Musical greetings

Yesterday’s subject was rock and roll. It reminded me of another musical interlude I experienced in August. This bag piper greeted arriving visitors at the hotel where we stayed in Victoria. Mind you, he wasn’t stationed at the door for us. I was told he was there for a tour group. That group, unlike us, paid the piper.

California heartbreak

Though I’ve witnessed the Northern California fires from the comfort and safety of Washington State, this has been a dreadful week. I lived in Sonoma County for seven years in a community immediately south of Santa Rosa, one of the ground zero locations of the fires that have destroyed over 3,500 houses and other structures. Knowing the area, the scale of the devastation there and in Napa County and beyond is inconceivable. California is in my thoughts and prayers.

The photo above is a winter view from an office window in Petaluma, about 15-20 miles south of Santa Rosa. The rolling hills in the background are along the eastern boundary of Sonoma County leading to Napa. Beyond them is terrain that is now on fire.

Bee happy

I was pleased to see lots of bees visiting many of the flowers at The Butchart Gardens last month. I’ve long been concerned about dramatic declines in bee populations. It’s one of those things that has been given various reasons but the bottom line is that bee populations have been crashing. Be it microscopic mites or disease, pesticides, climate, or something else, bees are dying at alarming rates.

These little insects are very important if you care about eating. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 90% of the food eaten around the globe comes from 100 basic crops. Of these crops, 71 rely on bee pollination.

You can thank a bee for your daily coffee. Or apples, cherries, almonds, beans, grapes, and many spices. Click here if you’d like to see a list of crop plants pollinated by bees. And click here if you’d like to read a New York Times article about a beekeeper and the plight of honeybees.

These little guys are important, and worth caring about.

Around the gardens

The Japanese Garden at The Butchart Gardens is sublime. Like virtually every other part of the gardens, there is beauty at every turn. But the mood of the Japanese Garden is subdued, quiet, contemplative. There are several groves ideal for peaceful meditation though it may be a challenge if you factor in your dozens of new friends also enjoying the gardens.

The Italian Garden is so colorfully planted it’s almost blinding in bright light. This area of the property was originally a concrete tennis court. To the left is a former bowling alley. The Butcharts obviously had resources.

A rose garden is at the heart of the gardens, filled with hybrid tea, climbing, and rambling roses. It’s everything a rosarian dreams of.

The Sunken Garden

The Sunken Garden at The Butchart Gardens is located in a former limestone quarry. In the early 1900s Jennie Butchart’s vision was to beautify the site which had supplied her husband’s Portland cement plant. Many of the plants in the gardens were originally collected by the Butcharts during world travels.

There is a core gardening staff of at least 50 with additional workers hired during summer. Flowers are continually deadheaded. Visitors don’t see withered blossoms or decaying foliage, nor do they see cut stems.

Tens of thousands of bedding plants beautify the gardens and are changed seasonally. The gardens own 26 private greenhouses and have full time arborists and nursery staff. It shows.