It’s dubbed the “City of Gardens.”
And for good reason. Victoria – the capital of British Columbia (or BC), Canada – literally blooms with colorful flowers and show-stopping gardens!
Indeed, the gardens in Victoria, BC, are a big draw for visitors and one of Victoria’s top tourist attractions.
The “City of Gardens”
Even in bleak November, hanging baskets of yellow and purple pansies brighten doorways of downtown shops near the city’s picturesque Inner Harbor.
We know – we live here in beautiful Victoria, and we’ve seen the flower baskets blooming as winter approaches!
Then come February, with most of Canada still blanketed by snow, Victorians celebrate the city’s annual Flower Count.
For one week, they count all the crocuses, daffodils and pink cherry blossoms flowering in the sunshine – an astounding 45,932,377,422 blooms in 2020.
(Can you think of a more fun thing to do than count flowers?)
Best gardens in Victoria, BC
While there are many Victoria, BC, gardens to visit, the following five are the most popular. (They’re our favorites too).
Is it hot outside? Cool off at these great beaches in Victoria
1) Butchart Gardens
In the early 1900s, Jenny Butchart wanted to beautify the former limestone quarry her husband had mined. With topsoil transported by horse and cart to the abandoned pit, she set about creating a sunken garden.
She had flowering trees planted and tucked ivy into the sides of the quarry walls.
Additional rose, Italian and Japanese gardens were added later, along with various water features.
Jennie’s vision turned into the Butchart Gardens.
Today, Butchart Gardens is considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
The world-renowned gardens wow over 1 million visitors a year.
They’re the largest, most well-known and best gardens in Victoria.
We particularly love the magnificent displays of annual flowers, curving manicured lawns, weeping willows and small lake with the 70-foot dancing Ross Fountain.
Oh, and let’s not forget the Mediterranean Garden. The lush garden isn’t very big, but its cypresses, lilies, verbena and tree poppies are a joy to see in summer.
There’s also an interesting Star Pond with a frog fountain rising from the middle. Tulips and other annuals line the 12 points of the star in pops of color from spring to fall.
The Rose Garden – home to some 2,500 rose bushes – is wonderful too.
The World Federation of Rose Societies (WFRS) recently honored it with an Award of Excellence.
Butchart Gardens tea:
Tea and gardens go hand-in-hand.
So treat yourself to high tea, served in the original Butchart family home.
The menu changes. But the signature house scones with strawberry jam and Devon-style cream don’t.
Other delicacies might include miniature smoked salmon quiches, Gruyere tartlets, chocolate cream puffs and English trifle.
Reservations are highly recommended. (See here for booking details.)
Butchart Gardens fireworks:
If you visit in the summer months, don’t miss the spectacular Saturday evening fireworks.
Pioneered by Jennie Butchart’s great-grandson, the fireworks show is choreographed to music.
2) Beacon Hill Park
Stroll through Beacon Hill Park in downtown Victoria, and you see spandex-clad joggers pounding the trails, moms pushing baby strollers and grey-haired gents chatting on park benches.
Shaded by maple, arbutus and soaring Douglas firs, the 200-acre landscaped park is interlaced with moss-covered bridges, lakes, rock gardens, lily ponds and meandering paths.
Peacocks and ducks roam about freely.
On one visit, we spied a huge bald eagle on top of the totem pole (the world’s largest) which towers 125 feet high in the park.
The south end of this Victoria, BC, park offers sweeping water views of Juan de Fuca Strait.
3) Abkhazi Garden
This one-acre property is the teeniest of the five Victoria gardens covered here.
But Abkhazi Garden is a special one – it’s the “garden that love built.”
The oh-so-pretty West Coast garden was created by Peggy and her husband, Prince Nicholas Abkhazi, an exiled Georgian prince.
They met in Paris in 1922, and later were both prisoners in WWII.
After finally meeting up again in 1946, they got married, Peggy became Princess Abkhazi and the couple settled in Victoria.
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, Abkhazi Garden is very natural in design, playing up the shapes of the rocks, trees, bushes and alpine plants showcased.
There are magnificent oak trees, huge 50-year old rhododendrons with gracefully sculpted branching trunks, ferns, heather, Japanese maples and a variety of native plants, along with serene duck ponds.
Nicolas especially liked waterfall effects.
So rock-hugging firs cascade down boulders in front of their former home, now a charming tea house.
Afternoon tea is a true delight at the teahouse, nestled in the gardens.
Menus feature produce and herbs from Abkhazi-grown plants when in season. Choose from the 4-course Royal Abkhazi High Tea (from smoked salmon blini with crème fraiche to mararons), the “regular” afternoon tea or Elevenses.
And while the flowers may change throughout the year, the ever-popular cheddar scones and currant scones are always on the menu.
4) Government House public gardens
The Victoria gardens surrounding the official residence of British Columbia’s lieutenant governor are open to the public.
They include cut flower gardens, beautiful rose gardens, orchard and native plant sections, and more…
Discover shade-loving hostas, perky geraniums, a Garry oak woodland and apple, plum and quince trees.
Also enjoy the small waterfall and duck pond.
5) Hatley Park National Historic Site
Grand in scale, this Edwardian estate once belonged to coal baron James Dunsmuir, a former premier of British Columbia.
He and his family lived in the lavish 40-room “castle” built in 1908.
White orchids imported from India graced the conservatory, and 120 gardeners and groundskeepers tended the formal gardens.
Today, Hatley Castle is a National Historic Site of Canada.
In summer, you can tour the rosewood-paneled rooms inside the stone mansion, now the administrative center for Royal Roads University.
Also be sure to smell the candy-colored roses in the walled rose garden, admire the boxwood-hedged Italian garden and explore the Japanese garden with its pond, well and stone lanterns.
Best time of year to visit these 5 Victoria, BC, gardens?
In spring, bountiful rhodos and azaleas paint the city with huge splashes of hot pink. It’s probably the most beautiful time of the year in the garden city of Victoria.
Summer ushers in its own pleasures – roses are in bloom, along with big blue hydrangeas.
But anytime from March to fall is a great time to visit the city and its gardens.
Recommended reading: Have you visited Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden? You must!
How to get to Victoria? See our post on taking the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria (a complete guide)
Photo credits: 20 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 5 to 8, 11 Butchart Gardens | 16 to 19 Abkhazi Gardens | 21 Hatley Castle