Botanical Christmas

Kathleen Brown 
Take an easy jaunt from Victoria for a glorious day at Butchart Gardens.

"What's on the 'ninth day?'" she murmurs, then remembers: "Oh, right, 'nine ladies dancing. Eight maids a-milking ... '"

During the holidays, Butchart Gardens is overrun with carolers who are stuck on this song like a needle on a scratched record―and it's totally captivating.

Set along Butchart Cove, off Tod Inlet, the longtime attraction lies a 30-minute drive north from downtown Victoria. While lit up on summer evenings as well, the gardens' 55 acres positively shimmer now. From December 1 until January 7, thousands of colored lights ring trees, edge walkways, create symbolic streams and waterfalls, and line rooftops.

Butchart introduced its Christmas display in 1987, and later began adding the Twelve Days of Christmas displays, installing one each year throughout the gardens. Twelve drummers made their debut in 2004, completing the series. Most of the vignettes are easy to spot: Eight maids a-milking are a stately bunch outlined in white lights on a knoll. Five golden rings float in the darkness of Sunken Garden Lake. But ask about the partridge in a pear tree and the turtledoves―they are easy to miss.

Don comfortable shoes, bundle up, and leave Victoria for an entire day at the gardens. (Or have your hotel concierge arrange the outing.) Enjoy afternoon tea or dinner amid the gardens in The Dining Room Restaurant. Or pause for casual fare in The Blue Poppy Restaurant or The Coffee Shop, where you can sit by the fire.

And be sure to brush up on "The Twelve Days of Christmas" before you go. Call 866/652-4422 or 250/652-5256 (recording), or visit

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