Special topics in Horticulture: Garden Tours by Michael (2020 Pacific Horticulture College student) 

Thank you so much to our instructors, Jane and Tony, for the interesting Garden Tour our class went on Thursday October 29, 2020.

Our tour started at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens where we met Curtis, who is the head horticulturist and entomologist. The first displays were of tropical insects starting with a unique display of leaf cutter ants. We were instructed that the ants do not if fact eat the leaves but use them to farm a fungus which is their food supply. There are many other interesting displays of other non- native tropical insects as well. As we entered the enclosure in which butterflies are free to fly, we stopped at the “Emerging Area”. This is where the butterflies emerge from their cocoons and are released to the larger enclosure. Butterfly Gardens imports as many as 1000 butterflies per week in order to supplement their in house production. There are so many beautiful, colourful and unique butterflies everywhere you look, but be careful where you step. There are also many birds in the enclosure as well as Spike the iguana, giving the visitor a real feeling of the tropical forest with its massive tropical plants. All of the exotic animals are rescued from the pet trade and are happy to have much more space than can usually be afforded a typical pet. It was interesting to listen to Curtis describe the different species of butterflies and the plants that are specifically cultivated for their needs. Such as a Sweet Potato Vine grown to feed caterpillars. Some of the plants are volunteers such as a star fruit that grew from seed expelled from the birds that where feed the fruit. I found the Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants) very interesting as well.

Afterwards, we drove to Island View Nursery where we met the owner John who took us on a tour of his nursery. We all found a great many interesting plants that we could identify in the many green houses and fields. It was great to be shown a new wholesale nursery that we can use in the future to help support our garden design efforts.

Next on the agenda was Butchart Gardens. As we toured the famous gardens, all of the students were challenged by Jane and Tony to identify the many perennials, shrubs and trees. It was sure nice to see all of our studies paying off as we showed a considerable amount of knowledge when it came to naming plants by their botanical names. We were all very impressed by the fall colours of the many Acer palmatum specimens in the Japanese garden. They are so artfully arranged to draw your eye around the garden taking in all the beauty of the season.

Butchart Gardens, Butterfly Gardens & Island View Nursery by Jessica (2020 Pacific Horticulture College student)

As a cozy class of 6, we had the opportunity to visit 3 amazing, very different successful businesses in the industry of Horticulture. We got to learn about where they started, where they are today and see some beautiful plants along the way.

Victoria Butterfly Gardens
When walking through the doors of the gardens, you’re hit with humid tropical air and the scent of fresh blooming Plumeria flowers. It is truly like walking into a tropical paradise. Thousands of butterflies live amongst the thriving tropical plants. Most plants in the gardens have been propagated on site and all are grown organically. Almost all are intentionally planted, while others are volunteers planted by birds or other critters after having a seedy snack. Historically, the butterflies have been imported from sustainable butterfly farms in Costa Rica and Asia. By adding and growing host plants in the gardens, a good portion of certain species are now reproduced on site. This is apparent when walking around the gardens as you can see the stages of the butterfly life cycle in action. The gardens are not only home to an array of stunning tropical plants, but also a tribe of sweet animals that help complete this little ecosystem. From Spike the Iguana, who recently had his eye amputated after being diagnosed with glaucoma, to Houdini the flamingo whose life partner is a duck named Duke. Many other animals such as tropical birds and tortoises call the gardens home. All animals that live in the gardens are either rescues, adoptees or donations. The staff working in the gardens are so knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated to keeping the Butterfly Gardens beautiful!

Island View Nursery
Island View Nursery was a great place to explore as new members of the horticulture industry. We got a behind the scenes tour from the founder and owner, John Garcia. We got to check out the 30 greenhouses on site and take a lengthy walk around the property through the maze of plants. John had some great business advice for our class starting with the ins and outs of Island View, and how to spot the healthiest plant material. The property stretches 80 acres, 50 of which are growing and production for the nursery. John started Island View in 2004 and has been a big part of the landscaping industry ever since. Island View is strictly wholesale for industry workers, they sell to close to 2000 customers including municipalities and garden centers. It is also a site where industry workers can bring garden waste, which is then composted on site and used in the nursery and sold as a very popular, high quality planting media that is sought after in the community. It was great to get an idea of what to expect and see what’s available as students who will soon be in the industry full time.

Butchart Gardens
The Butchart Gardens was a great place to visit as a class. We all had a lot of fun walking around the gardens, identifying plants and imagining the gardens where they started over 100 years ago. Walking around, you’re surrounded by millions of bedding plants, amazing architecture and so much colour. I have visited the gardens many times in my life, but it really is different after going through a horticulture program and seeing it in a different light. It has always been stunning, but even more so now after learning so much about what goes into the life cycle and care of each individual plant. My favorite part of this trip was the Japanese Garden, the fall colour was something I won’t soon forget. The layers are astounding, and I can only imagine the planning that went into the initial planting plan to have the effect that we see today.