Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” Blind eyes will be opened; deaf ears unstopped, lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song. Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain. Even lowly jackals will have water to drink, and barren grasslands flourish richly. Isaiah 35:3-7 (The Message)
When friends heard we were going to be in Vancouver a few days and knowing how much I love flowers, they recommended we visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria. The problem we had was that it can take eight hours to drive there and we just didn’t have that much time. So, our hotel concierge arranged for us to take a 45 minute seaplane ride to Victoria, the capitol city of British Columbia.
It was exhilarating to take off from the dock in downtown Vancouver and watch the water spray over the wings and windows. Although, it was hard to comprehend, we left the bay behind and settled in for the ride over land and water until we “landed” in the harbor of Victoria. From there, we caught a bus out to Butchart Gardens.
The gardens were started at the turn of the 20th century when Robert P. Butchart moved his wife, Jennie, to a limestone quarry on Tod Inlet. Robert used the limestone to make Portland cement supplying the west coasts of the United States and Canada with that product. Jennie worked as the company chemist, but in her spare time, indulged in her hobby of creating gardens around the family home. When the quarry was depleted, Jennie had soil from nearby farms brought in by horse and wagon to line the quarry and created the Sunken Gardens, a multilevel garden with sculptures, water features trees and flowers.
In addition, Jennie and Robert planted a rose garden, a Japanese garden, wetlands and other specialty gardens around the property from 1906 until 1929. By the 1920s, over 50,000 people visited the gardens each year. Today, more than one million visit the see the beautiful combinations of perennials, roses, and trees. Hanging baskets stuffed with multiple different species of flowers flow from rooftops, arbors, and fences. Potted plants and topiaries guard fences and gates. Orchids and bromeliads grow in greenhouses set with waterfalls. Fountains hide behind every turn adding the sound of rushing water to the experience.
Because of the long hours of daylight in the summer, dahlias grow the size of salad plates and rose bushes are covered in blooms. The garden is a riot of color in what was once a drab scar on the landscape.
I was thrilled with the gardens. It was like walking into an artist’s palette. Such beauty everywhere you looked! I kept wondering how Jennie had such vision to flood that stone quarry with flowers. What if she had insisted her husband just move their home elsewhere? What if she chose to ignore the devastation before her? What if she made excuses for the ugliness? Jennie’s dilemma is also our dilemma as we live in a world full of anger, hatred and ugliness. We can choose to “plant color” through kindness or a smile or we can pretend it does not exist and live an insular life of our own creation. What will your legacy be? A quarry or a garden?