The Twenty-Four Seasons of a Year

By UBC Botanical Garden | Garden News

Saanich peninsula farmland through the seasons

The Twenty-Four Seasons of a Year

At this time of year people often ask: what is there to see or do in a garden in winter? British Columbia has the warmest winter climate in Canada and hundreds of public gardens open to visit. Some like to see the ‘bones’ of the garden in winter. Gardeners are of course planning what to plant soon. And of course, Victoria is getting ready for its 43rd annual Greater Victoria Flower Count. But with Chinese New Year coming us, we thought we would ask BC garden tourism expert and former director the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden about the Chinese view the seasons in the garden and we have good news: spring starts on February 4th in 2018!

Gardeners have a close relationship with the earth and weather. We watch weather and work with soil. If we get it right and with a bit of luck, we’re rewarded with an abundance of flowers, vegetables, fruit; whatever we’re trying to grow. As Chinese New Year approaches, seed catalog in hand, I plan and dream of the next cycle of soul-satisfying activity. I like the movement of seasons. Soil-workers have studied the seasonal changes for millennium. The traditional Chinese calendar divides the year into twenty-four sections; recognizing the nuances in the seasons. It gave an edge to those who grow things.Chinese New Year preparations

When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990’s, before there was much heat or air conditioning available to common folks, the winters were dry and bitterly cold and the summers hot and muggy. The practical Beijing population wore six layers of clothing against the cold and slept outside, often putting cots on the sidewalk, to catch any small breeze in summer. I wasn’t used to either extreme, though fared better in winter by application of successive layers. I know when and where the term ‘hot, sweaty mess’ was coined – it was me in July and August.

Chinese New Year mandarin oranges

I was sceptical when my Beijing friends confidently predicted when the worst of the heat would begin to cool each year. They named the date long ahead of time and it happened on schedule several years in a row. How could Chinese weather be so much more predictable than western weather? I then discovered, in an old book, the twenty-four sections of the traditional Chinese year used by farmers to guide them in sowing and harvesting. The system seemed to help predict weather too.

Each of the annual twenty-four sections is fifteen days long which, when multiplied, adds up to 360 days a year. To make up the shortfall, an extra month was inserted between two months every several years. The twenty-four sections of the agricultural year start with the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) section and are poetic in their descriptive names:

24 Season in the Chinese Calendar

While relying heavily on the twenty-four sections for when to plant, harvest and preserve, farming families also kept their own record of daily weather. A woman of the household would create a detailed painting of a tree with set number of trunk, large and mall branches. Leaves were added daily in a set order and in the colours representing if the day had been sunny, rainy or windy. The finished painting was carefully stored as a record of that growing season. Some families were able to refer to hundreds of years these paintings.

Not many of us keep detailed records anymore; we rely on the Weather Channel. But for all the scientific instruments and knowledge; I’m not completely sure we’re much farther ahead in predicting weather. Although I quibble about some of the dates in the twenty-four sections, I recognize and celebrate the pattern.

Chinese New Year preparations complete

Butchart Gardens Named 2017 ‘World Tulip Garden’

By Scott McDonald | Garden News

World Tulip Garden of the Year 2017

Victoria, B.C., . . . On Saturday, October 7, members of the World Tulip Summit Society (WTSS) gathered in Ottawa, to announce the recipients of the 2017 World Tulip Awards, including the coveted title of World Tulip Garden.

Gardens British Columbia is happy to announce the title of World Tulip Garden of the Year  (2017) has been awarded to one of our members, The Butchart Gardens, in recognition of their beautiful tulip display, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

“We are honored to receive this award,” commented Dave Cowen, Butchart Gardens CEO. “To be recognized in such illustrious company is truly a privilege.”

The Butchart Gardens - Top Walk Tulips

World Tulip Awards are presented to organizations and individuals who have distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of tulips as part of their destination’s tourism appeal.  “Tulips are part of the culture of many countries.   Existing national tulip traditions and successful tulip initiatives can be adopted by attractions, events and festivals around the world thus providing new opportunities to share our cultures and strengthen friendships”, says Michel Gauthier, Chair of the World Tulip Summit Society.

In the spirit of highlighting the world’s most dynamic tulip experiences and their contribution to world friendship, WTSS is honored to announce the 2017 recipients of the World Tulip Awards.

World Tulip Garden of the Year 2017


World Tulip Festival of the Year: Tulip Time, Holland, USA
World’s TOP 5 Tulip Festivals Worth Travelling For:

  1. Floriade, Canberra, Australia
  2. Istanbul Tulip Festival, Turkey
  3. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, USA
  4. Srinagar Tulip Festival, Kashmir, India
  5. Taean Tulip Festival, South Korea

World Tulip Event of the Year: Bloememcorso Bollenstreek, Netherlands
World Tulip Display of the Year: Tonami Tulip Fair, Japan
World Tulip Garden of the Year: The Butchart Gardens, Canada
World Tulip Destination of the Year: Mainau Island, Germany
World Tulip Attraction of the Year: Jiangsu Dafeng Holland Flower Park, China
World Tulip Promotion of the Year: Canada 150 Tulip, Canada
World Tulip Game of the Year: Tulip Crush, Canada
World Tulip Product of the Year: Tulpi Chair, Netherlands
World Tulip Partner of the Year: Veseys, Canada
World Tulip Person of the Year: Mayor Osamu Natsuno, Tonami, Japan

Join us in congratulating The Butchart Gardens on their World Tulip Garden of the Year win. Gardens British Columbia would also like to congratulate all the awardees from around the world who were recognised at the 2017 World Tulip Summit.  This is particularly exciting coming on the heels of the ‘Canada 150 Garden Experience’ designations awarded to all 10 members of Gardens British Columbia this past winter at the Garden Tourism Conference, by the Canadian Garden Council.


The World Tulip Summit Society brings together the tulipists, tulip aficionados, connoisseurs, fans, devotees and tulip lovers of the world to celebrate and promote the positive influence this beautiful and unique flower, one of the world’s most beloved flowers, has had and continues to have worldwide, on all aspects of life as a symbol of international friendship, peace and spring.


  1. promote the tulip as a symbol of friendship, peace and of spring
  2. make use of the tulip as a means to promote international goodwill
  3. encourage and facilitate the celebration of the tulip
  4. promote the organization of tulip celebrations for the benefit of local residents and tourists
  5. pursue and facilitate the exchange of information and cooperation between  countries with regard to tulips

2017 World Tulip Garden of the Year







Brian Minter: Garden Days should be celebrated all year in Canada

By Scott McDonald | Garden News

UBC Botanical Gardens

As we look forward to celebrating 150 years as a country on July 1, there are numerous activities in which Canadians will be engaged and enjoying the many aspects of our gardens should be one of them! Gardens have always been part of our culture from sustainable food growing to creating beauty both in private and public gardens and parks. Tourism Canada has long recognized that gardens have been a significant visitor attraction from coast to coast.

In recent years the Canadian Garden Council has organized Garden Days nationally to recognize the importance of gardens in our Canadian lifestyle.  Initially, it was a means to recognize the value and benefits of home gardens and community parks to the health and well-being of our citizens. Since then it has also evolved to celebrate environmental stewardship, such as the creation of animal and beneficial insect habitats. With so many natural areas lost to development, gardens are playing an increasingly important role in providing nectar and pollen so pollinators can thrive.

A couple of years ago as the Garden Days spokesperson for B.C., I worked with CBC to ask British Columbians to write in and tell us what their gardens mean to them. As we read the responses and looked at the images sent in, we were blown away by the depth of feeling and the range of relationships folks had with their personal gardens — everything from a child’s first experience planting seeds, seeing them sprout, nurturing them, being enthralled watching bees and butterflies participate in the garden process to older folks who wrote of planting areas of their gardens in memory of lost friends and family members. Young Millennials wrote in to say how excited they were about growing and enjoying their fresh homegrown veggies.

This project was a real eye-opener! These letters confirmed that gardens are very much an essential part of many people’s lives.

Garden Days has been celebrated this past week with over 175 significant garden events across our country. In B.C., Revelstoke’s main event was ‘Art in the Garden’; in Kelowna it was a ‘Flower Power Garden Tour’; in Chilliwack ‘Lady Bug Love’; in Pitt Meadows a ‘Pot a Sunflower’ workshop for kids. Butchart Gardens is offering a gnome hunt, and Milner Gardens and Woodland is offering a 2-for-1 admission.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow the UBC Botanical Gardens are also featuring activities to celebrate Garden Days. The B.C. Landscape and Nursery Association has encouraged its member garden stores to create pollinator displays to showcase which plants are most effective in providing pollen and nectar. The Garden Days website and the webpage of the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs are two good resources for garden event information.

Gardening is recognized as adding value in numerous ways to our lives. The health benefits alone of working with soil and plants have been scientifically verified. Not only is the activity of gardening great as a physical workout, it can also provide a sense of well-being and happiness, while the creativity of planning and growing a colourful garden engages our artistic skills. Teaching children to plant and eat organically grown food helps them connect with the importance of ‘dirt’ and the natural world.

The Canadian Garden Council designated June 9-18 this year as Garden Days, but in reality this can be a year round event for all Canadians, whether it’s growing beautiful containers of herbs and vegetables on your deck, creating artful planters to add beauty to your patio or planting a pollinator garden to benefit a wide range of bees and other beneficial insects.

Visiting our beautiful parks and gardens will help inspire us, and we are fortunate that we have so many great ones in B.C.  The number of garden tours taking place in our communities now and over the next few weeks will give us a glimpse of what can be accomplished in both large and small space private gardens.

So take a moment to find out what is happening near you and get yourself connected to your local garden community.

Brian Minter writes on gardening every Saturday in The Vancouver Sun. This article originally appeared in Brian’s column on June 15, 2017 and has been reprinted with permission.

Dragon Returns to the Japanese Garden at The Butchart Gardens

By Scott McDonald | Garden News

Dragon in the Japanese Garden at Butchart

There Are Now Two Dragons at The Butchart Gardens

The dragon that once graced the top of the watercourse in the Japanese Garden has returned–in a manner of speaking. Admittedly, it’s not the original, but we will go out on a limb and state with great confidence it is superior in many ways. Although The Butchart Gardens don’t have any historical records regarding the original dragon, we had local artist Nathan Scott recreate this exquisite piece by taking fragments from the original piece, rebuilding what he had to the best of his ability, and then reimagining and recreating the intricate details. What Nathan has achieved is remarkable as the new sculpture is simply stunning and should turn the heads of every visitor descending the stairs into the Japanese Garden.

You may be wondering about the differences in dragons and what makes them unique as they now have a dragon of Chinese origin (located at the top of the Concert Lawn) and this newly minted Japanese version.  If you look closely, the first thing you may have noticed is that the Chinese dragon has 5 toes and the Japanese dragon has only three. The Chinese claim that dragons originated in their country and as the dragon flew further away from their home they began losing toes. The Japanese claim ownership of origin as well, but their story is the dragons gained toes as they flew further away.

Be sure to take a look at these two dragons on your next visit.

You might also be interested in The Butchart Gardens – Dining room restaurant receives ‘Top 100’ recognition.

10 Gardens BC Members Receive Canada 150 Garden Experience Designations

By Scott McDonald | Garden News

Canada 150 Gardens banner

150 garden ways to celebrate Canada 150, and 16 are found in Super, Natural British Columbia!

In celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial, the Canadian Garden Council in collaboration with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, unveiled 150 jury-selected gardens and garden experiences that have received the Canada 150 Garden Experience designation, 16 of which are located in British Columbia, at the International Garden Tourism Conference, in Toronto today.

Tourism is the world’s fourth largest industry, and one of BC’s most important; and garden tourism is a significant part of it. In his 2013 book, Garden Tourism, Dr. Richard Benfield said, “More people visit gardens in the United States than go to Disneyland and Disney World combined, and more than visit Las Vegas annually, making garden tourism one of the largest sectors in the tourism market.”

The 10 members of Gardens British Columbia received the Canada 150 Garden Experience designation are:

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver

Milner Gardens and Woodland, Qualicum Beach

Minter Country Gardens, Chilliwack

Nitobe Memorial Japanese Garden, Vancouver

Royal Roads University and Hatley Park, Colwood

The Butchart Gardens, Brentwood Bay

The Gardens at the HCP, District of Saanich

Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino

UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver

VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver

Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden Canada 150

Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden Canada 150

Hatley Gardens wins a Canada 150 garden award

Royal Roads University gardeners pose in the Italian garden with their Canada 150 award

The other BC gardens to receive this prestigious Canada 150 designation are:

Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants, Richmond

Abbortsford Tulip Festival, Abbotsford

Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens, Courtenay

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, Vancouver

Abkhazi Garden, Victoria

Government House Gardens, Victoria

St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site, Victoria

Congratulations to all the winners! For more information on BC gardens, see our member gardens page. To find out more about becoming a member of Gardens British Columbia, go to: membership page.

For more information on tourism and destination marketing in British Columbia, see Destination BC. The official Canada 150 page of events and activities across Canada can be found here.

See the full list of 150 Garden Experience designations

Update: It’s been quite a year for British Columbia Gardens! The Butchart Gardens was named World Tulip Garden for 2017 in October! Garden tourism is the fastest growing tourism sector in the world and British Columbia’s gardens are among the world’s most sought out. These awards and others only confirm that the garden sector in BC is not only up to the task, but leading the world in gardens destination marketing. When the visitor to British Columbia is looking for things to do on Vancouver Island or things to do in Vancouver, or things to see in Victoria, BC gardens are a top choice.








Landscape Horticulture Certificate at The Gardens at HCP

By Scott McDonald | Garden News

Landscape Horticulture Certification programs at The Gardens at HCP

Grow your own career in horticulture!

The 10-month Horticulture Certificate Program is designed for students who seek to become professional gardeners. After 10 months, you will be ready for employment or self-employment in the field of horticulture. The program runs from January to November so students can follow an entire growing season.

2019 Program Dates: See Wait List

Who should enrol?
Applicants should be interested in plants and in creating and maintaining gardens. You should be physically fit, enjoy hands-on work and being outdoors in all kinds of weather. Gardening involves creating both order and beauty, so be prepared to perform repetitive tasks as well as use your creativity. There is also a more technical aspect involved when you learn about irrigation systems, hardscape features, and how to operate and maintain small equipment.

What you will do while you are here
You will learn all the basics – and much more – required to succeed in the field of horticulture. At least one third of your weekly class time is spent in the garden. Practical Skills and Plant Identification and Culture are the backbone of the program, with classes every week over the course of the 10 months.

Your theory courses will cover everything from Botany and Soil Science to Plant ID, Plant Health (Pests and Diseases), Integrated Pest Management, Turfgrass Management and Landscape Design. You will also learn about fruit and vegetable growing, permaculture, and other alternative approaches to gardening . Field trips and guest speakers complete the schedule. Topics as diverse as Bonsai, Ethnobotany, Invasive Plant Management, or Mason Bees will give you a well-rounded horticultural education.

Students participate in:
The maintenance and development of the Gardens at HCP, performing a variety of tasks common to each season
Garden projects
Design projects
Greenhouse work
Field trips to local gardens and garden-related businesses
Joint projects with the HCP garden volunteers, a dedicated and knowledgeable group, many of whom are experts in their individual garden collections
Up to seven weekend duty sessions throughout the year

For a detailed list of courses, please see:
Program Courses

Graduation requirements
Have a minimum of 80% attendance for each of the individual courses, and for the entire program
Have missed no more than five Practical Skills sessions per term
Complete all project work assigned
Pass all courses with a minimum of 70% average – all courses in the program must be passed in order to graduate from the program
Successfully complete Practical Skills and Safe Work Practices
Successfully complete all Practical Skills Checklists

What you can do after graduation
Upon completion of the program, students receive a college certificate. They also complete the Horticulture Technician Foundation Program as outlined by the Industry Training Authority (ITA). Students will receive credit for the first two levels of apprenticeship training, as well as 500 work-based training hours toward their Red Seal Certification.
Graduates of our program find employment as maintenance gardeners; many build businesses that hire fellow graduates. They work in nurseries and greenhouses and as landscape designers; in food production; for municipalities, golf courses and public gardens.
Graduates who want to obtain their Red Seal certification can go on to attend Levels 3 and 4 of their technical training, which are also offered at the PHC.

Key facts
January—November, 44 weeks
Full-time, 28.5 hours per week
Mon-Thu 9am- 4pm, Fri 9am -12:30pm
2 weeks of work experience with local host employers
2 weeks summer break in July

How to apply
For program costs and how to apply please see:
Fees and Admission Requirements