Author: Theresa Scholes

Carmen Varcoe, “A Universal Botanical Oasis”

Finnerty Gardens, on the campus of the University of Victoria, has bloomed beside Ring Road for over 25 years. No longer just a RHODODENDRON collection, the Gardens now hold an impressive collection of diverse species making the site an oasis on campus. Carmen Varcoe, long-time member of the Advisory Board, will speak about the Gardens’ history. Carmen will also explore blooms and foliage offered throughout the four seasons.

6:30 pm Pre-meeting WORKSHOP:        Lower Boardroom, Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Avenue. Harvesting, Cleaning and Storing Mason Bee Cocoons with master beekeeper and VHS member Tom Leahy. Other Mason Bee topics will be covered as time and questions permit.

Certified Arborist: Ryan Senechal

Ryan recently returned from work experience in the UK where he provided tree care on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and Clarence House (London home of Prince Charles). The skilled arborist promotes eco-forestry development, and instructs students on food-producing gardens, including fruit trees.

6:30 pm Pre-meeting WORKSHOP:        LifeCycles urban agriculture coordinator Matthew Kemshaw leads a lively discussion about growing food in the CRD. Learn about volunteers harvesting your backyard fruit (some for you and donate the rest). Hear about food security and ways to support healthier neighbourhoods.

Sowing the Circle of Life

Mary Alice Johnson, farmer, seed saver, and educator, speaks from 8:10 pm to 9:00 pm. Mary Alice has cultivated ALM Farm in Sooke for over 25 years. She has taught at her farm and at Camosun College, training and mentoring a generation of organic farmers. ALM farm provides organic produce for local restaurants, the Sooke Farmers’ Market and the Moss Street Market (which Mary Alice helped start). She was a founding member of the local chapter of Canadian Organic Growers. She started Full Circle Seeds 20 years ago, and still collects seeds.

Scabiosa stellata

Scabiosa stellata

PRE-MEETING WORKSHOP: Mary Alice Johnson of FULL CIRCLE SEEDS guides us through the art and science of seed collecting and saving. Meet in the Lower Boardroom at 6:30 pm.

Meetings are held at the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave, Saanich. (Extra parking at the Saanich Municipal Hall parking lot.)

Trent Street Rain Garden

Tayler Krawczyk of Hatchet & Seed Contracting discusses permaculture, including Rain Gardens. These shallow depressions use soil and plants to slow and clean runoff from hard surfaces such as roofs and driveways. Select species and amended soil hold several inches of rain while storm water slowly seeps into the ground, filtering out pollutants usually reaching streams and oceans. Rain Gardens also reduce flooding on nearby properties and roads. A changing climate with wetter winters, more intense storms, and tidal surges means Rain Gardens will play important roles in urban water management (

6:30 pm Pre-meeting workshop

Randy from Lee Valley Tools ( demonstrates irrigation equipment: low-flow drip systems (above-ground & easy-to-install); hoses, timers & sprinklers.  Meet in Lower Boardroom,  at 6:30 pm.

Annual Plant Sale

Open to everyone … free admission, free parking

Perennials, ferns, vegetable starts (just in time for spring planting), heritage seeds and more! Russell Nursery, the unique plantsale2Little Elf Garden Centre, and a broad selection from home propagators promise interesting botanical finds, antique garden tools, and even cacti.  The Library and refreshments will be available for your enjoyment.plantsale4

At the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave, Saanich. (Extra parking at the Saanich Municipal Hall parking lot.)

Janet Renouf, “Government House Gardeners Maintain Botanical”

Rock and Alpine Garden at Government House

Rock and Alpine Garden at Government House

Janet Renouf, President of the Friends of Government House Gardens Society (FGHGS), will regale Members with a presentation on this historically significant and botanically intriguing landscape. The Government House grounds encompass 14.6 hectares/36 acres, and include formal rose, fragrant herb, arboreal rhododendron, rugged rockery, and floriferous perennial gardens, not to mention sweeping lawns, ponds, Garry Oak ecosystems, and a kitchen garden. Open to the public for free from dawn to dusk everyday of the year (with special exceptions), 1401 Rockland Avenue’s gardens are one of the CRD’s horticultural treasures. Thanks to the volunteers at FGHGS, they are also remarkably well maintained.

WORKSHOP 6:30-7:30 pm Soil fertilizers and Amendments with Dwight Pennell Dwight Pennell of Integrity Sales and Distributors will discuss soil fertilizers and amendments. Integrity is the reliable supplier behind the Annual VHS Fertilizer Sale (upcoming in March – see the newsletter for details) in the Lower Boardroom starting at 6:30 pm.

Steve Vaughan, owner of Victoria Bamboo, Bamboo Beautiful

Steve Vaughan, owner of Victoria Bamboo, explores the fascinating world of bamboo. These giant grasses are the world’s fastest growing plants, and offer species for many garden styles. From woodland to waterside, there is a bamboo to complement the landscape theme. Steve will illustrate growing habits, cultural require-ments, and landscape roles. Don’t be bamboozled—bring your giant grass questions for this expert. PLANTS WILL BE FOR SALE.

WORKSHOP Beekeeping with Tom Leahy

Long-time VHS Member and expert apiarist Tom Leahy will lead one of his popular workshops on beekeeping.

Linda Gilkeson: Next Winter’s Harvest Starts Right Now

Linda Gilkeson, renowned entomologist and food gardener, will discuss how all year harvest success begins with well managed soil and well timed planting. Learn when to plant, what winter “All Star” cultivars to grow, and how to include fall/winter crops in summer gardens for maximum yields.

Linda’s books will be available to peruse and purchase: Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest;
Year-Round Harvest: Winter Gardening on the Coast;
Natural Insect, Weed and Disease Control (expanded edition)
The author has worked in private industry and government. Recognized by the Professional Pest Management Association of BC, Linda received the Queen’s Jubilee medal in 2003. Linda now teaches in the BC Master Gardener program and consults on pest management.

Workshop: (Lower Boardroom) Natural Controls For Garden Pests and Diseases
Linda Gilkeson will identify bug samples and discuss scourges with which local gardeners need to manage (apple maggots, garlic rust, daylily gall midge). Bring your questions. Do not miss this opportunity to learn from an expert entomologist.

Barrie Agar, Head Gardener at Hatley Park National Historic Site

October’s guest speaker Barrie Agar, Head Gardener at Hatley Park National Historic Site, will share highlights of the beautiful gardens surrounding Hatley Castle (often incorrectly called Royal Roads). Barrie will also provide historical background and describe the challenges of operating this heritage site so designated in 1995. Hatley Castle was originally built for BC’s notorious coal baron James Dunsmuir in 1908. The gardens’ construction began in 1912 under the direction of landscape architects Franklin Brett and George D. Hall of Boston. Their design goal: the style of an Edwardian Park (think Downton Abbey). Covering some 565 acres, in its heyday Hatley Park employed 100 gardeners! Elegant Italian, serene Japanese, and colorful Rose gardens continue to impress visitors a century later.

September 2012 – “An Extraordinary Journey from Joburg to Cape Town”

Our next meeting is Tuesday, September 4, 7:30 pm

“An Extraordinary Journey from Joburg to Cape Town”

Amaryllis belladonna

Renowned local horticulturalist and plant propagator Judith McLauchlan will speak about South Africa’s plants, with tales from her most recent visit. As many VHS members know, the republic is a rich source of plant material, offering exotics from A to Z. Popular South African natives
AMARYLLIS belladonna (belladonna lily) and ZANTEDESCHIA aethiopica (calla lily) thrive in Victoria’s gardens.

Zantedeschia aethiopica