Gardening at Butchart Gardens; Making Wreathes

Presentation:  Gardening at The Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens – Behind the Scenes: presented by Carlos Moniz, Horticultural Manager.

Managing plantings in a garden with the scope and size of Butchart Gardens is no small undertaking, 300,000 plants are used each summer, and beds are replanted 2 to 3 times per season taking three weeks to change over all the beds in the garden. The garden contains 70 varieties of begonias, 40 varieties of impatiens, 135 varieties of dahlias and 300,000 bulbs. All of the plant materials come from seeds, plugs or in-house cuttings. There are 24 greenhouses covering 2 acres and they have 11 suppliers of plugs.

The previous year is reviewed and evaluated to determine which combinations worked and which did not. All the beds are mapped and a list of all plants that will be required for the next year is created.   The list is divided into 3 categories: those grown from seed, from plugs and from cuttings. This list directs the greenhouse staff in preparing a sowing schedule for the year. The plugs list is compiled and purchase requests are sent to the various suppliers. The propagation staff look after all the plants produced from cuttings and a schedule is created to ensure plants are ready for beds when they are needed.

Plants such as scented heliotrope that are no longer available from suppliers are reproduced from cuttings. To maintain this plant cuttings are taken each year and rooted using a mix of compost, peat and a soilless product such as perlite. Nine hundred standard Fuchsia plants along with Heliotrope and Abutilons are overwintered in the greenhouse. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to control insects in the greenhouses includes Encarsia (tiny parasitic wasps) used to control white fly and Cucumeris another bionomic used to control mites and thrips.

Dahlia tubers are dug up and stored in a warm shed until January when they are cleaned and potted in flats. Watering then begins causing the tubers to put out shoots which are cut off and rooted in large flats. This method of taking cuttings gives more consistency than replanting the tubers themselves. Two favourite Dahlias of Carlos are Belle of the Ball and Bodacious

Carlos Moniz’s favourites:

Begonia solenia,  Calla Lilly,  Celosia big chief – a taller variety and Celosia fashion look mix – for bright colours,  Gomphrena fireworks,  impatiens bounce and cherry,  Iochroma Cyanea – a shrub-like plant with 2” long tubular flowers loved by hummingbirds,  Ipomea illusion midnight lace,  Lantana landmark &Sunrise Rose combination,  Lobelia starship scarlet,  Narcissus apricot whirl, replete and unique (double peony types),  New Guinea impatiens – super sonic orange ice used in a bed alone and in combination,  Pineapple Sage,  Pinks with Euphorbia stardust white flash,  Salvia hot lips,  Sweetunia – black satin and Johnny flame,  Tuberous Begonia picotee lace,  Tulip – Canasta and yellow crown

Workshop: Making Wreathes from your garden

Making a Wreath:

Linda Dowling – Happy Valley Herb Farm

Making wreaths and swags is a creative venture and you are limited only by your imagination and plant materials.


  1. Some type of frame: It can be cane, willow or metal wire. A sturdy or firm base allows you to build a larger display without bending or drooping. Michaels and craft departments in major stores all have wreath frames available.
  2. Dry and/or wet oasis. Dry oasis will not absorb water and is used to hold plants in place. Wet oasis holds water for fresh plant material and is used for an arrangement rather than a wreath.
  3. Zap straps make a good holder because it will not scratch the door or wall when hung.
  4. Over-the-door handles provide a hook on a door where you don’t want to mount a hook.
  5. Tiny battery-powered light strings can be used on wreaths add a little bling and are available at various stores.
  6. Wrapped wire to make items where you don’t want the wire to show.
  7. Glue gun.
  8. Moss that has been cleaned and sterilized and soaked in water so that it is damp.

 Making a swag: Scout out materials from your own garden and the gardens of friends to source a wide variety of materials. Cut them much longer than needed for the wreath and then cut to specific lengths when you are ready to start. Be discreet when picking materials from the garden making invisible cuts, leaving the plant, tree or bush looking good.  Some materials that work well in swags: Honeysuckle nitida, Arbutus Unedo (strawberry tree), St. John’s wort, ivy, rose hips on a branch, and Holly. Hold the stems from the bottom with the tops hanging down. Add tallest at the back combining colour, shape and texture as you go along with lengths of material getting shorter as you move down the swag. When finished, cut the ends to a common length. Tighten the base and tie securely with wire. Thread a zap strap up under the wire (as a holder) before completing the swag by adding a ribbon and/or bow.

 Making a wreath: Some popular plant materials that lend themselves to a wreath are: Cedar, Fir, Holly – green & variegated, Gary eliptica, Rose hips on a stem, Ivy – green and variegated, Arbutus unedo, Pine, Holly leaved Osmanthus (burkwoodii) and Bay leaf.

Other materials you will need are: a wire frame filled with moss and 6+ yards of ribbon. Cut plant materials you have collected into similar lengths. Use materials that vary in shape, colour and texture for interest. Start by attaching the ribbon to the frame and from there it will be used to wrap the bunches as they are added. Put together small bunches of the cuttings and tuck the central stems toward the middle of the wreath. Cover each section well and secure in place by wrapping with ribbon before proceeding to the next section. Use ordinary or plain foliage at the back with the special or more ornate foliage on top so the plain will highlight the ornamental. Place accent plants at only a few intervals around the wreath so as not to overdo it and spoil the affect. If you add fresh flowers for a special occasion, insert them after the wreath is completed so they can be taken out when they die back. You can make a seasonal wreath with some autumn colours and then add Christmas baubles with a glue gun closer to Christmas time.

Wreaths will last a long time. They will become browner but will still be attractive. When hung on an outside door they last longer. Indoors a wreath can be sprayed with water to keep them fresh longer. To help wreaths keep their shape and prevent plant materials from drooping, let them sit flat over an upturned bowl for a week or so until they have dried a little and will hold their shape when hung.