Jennie & Robert
Jennie Butchart moved to Vancouver Island with her husband, Robert, in the first few years of the 20th Century. He had the recipe for Portland cement and was about to start a business that was one of the first to produce the material in Canada. The first bag was shipped in 1905.
The Birth of A Garden
One of the raw materials needed to make Portland cement is limestone. Within a couple of years, Jennie had a played out quarry near her home that was an eyesore. That’s when she decided to turn it into a sunken garden.
A Garden Cliffhanger
She carted in tons of topsoil. Beds were created and filled with a huge diversity plants. The story goes that Jennie even planted the cliff side while dangling in a boatswain’s chair.
Jennie the Plant Geek
Her plant geek connections were incredible! She amassed a collection of rare plants. Once, as she was showing Frederick Marshman Bailey around the amazing collection, the British adventurer bragged that he knew of a plant that she didn’t have. He had discovered the Himalayan Blue Poppy, Meconopsis baileyi, just a few years previous. He was flummoxed when she calmly led him to a planting of his discovery.
Jennie had received seeds from one of her plant geek friends at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in the UK. The garden had only very recently received seeds for their collection, from Bailey himself, making Jennie one of the first gardeners in the West to cultivate Meconopsis baileyi.
Jennie’s Garden Grows
Jennie opened her gardens to visitors soon after it was planted. She served tea to everyone as they looked around. In 1915, she served 18,000 cups to visitors.
The Butchart Gardens are considered one of the world’s greatest horticultural achievements. Over 1 million plants populate 50 acres of specialty gardens on the estate. Millions of people have been inspired by Jennie’s creation.