Christmas Garden Insights


By Rick Los, Director of Horticulture

“Simply beautiful!” I read that comment from one of our visitors today and thought, “That’s it – that perfectly defines the garden at this time of year!” I’m always challenged to find words that capture the essence of the garden at this time of year, but those two words encapsulate the season almost perfectly.

The Christmas season is arguably the most enjoyable time of the year to visit The Gardens as the lights and decorations are extraordinarily beautiful and there is a festive feeling that you just can’t escape. However, as a gardener I will argue, or at least speak up a little bit to point out the fact that underneath the glitz and glamour of the season, the garden holds its own in the beauty and enjoyability categories (although your children may not agree!). I would also argue that, without the garden we wouldn’t have such a spectacular setting for such a fabulous display. Now, it may seem like we’re in competition with ourselves as one Garden entity tries to outdo the other, but even if it is a little competitive, it does benefit us to subtly push each other to improve the visitor experience no matter what season or department we are operating in.

Beyond the festive feeling, there’s a sense of calm within the garden ecosystem

We shouldn’t have to defend the state of the garden at this time of year as nature truly dictates what is on display. To the observant visitor, beauty is clearly evident in the simplicity of the garden as it’s stripped down to its bones. Not only is the physical structure of the garden revealed, but we also get to enjoy the structure of the plants that are typically shrouded in foliage through a good part of the year. With such an extensive collection of plants, we have many that exhibit unique characteristics such as exquisite forms, intricate bark textures and patterns, obscure flowers (yes, there are flowers!), fascinating seed pods and colourful berries – characteristics that are often overlooked most of the year. This is a season in the garden that should be embraced and appreciated for what it is and for the unique beauty that it provides.

The beautiful Callicarpa berry

The Gardens have evolved over time and will continue to evolve as time goes on, but remaining true to our roots is of fundamental importance to us (no pun intended). Our careful attention to detail and the welcoming nature of Jennie Butchart carries on through generations of family as well as the staff members that have been stewards of this masterpiece over the years. I came across a quote the other day that, to me, captured some of the essence of what we do each day.

The quote is from George Washington Carver, a famous botanist and inventor:

When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world”.

I would also add that our staff do the common things incredibly well and do their utmost to enjoy themselves while doing them. We realize that every facet of our organization needs to be focused on excellence as we are all a part of the visitor experience – whether you’re on the front lines or behind the scenes. Every seed that is sown, every light that is hung, every dish that is washed and every wall that is painted, every common job is done to the highest standard possible – no other standard is acceptable.

Staff working hard to prepare The Gardens for the upcoming seasons.

We are truly blessed to have commanded the attention of the world for many, many years. But most of all, we are truly blessed and thankful for you, our guests, who support us and inspire us to go beyond being “simply beautiful” and to strive towards being “uncommonly special” in everything we do.

Merry Christmas!