The gardens cover about 55 acres in a former limestone quarry as well as parts of the family estate.
As Mr. Butchart exhausted limestone deposits, his enterprising wife Jennie, made plans to create something of beauty in the gigantic exhausted pit. From farmland nearby, she had tons of top soil brought in by horse and cart and used it to line the floor of the abandoned quarry. Little by little, the quarry blossomed into the spectacular Sunken Garden.
The renown of Mrs. Butchart’s gardening quickly spread. By the 1920s more than fifty thousand people visited her garden each year. The hospitable Butcharts christened their estate “Benvenuto”, the Italian word for “Welcome”. Their house grew into a comfortable, luxurious showplace, with a bowling alley, indoor saltwater swimming pool, paneled billiard room and a wonder of its age, a self-playing Aeolian pipe organ (still played on Summer’s Firework Saturdays).
The work staff is always busy keeping the gardens in top form. During our visit many of the spring annuals/bulbs were being replaced with summer annuals. The Azaleas and Rhododendron were in full bloom during our visit. Peonies were just starting to bloom. Roses were not ready to bloom at all. I doubt there is a bad time to visit.
Grandson Ian Ross was given The Gardens on his 21st birthday. After service in WWII, he worked hard to make his grandmother's garden self-sustaining, transforming the mostly neglected home and gardens into an internationally famous destination. He created the Ross Fountain (1964) for The Gardens' 60th anniversary.
This area was used by the family for picnics, etc. It now offers visitors boat trips to see ocean wildlife.
Between 1906 and 1929, the Butcharts created a Japanese Garden on the seaside, an Italian Garden on their former tennis court and a beautiful Rose Garden. Mr. Butchart took great pride in his wife's remarkable work. An enthusiastic hobbyist, he collected ornamental birds from all over the world. He kept ducks in the Star Pond, noisy peacocks on the front lawn and many elaborate birdhouses throughout the gardens.
These gardens are still entirely family owned and operated.