must be even more amazing because they have developed and expanded, become a National Historical Site of Canada and celebrated their centenary.
Basically, the Butchart Gardens is a group of floral display gardens, the vision of Jennie Butchart who was the wife of Robert. Robert was a manufacturer of Portland Cement in the late 19th Century. He and his wife moved to the west coast of Canada because of the rich limestone deposits, necessary for cement production. Jennie had developed her own gardens around their home but when in 1909 the limestone quarry was exhausted, Jennie set about turning it in to a Sunken Garden. She then developed a Japanese garden, very popular at that time. In 1926, she converted her tennis courts into an Italian garden and in 1929 her vegetable garden became a Rose Garden and so it continued. The Butcharts home was called Benvenuto (Italian for ‘welcome’); they opened their gardens to visitors. In 1920’s they were getting 50,000 visitors a year; today it is one million. To celebrate 50 years of the gardens, miles of underground wiring was laid down so the gardens could be illuminated at night and to celebrate 60 years the Ross Fountain was installed (named after their grandson who was mangaing the Butchart Gardens). For me, my greatest memory of Butchart Gardens was the Ross Fountain with 200 nozzles pumping water up to 70 feet in the air which is illuminated at night. It is a spectacular sight.
The Butchart Gardens plant over one million bedding plants each year, with over 900 varieties to guarantee colour from March to October. I remember the fabulous displays, the like of which I had never seen before. The Butchart Gardens are famous for its plant collections, ornamental birds (the peacocks are worth seeing on their own) and a large number of bronze statues. It is the scale of the gardens that is so impressive and the idea that some woman 60 years ago dug up her tennis courts to create an Italian Garden. I seriously loved these gardens, one of the many highlights of my trip to Canada.
However, you will note that there are two tea towels at the top of this blog. When I started my Tea Towel Blog in April 2015, someone on Twitter mentioned Butchart Gardens and I chimed in with the fact that I had been many years ago. There was some banter which ended up with the Creative Tea Towel Company, a Vancouver based company producing some amazing tea towels, offering to send me their latest edition produced for Butchart Gardens. How could I resist such an offer? However, in the world of Twitter I’m never sure if people are serious but I was delighted to receive the tea towel (at the top on the right) of British Columbia. I think it is a fantastic design which incorporates loads of images that I associate with my holiday in Vancouver and the Butchart Gardens – whales, bird life, sailing, the gardens, the totem pole (not sure if that is from Stanley Park or Butchart Gardens). Looking at this tea towel makes me realise what a great holiday I had on the west coast of Canada and makes me ask myself ‘Why haven’t I been back?’ and ‘When will I go again?’ That’s the sheer joy of great tea towels. British Columbia is on my list of things to do now I am retired.
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