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.

Totems, old and new

The styles of the totems shown in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria are as varied as the First Nations cultures they represent.

The BC Museum totems are different from the many more contemporary totems you can find in Sequim, for example here, and here. In 2011 I did a series on the totem poles of our local Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. If you’re interested, click here, here, here, here, and here. These two links will take you to the Jamestown S’Klallam carving shed in Blyn to show you local carvers and works in progress: here and here.

This totem is from an 1858 Kwakiutil house post in the village of Humtaspi on Hope Island. At its top is a moon figure. Beneath is the Dzoonokwa, a wild woman who lives in the woods. She is often seen with a basket on her back where she places stolen children that she intends to eat. I found this one particularly interesting as I have heard locally a Native American story about a similar child-eating character. She certainly gets around and undoubtedly has terrorized generations of children.