February: Looking Forward to the Gardening Year


FebsnowdropsOn some days I think it is mid-March: at 8 or 9+ degrees Celsius the days are quite warm at present, although the nights are still cold and frosts are to be expected. As I look out the kitchen window, I can see snow squalls on the mountain, and also flowers in the garden. This is a worthy reminder that winter is not gone yet, but we can still be gardening, given some suitable clothing.

Here beside the ocean, last year’s perrennial growth can now be cut back and tidied up. As regards the soil, I think it is still too wet and cold to be worked properly, so ideally new plantings etc. can be left to early Spring proper.

So, shake out the old coat and head out into the fresh air if you can. Or get in touch with me. A little bit done now makes for more time relaxing in the spring sunshine (sometimes everything just seems to suddenly grow overnight: we must have all had that experience). March is just around the corner…. I often think of the old English expression “Mad as a March hare”.

Halloween and October 31st in the Garden

Now is the time to store away items to protect them from the winter: furniture, frost-prone pots, hammocks, and such, and to clean up the tools in the shed. Being Halloween today, I will be using a few items this evening.

And the leaves….  On dry days, I like to run the mulching mower over the leaves to feed the lawn, and pile other leaves where they can usefully compost down without being blown around. However, we missed the cool dry autumn it seems, and November rains came in October, making clean-up a soggy affair. Here on the east side of Vancouver Island we are at least in the rain shadow of the mountains, but that is a relative term, given that the west side of the island is officially Temperate Rainforest. Well, at least it is not snowing, yet.

So… November looks like it could be this year’s October, which is something to look forward to.

Touch wood.

Late September Flowers

The last 2 months have been extremely dry, and only the vulnerable plants have received water (recently transplanted shrubs, container plants, vegetables, and so on). Those field poppies that I had not pulled up for seed collecting or tidying up, have in places benefitted from a splash of water and have gone into a new phase of flowering. This is a welcome event in an otherwise largely scorched-brown and green landscape. The lack of flowering is because most plants are producing fruit, seed and/or preparing for the autumn, but where a second late blooming is occurring – as happens with some of the roses –  I have managed to scrounge a few flowers for the mandatory vase on the dormant fireplace.

One area of bright colour are the various tomatoes, both red and yellow varieties. The cold spring and dry summer, plus my inattention, has resulted in late tomatoes whose skin has a bitter taste and texture of an old tennis ball found under a bush. This is a great opportunity to do something else with them, so some kind of salsa beckons….


August Gardening: Wildflower Colours

After the main show of colour from June through to July, the heat and dry is setting in later this year – rose hips forming, poppies going to seed, grass going dormant – and there are fewer colours in my garden until the autumnal show comes on.

Apart from some hot colours that create a splash, there are more subtle whites, blues and purples, seen here arranged in a vase.

The arrangement  is from the garden, mostly “wildflowers”, though purposely propagated. The aim was to give cool colours inside the house.

Kennedy Street Garden early Summer 2012

Shown here are the effects created by combining trees and shrubs as structural features, with seasonal perennials, and brightly coloured annuals to fill in temporary spots (as well as create a new colour palette every year). A gravel patio with teak furniture introduce natural materials that blend in with the cottage/naturalistic style of the plantings.

City of York rose and Youthful Ignorance

The first few roses are coming into bloom in the garden, and this is one of my all-time favourites: the old climber/rambler “City of York”. The foliage is a glossy green and heavily scented, not too dissimilar from the flower itself.

For the record, when first gardening I was of the youthful opinion that roses were all hype and just floozy things that keel over and die, after inflicting extensive thorn damage to one’s vulnerable bits. This was in the 70’s when modern big-flowered monsters were all the rage. It was only later when I came across the older varieties,  particularly at Waterperry Gardens, and bought a house with Rugosa roses, that the conversion happened. The thorns are still there, but then that makes the scent even more rewarding.

As for Rugosa roses, they are not all magenta things planted in road meridians, to be tortured and cut back every year as part of highway maintenance, but are handsome hedging shrubs that also come in beautiful porcelain pinks and whites as their flower colour. And that is quite an attractive combination to have in any plant. The photo is of a multi-petalled and heavily-scented rugosa rose, of the magentas colour.



Blooming May

A quick post showing some of the flowers that are out right now. The lilac and laburnum anchor the back corner of my garden and hide a compost heap. The rhododendron is in a park down by the harbour.

Also, the wildlife pond is filling in nicely:


White Fawn Lilies at Piper’s Lagoon

A native of BC, and locally common on SE Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and parts of the mainland, this wildflower is enchanting. It’s common name is derived from the mottled appearance of the leaves, the colour white with regard to the flower (there is also a pink species).

As a gardener, we can all enjoy them in the wild. Please do not collect or pick: up to 15 years to maturity is a long time, and picking the flowers reportable kills the plant. Some lucky people hereabouts already have it naturalized in a woodland area. Erythronium oregonum is the latin name. There are many cultivars from Erythronium that are available commercially, so  you can add a bit of that magic to a suitable spot in your own garden, perhaps on a protected berm above a path, from where the nodding flowers can best be appreciated.


Island Climates, Microhabitats and Lovely Compost

Yesterday I went over the Malahat to Victoria at the south end of Vancouver Island  and ventured into a different climate zone (OK, not really, but a week or two ahead of Nanaimo with spring growth) to help with a wonderful woodland garden. The sun was out, the Rhododendron grove was coming into flower, shrub buds starting to burst open, and paeonies starting to show their red stems through the soil. Things are heating up. And the compost heap was the loveliest I have seen in many a year: soon there will be two.

I’ll be back late April… and there will not be any snow, hail or black ice travelling the high road between warming Nanaimo and balmy Victoria.