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Victoria, B.C.: two spots not to be missed.

By Ellen SteeseStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 13, 1986



Victoria, British Columbia

JENNY BUTCHART always had an eye for color. As a young woman, that eye brought her a scholarship to study art in Paris. Fortunately, she refused it; otherwise Victoria might have lost out on its most unusual tourist attraction: the fabulous Butchart Gardens. Here, the expression ``a riot of color'' comes to vivid and glorious life. On a hot summer day it's possible to imagine a kind of visual shout rising in the Sunken Garden from the undulating beds of red geraniums that compete with neighboring orange marigolds and bright pink petunias. Dahlias abound in lemon, puce, and rust, while snapdragons in warm maroons and golds trumpet alongside pure yellow and orange tuberous begonias.

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The array goes on as far as you can see. Many of these brilliant beds are bordered by forget-me-nots in spring and blue lobelias in summer.

It was plainly a lady of bold imagination and firmness of character who created this fantasy land out of what, more than 50 years ago, was an old quarry. Robert Pim Butchart once ran a cement factory on the grounds, and bits of the factory ruins poke above the Sunken Garden, creating an odd Martian terrain of flatness and abrupt hillocks.

Bring your cast-iron elbows if you come here on a summer weekend. Phalanxes of tourists pour along the winding paths; the many benches contain solid rows of citizens, firmly planted there while resting up for the next assault. Tour groups come from all over. I saw one Japanese man drop to his knees to take a photo of a trembling spray of fuchsia. Later, I heard his whole group cooing with pleasure at the ferns, mosses, little streams, and bridges in Mrs. Butchart's Japanese garden. This, one of her early efforts at gardening, was done with the help of a non-English-speaking Japanese gardener. Its austerity is a shock after the rest of the gardens -- like a cool, quiet room after a noisy street. A popular feature is a ``moon'' cut in the hedge, through which you can see Bentwood Bay, where Mr. Butchart used to moor his yacht.

The Butcharts traveled all over the world -- admiring gardens, it would seem, as they went -- for there is also a formal Italian garden, set in what was once the family tennis court.

A favorite of mine is the rose garden. Hundreds of kinds of roses cover trellises and frame fountains and sundials. Anyone who has ever contemplated a garden catalog and dreamed of planting every rosebush listed will consider this a spot to linger.

Don't linger so long, however, that you miss Butchart's teatime. Victoria has been described as ``more English than England''; this is not true except perhaps for an emphasis on gardens and afternoon tea found throughout the city. Go early to miss the crowd.

On occasion, Mrs. Butchart used to like to slip in among the waitresses incognito and serve tea to visitors herself. Once, when an elderly gentleman attempted to give her a tip, she replied, ``Oh, no, thank you, sir! Old Mrs. Butchart would never let me accept anything!''

Every tourist worth his Baedeker heads for Butchart Gardens on a visit to Victoria. But this pleasant city has another attraction of equal note which, while not exactly neglected (a million people visit every year), is not as universally known: That's the city's imaginative and informative Provincial Museum. Victoria's Provincial Museum Although Victoria's Provincial Museum is not large, the range of displays could captivate anyone.

Canada's provincial museums are limited by law to exhibiting items relevant to their own provinces. In British Columbia, that means the Indian art and culture, the history of the province, and the environment. But there is no textbook dryness here; although it is not a large museum, the range of displays could captivate anyone.