We didn't, though (the ship got in at some truly horrid hour of the morning when I was still asleep, our tour started at 8:25am and we're leaving at 2pm, which is in about fifteen minutes as I write this), so we had to be satisfied with gawking out the windows as we drove through on the way to the gardens. Once we got there, we got a map with a suggested walking path and a booklet for flower identification, although I'll admit I haven't looked at that yet -- juggling my camera and the map was enough at the time and I recognized most of the flowers anyway. There really weren't that many exotics -- I'm a casual gardener and the fact that I could name most of the flowers, and recognized the ones I'd forgotten the name of, says something. But the plants were all superbly healthy, large and robust with big, colorful flowers. And the layout is really wonderful, with huge swathes of blooms set against each other. Any garden that can make a patch of zinnias take your breath away definitely has some first-class gardeners working on it. :)
The begonias, both hanging and in the ground, were gorgeous, and they had this one border full of dahlias that had my husband exclaiming over the variety of colors and forms. There were some really pretty fountains, including one which cycled through different shapes which was only viewable from a railed path up above and about forty or fifty meters away; I really wish I could've gotten closer for a picture, although for viewing with the mark-one eyeball (or a much more expensive camera than mine, I'm sure) the viewing area was just fine.
As part of the tour we got a tea, and that was the one glitch in the program. Our driver told us to go to a particular tea room, so when our reservation time approached we headed over there, along with a number of other people from our bus. The place opened at the time our reservation was for and we all filed in waving our vouchers, but the girl who worked there just sort of looked at us blankly -- she had no clue what the vouchers were for or that any sort of tour tea was supposed to be happening there. She got on the phone to check for us and it turns out that she hadn't heard of us because we weren't supposed to be there; the tea was set to be at a restaurant across the way.
We all trooped over there and everything was fine. We got a fruit cup thingy and then they brought in some of those little three-tier tea-cake-thingies, one for each two people. They had everything from sausage rolls and mini-quiches to cucumber sandwiches (I avoided those) and salmon rolled-up sandwiches to scones with jam and cream to filled butter cookies and orange cake and a little chocolate torte and a truly delicious truffle. I'd have happily taken home a large bag of the truffles. :D They were only the size of marbles but they were so good!
Our driver came by while we were having tea and because of the mix-up with where to go (he'd been told the tea room himself) he gave us an extra half an hour, which was cool. After we finished tea we stopped at the gift shop. I wanted to look around but we really didn't have time, so I headed right to the books and found one that has both a history of the Butchart family and the creation of the garden and a lot of really beautiful color photos of the garden itself. And I'll eventually get around to looking at the flower identification booklet and get names of the ones I'd forgotten. :)
It's hard to do justice in writing to something that was so cool but was so visual. Suffice to say that if you're ever in Victoria you really have to to check out Butchart Garden.
And I guess that's about it. For those of you who've actually bothered reading all of these, my thanks and appreciation. For those of you who've been waiting patiently for the next chunk of A Hidden Magic, I've been working on it and have a couple of chapters ready to post. I'm sorry for the delay -- Craig was slacking off in a corner and refusing to do any work, but I finally figured out that all I had to do was pour enough coffee into him and he bounced right back. ;) I'll start posting that again when I get home. I've also been working on the Harry/Karl story, although I'm still not sure how long it's going to be or when it'll be ready to post. It's progressing, though. :)