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.

Lost in flowers

We spent a day at The Butchart Gardens while we were in Victoria B.C. last month. It’s one of my favorite beauty baths — total immersion in flowers, color, and a landscape perfected over more than 100 years.

The first time I went to Butchart, over 30 years ago, was in summer. This was the first time I’ve visited again in summer and the gardens were vibrant and filled with masses of seasonal favorites.

I’ve tried to pare down my photos to several days of favorites. Not easy. The place is a feast at every turn.

All that lavender

Here’s another way that the lavender in Sequim gets processed: it’s dried. We were invited into the drying barn at Kitty B’s Lavender where workers were busy processing bundles of lavender to be hung and dried.

Bundles are hung like string bound vines with fans running to keep down mildew.

Dried lavender is sold as aromatic bouquets and sachets, woven into wreaths and flower arrangements, and some strains have culinary uses as in herbs de Provence. It can be mixed into baking soda and used as a carpet freshener or mixed into sugar as a flavoring.

Oily business

Lavender essential oils are used in products such as soaps and lotions. Undiluted essential oils are also sold. We were pleased to find an expert to answer our questions staffing the distillery at Lavender Connection during the Lavender Festival.

Distillation essentially steams the oil from a lavender plant. At Lavender Connection the blossoms and stems from 19 plants are used to produce the equivalent of about 7 ounces of essential oil. This is the equipment that Lavender Connection uses.

Jardin du Soleil distills in this equipment. Click here to learn more about the distilling process at Jardin du Soleil.