Destination: Van Isle winter wonderlands glow on

Visit Victoria's Butchart and Glendale gardens for holiday inspiration.

Credit: courtesy Butchart Gardens

Visit Victoria’s Butchart and Glendale gardens this holiday season for inspiration

Like night and day, you can turn your garden into a magical and mysterious place for the winter in at least two distinct ways—either by adding special holiday illumination, décor and displays to your landscape, or by featuring plants and trees that naturally highlight the best of the season.

On Vancouver Island, a visit to Butchart Gardens and nearby Glendale Gardens and Woodland provides season-specific encouragement. At Butchart, the holidays are all about tradition, family fun, polish and sparkle, while at Glendale, the winter scene unfolds stunningly au naturel.

Whether you go by coach or by car, the approach to Butchart Gardens during the holidays will take your breath away. The glistening trees, Victorian architecture and themed displays set aglow are enough to warm even a Scrooge’s frosty heart!

As one of the world’s finest floral shows designed in the Victorian tradition, Butchart is the grande dame of estate gardens. During the holidays, when the flowers are mostly resting, much pomp and finery is on display in their place.

Homegrown Glory

Inspired to develop a winter garden of your own? Here are three easy concepts we took home from Butchart and Glendale.

THINK CONTRAST. Winter tends to be a grey, dreary time in many gardens. Think bark, foliage, berries and flowers for ways to add seasonal colour and contrast to your beds.

ADD INTEREST. Forgo trimming your tall seedheads in the fall and come winter they’ll add a sculptural feature to your garden.

ILLUMINATE. The architecture of trees and garden structures is set off beautifully by outdoor illumination during darker winter months. Invest in LED lights for best efficiency.

Take a stroll just after dusk and be sure to seek out each of the Twelve Days of Christmas displays, artfully arranged throughout the garden. Enjoy music and hot beverages—there’s even an outdoor skating rink!

Then, for a change of pace the next day, venture to the serene Glendale Gardens and Woodland, operated by the Pacific Horticulture College in Saanich. This 103-acre property includes an amazing six-acre demonstration garden, along with a natural conservation park.

Tucked within the Glendale display garden, the highly regarded Doris Page Winter Garden, established in 1985, is a brilliant example of how to seamlessly integrate all seasons into your landscape. In the woodland setting, winter and early-spring bulbs and herbaceous plants cheerily pop up daily, greeting the chilly air and hardy gardeners (many of them volunteers) with seasonal grace.

Throughout Glendale Gardens, beautifully tended displays of simple foliage, winter berries, seed pods, coloured barks and winter-blooming shrubs and trees invite gardeners to experience the enlightening potential of winter beauty, completely unadorned.

Butchart Gardens
Magic of Christmas displays run from December 1 to January 6.

Glendale Gardens and Woodland Natural “displays” unfold with the winter season.

For information on travel and accommodation on Vancouver Island, visit