Category: uncategorized

Tod Inlet; a healing place The Chrysanthemum Year

Presentation: Tod Inlet; a healing place

Gwen Curry, local author, will give a presentation based on her book Tod Inlet;  A Healing Place   Gwen will talk about the history of Tod Inlet, the park as it is and as it was, the First Nations honour of the place, and its peace.

Workshop:  The Chrysanthemum Year

Sheila Mitchell discussed techniques for cultivating this popular and showy perennial.

England’s Malvern Autumn Show

Summer Joy and Jim Webb escorted the audience around the Royal Horticultural Society Malvern Autumn Show in England.  Vast displays of fruit, vegetables and flowers of the autumn, fantastic displays, competitions, numerous vendors, handmade tools, garden ornaments and handicrafts, fabulous food and drink.

Workshop –  Lindsay Lewis, Bulb Expert with Garden Works, will present a workshop:  “How to Choose Your Spring Bulbs.”  This will include how to pick the healthiest bulbs, best time to plant, pests and diseases, fertilization and how to divide after a few years.

Climate Change; and Patio Pots for Fall and Winter

Presentation: Andrew Weaver on CLIMATE CHANGE As experienced long-term gardeners know, climate change is real. Local conditions are becoming drier and windier. Do not miss Dr. Andrew Weaver’s expert analysis of this Earth-altering phenomenon. Learn about climate change’s impact on our daily lives (and gardening practices).

Workshop: PATIO POTS for Fall & Winter Join Lynda Dowling of Happy Valley Lavender & Herb Farm for her timely workshop. Lynda will discuss container gardens for the cool seasons.

Climate Change; Patio Pots for Fall and Winter

Andrew Weaver on CLIMATE CHANGE

As experienced long-term gardeners know, climate change is real. Local conditions are becoming drier and windier. Dr. Andrew Weaver’s expert analysis of this Earth-altering phenomenon. Learn about climate change’s impact on our daily lives (and gardening practices).

PATIO POTS for Fall & Winter with Lynda Dowling of Happy Valley Lavender & Herb Farm. Lynda will discuss container gardens for the cool seasons.

Gardens of South Africa; and Parlour Show Tips

Presentation:  Secret Gardens of South Africa.  

Eryl Morton presents a photographic travelog of South Africa. In Fall 2015, Eryl & husband/tour organizer Lynn Morton led a group including VHS members to 20 private & 6 botanic gardens, plus wineries. Their presentation features this land’s historic architecture, majestic wildlife, and designer landscapes.


Workshop:  Parlour Show Tips – What Makes A Winner?

Jacqueline Bradbury, accredited horticultural judge, led a workshop on Parlour Show hints.

The January edition of our Gardenry newsletter lists the year’s submissions for the judged portion of the VHS Parlour show, and each month’s newsletter and our website have reminders of the next Parlour Show listings.  As well, members are welcome to bring in anything from their garden, greenhouse, or houseplants to place in the open portion (not judged) for us all to enjoy.

What to show? The best of what you’ve got of course, but as well exotics, unusual or novel varieties, and even ‘sports’ and mutants. If you are breeding or trialing new hybrids, bring some in to show us. Members may ask for pieces to trial themselves.

 Staging: When you bring in your specimens, use the paper slips to write down as clearly as possible the full Latin name, as well as common names, and any other info that members may find interesting. Place carefully so that the best side is facing front. If you are showing a piece of plant, choose the green plastic ‘bikini’ (top and bottom cup and saucers that hold the plant) that is the appropriate size, stuffing with crumpled newspaper if necessary to stabilize it, and fill with tepid water. Any damaged, diseased, dead and dirty bits should be removed. Branches can be gently bent for a pleasing form, and excess trimmed. No seedheads should be shown with ‘flowering trusses’, but some buds are okay. Petals of florets can be separated, and lower ‘guard petals’ of roses may be removed. Judging happens only on the material above the top of the plastic cup, so arrangements can be improvised from below.

Conditioning: For best results (for show or simply for cut flowers indoors) water well and fertilize for a few days before. Pick the healthiest specimens in late afternoon or early morning, with a bucket of water. Cut several inches longer than needed with a sharp knife at a slant, then recut under water. Remove unnecessary foliage (keeping ample of the best) and ‘harden off’ by placing into deep tepid water in a cool dark place overnight. Stems may be cut again under water just before the show. Brittle stemmed plants (eg, mums) should be broken. Milky stems (euphorbia, hydrangea, poppies) should have stem ends sealed, either with charring or boiling water—with each cut. Woody trusses may benefit from stripping off lower bark. Flowers may be stored in your fridge to keep fresh.  Hybrid tea roses should be picked when ¾ full. (See Bea Kempster’s book for more info on preparing for shows). Potted plants and hanging baskets will benefit from being turned ¼ every day before to encourage full and even growth.

 Fruits and veggies: only crabapples can be polished, otherwise, leave the ‘bloom’ on fruit. Root vegetables should have the roots removed with the base fringe intact.

Pears and plums should be picked before becoming soft, and veggies may be blanched. All should be clean, uniform and healthy, and picked for peak eating. Nuts should be opened, but judges will open fruits and veggies.

Pay attention to the listings. When ‘multiple stems’ are required, it is to see if the entire plant is healthy. For scoring, points are added and subtracted according to a schedule. Standards for horticultural show judging that can be found on the B.C. Council of Gardens website.

To become a judge, there are courses and workshops with the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs and the Van Island Horticultural Judges Group. Judges fees and travel expenses are paid through Ag Canada at agricultural fairs, and at garden club shows and fairs around the area by the various clubs.

Growing Roses; Boulevard Gardening

Presentation:  Roses

Dr. Patrick White has hundreds of roses in his two acre Saanich seaside garden.  The talk will focus on achieving a rose garden with a minimum of work and no chemicals.

Workshop:  Boulevard Gardening

Lawyer and green advocate Mike Large will explain how to extend food gardens onto public boulevards, including City of Victoria bylaws.  The workshop begins at 6:30 in the Boardroom.

Resilient Gardens for a Changing Climate; workshop: Pest Control

Presentation: Resilient Gardens for a Changing Climate

“The new normal is no normal!” Last summer was the driest on record. Well respected,  year round Saltspring organic food gardener, Linda Gilkeson ( spoke about present gardening challenges and coping strategies.

– Mulch, mulch, mulch: it really works to cool plants, conserve moisture (and water bills!) and lessen weeds. Linda uses anything she can to mulch: shredded newspapers, straw, even burlap.  The best is compost/leaf mold.

– Shade: Linda shades new plants and seedlings in hot weather with remay cloches or tents. A newly seeded crop may need a layer of newspaper, burlap or plastic over it until it sprouts to keep the soil damp.

– It’s best to plant ornamentals in the fall before the rains (October) or in early spring. Keep them watered well for the first year or two. Look for drought tolerant and less tender varieties. Don’t bother with species that need constant moisture unless you have a natural bog or are willing to water a lot.

– Don’t buy plants that are already stressed (pot bound, diseased, drought stressed)

– Plant windbreaks and use natural micro-climates for protection

– Try different cultivars and seed strains to see what works best. Talk to your neighbours.  Look for strains that flower not too early and fruit not too late.  Sometimes the old tried and true standards and heritage seeds/strains are best.

– Choose cultivars that are disease resistant when you can find them.

–  Lawns: mow high, let clippings fall into lawn, water deeply but not often to promote deeper roots. Let dormancy set in over summer by watering even less.  Use a tougher and more drought tolerant lawn seed: “Fleur de Lawn’, with micro-clover

– Greenhouses and coldframes can overheat; be very careful to not ‘cook’ your plants in hot weather. Keep watered and ventilated. Fans may be necessary to prevent mildews.

– Collect ‘gray’ water from your kitchen and tub or shower.

– Check your garden soil to see how dry it is: dig under mulch or into the top layer.  Note that shady and mulched areas won’t need watering as much as exposed, sunny areas.  Under eaves and tree canopies, and beside concrete, will dry out faster.  Use sunny areas to plant sun-loving, drought tolerant plants: herbs, bulbs, or meadow flowers.

– If using an irrigation system, get familiar with it: check continually to ensure all areas are being watered, and that all of the system is functioning as it should.

– Potted plants need watering more often: smaller pots, and unglazed clay/concrete dry out even faster, especially if placed on hot, sunny patios/decks.

– Even moisture is best for seedlings, young plants and flowering (setting fruit)and fruiting plants, to avoid misshapen fruit and diseased crops

– Drainage is crucial for most plants (except bog plants). With the increased frequency of torrential rains, it is important to pay attention to your soil type. All soils benefit from the addition of annual compost mulch. If your soil is heavy clay, or your garden is in a dip, you may need to improve drainage with drain tiles, or creating a rain garden to collect heavy rainfall, or digging  ‘French drains’.

Workshop:  Organic Management of Garden Pests and Diseases

Linda Gilkeson –

The key to addressing disease and insects in both ornamental plants and food production is prevention. Stressed plants are more susceptible to attack because they are preferred by sucking and boring insects. Most plant problems are disorders resulting from poor growing conditions – nutrient deficiencies, injury, water-logged soil, poor soil quality, unbalanced PH, irregular watering, drought and temperature extremes.

Helpful Tips:

* Don’t bring home problems from the nursery. Some common insects that could be introduced into your garden are: viburnum weevil, leaf beetles, black vine weevil, camellia scale, soft brown scale, mealy bugs & spider mites.

* Inspect plants closely before purchasing:  Slide the root ball out of the pot to look for weevil larvae and check the undersides of leaves and along twigs.

* Before purchasing plants plan ahead by researching insect and disease resistant plants, choosing plants known to be rust, powdery mildew and black spot resistant.  Some varieties of peas can develop enation mosaic virus and powdery mildew to which roses are also susceptible.  Plants that have leaves with rolled edge margins prevent small insects from chewing them.  Frost Peach is a variety that has resistance to leaf curl.

* Quarantine new purchases for a while before putting out in the garden to see if anything develops that you don’t want.

* Change the disease-causing environment, for instance provide good ventilation and pruning to reduce infection (e.g. grow tomatoes in a well-ventilated tunnel to prevent late blight infection; keep peach branches dry in February to avoid leaf curl; cucumbers and melons can be protected by raising them off the ground; overheat cold frames and greenhouses between crops to destroy insects and disease.


Most insects you find in the garden are not pests. Most “are on your side” so learn which are the beneficials and encourage and protect them. The more we can keep the garden eco-system intact the fewer problems we will have.

Common insects:

* Leaf minors lay eggs on spinach, chard and, lettuce.   They come in waves and the lady beetles come in and clean up the eggs.

* Pea leaf weevil: This very tiny flying insect makes notches on the leaves and eats the nitrogen nodules causing peas to lose their nitrogen advantage. A serious infestation could result in the need to add nitrogen.

*  Pill bugs attack pole beans. They like the starchy seeds so starting plants ahead and putting them in the garden when they are larger will avoid pill bug damage because their tiny mouths prevent them from eating older plant parts.

*  Rose sawfly:  damage creates skeletonizing.  They only last a short while and then are gone so if not doing too much damage they can be ignored.  If causing a problem you can wash them off with a water spray.

* Wireworms (click beetles) bore into bulbs, tubers, roots, corms and large seeds.  Use potato traps, trap crops and possibly a newly developed Light Trap from P.E.I.  Fall rye attracts these beetles so do not rotate potatoes following a grass cover crop or where a lawn has been newly dug up.

* Spotted wing drosophila: This invader has become a highly destructive pest.  This is a fruit fly quite different from our regular compost bucket fruit flies that lay their eggs on rotted fruit.  This spotted wing variety can be identified by a black spot on the tips of the wings of the males.  It favours fresh soft-skinned fruit (e.g. raspberries, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes). This makes it a serious problem with few options for control.  They saw through fruit skin to deposit eggs up to a month before fruit ripens. The maggots eat the fruit and then drop off to the soil. With a life cycle of 1-2 weeks the result is many generations over the course of the summer with the main infestations being July and August.

Spotted wing drosophila prevention:

  • Find out when they are turning up by making a trap by punching holes around the rim of a clear deli container and adding apple cider vinegar to attract them.
  • Choose early berry varieties.
  • Cover plants or fruit with netting 3-4 weeks before fruit ripens. Proteck Net holds up well. (The raspberry brazelberry called Shortcake is a low plant and easy to cover).
  • Pick overripe or unused fruit and destroy it.

Note:  some jurisdictions are reversing bans on Malathion to deal with this problem so beware when purchasing soft fruits.

* Dysdera (woodlouse) spiders are a treasure in the garden because they eat pill bugs.

* Ten-line June beetle – our natural June beetle – are usually temporary and not that common. They feed on roots of grasses and lawns but do little damage.

Find much more information at

Resilient Gardens 2016:  Climate change, stress disorders, pest update is available to purchase for $20.00 + GST.  Send order to Linda Gilkeson – P.O. Box 648 Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2W2.



Let Nature Play Her Part in the Garden

Presentation: Let Nature Play Her Part in the Garden

Bill Terry may be best known for his Himalayan Blue Poppies (Meconopsis grandis, and many of us likely have a copy of Blue Heaven on our gardening book shelves.  Bill has spent much of the last 22 years trying to create the “perfect garden” based on generally accepted design combined with exotic plant materials.  More recently however he has come to realize that working with Mother Nature rather than controlling her makes tasks simpler and easier, especially for older gardeners.

Bill was influenced by Michael Pollan’s book Second Nature: A Gardeners Education, in which Pollan writes about rethinking our relationship with nature claiming that “nature abhors a garden”.  Haven’t we all had these thoughts as we laboured away, trying to exert our control over seemingly unruly plants?  After spending decades moving from one trend to another, purchasing arm loads of bedding plants each spring and following the latest trends and crazes, Bill and Rosemary changed their focus to developing an understanding of plants in their natural habitat and learning to accept that nature must have an equal part in the garden.

In The Carefree Garden, Bill teaches us how to give ourselves a break by letting nature do her share of the work. This requires an adjustment to our concepts of beauty and what constitutes the perfect garden.  For instance, we have been educated to think of a large expanse of lush well manicured grass as an ideal to aspire to.  Instead, we could appreciate the beauty of wild flowers or ground covers such as moss or clover.

A list of common plants that Bill and Rosemary have been introducing into their garden, most of which are native to our region:

  • Rhododendron macrophyllum – the pacific rhodo;
  • Camassia quamish (camas) – the bulbs are edible however harvest while in bloom so as not to confuse it with a similar poisonous plant;
  • Plectritis congesta (seablush) – in the honeysuckle family;
  • Mimulus (common monkey flower);
  • Calypso bulbosa (fairy slipper orchid);
  • Lysichiton americanus (swamp lantern or skunk cabbage); Erythronium oreganus (giant white fawn lily or Oregon fawn lily), E. revolutum (mahogany, coast or pink fawn lily) – Bill planted some in a moss lawn;
  • Collinsia paryiflora (blue-eyed mary); polypodium glycyrrhiza (licorice fern);
  • Rosa Nutkana (bristly or wild rose) – can be invasive but is confined in poor soil;
  • Holodiscus discolor (ocean spray, ironwood or creambrush) was used to make harpoons and arrow shafts;
  • Goodyera oblongifolia (wild orchid);
  • Lonicera cilosa (honeysuckle) – Bill’s is climbing a douglas fir;
  • Fritillaria affinis (chocolate lily), F. Camschatcensis (black lily) – beautiful but smelly;
  • Trillium ovatum (pacific western trillium) – easy to re-introduce and maintenance free;
  • Brodiaea coronaria – growing from seed it takes four years to develop a flowering plant;
  • Dodecatheon sp. (Shooting star) – has no diseases and is surviving well with limited maintenance;
  • Ribes sanguineum (red and white flowering currants);
  • Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape)- the currants and Oregon grape plants are flourishing without being watered or fertilized;
  • Philadephus lewsii (Gordon’s mock orange);
  • Dicentra Formosa (pacific bleeding heart) have pink, yellow or cream flowers;
  • Aquilegia (columbine);
  • Pacific iris; Lilium columbianum (Columbia or tiger lily);
  • Tulipa sprengeri, T. Sylvestris, T. Batalinii, T. Turkestanica are all species tulips generally dwarf ranging from 4” – 8” tall that have evolved to survive in their locale and are durable while hybrids diminish in health and stamina over time. Although small and simple they have a special appeal and require no feeding or digging up and have no diseases.  turkestanica is the size of a crocus;
  • Narcissus bulbocodium (the hoop petticoat daffodil) – 6-8” high, ‘tete a tete’ is another Narcissus favourite;
  • Rosa hugonis (Father Hugo’s Rose) – a single flowered yellow rose that blooms only once a year, but worth it, called the ‘golden rose of china’;
  • Paeonia mascula (wild Balkan peony) – grows well in our Mediterranean climate, P. Mlokosewitschii;
  • obovata var. alba “molly the witch” – will cross breed with other species, P. Lutea (single flowered yellow tree peony), P. Delavayi – a shrub with deep maroon flowers and yellow stamins, Rockii semi-double white flowers -grows well from seed.

Bill Terry is author of “Blue Heaven: Encounters with the Blue Poppy, (2009), “Beyond Beauty: Hunting the Wild Blue Poppy” (2012), “Beauty by Design: Inspired Gardening in the Pacific Northwest.” (2013,) co-authored with his wife, Rosemary Bates and “The Carefree Garden: Letting Nature play her part” (2015).

Workshop:  Bees and the Garden

Nairn Hollett, a Victoria bee keeper.

If left to their own devices bees would prefer to build a cone shaped hive structure in a tree hollow. Beekeepers entice them to live in an artificial ‘hive’ to make honey collection easier.

The ‘hive’ comprises a series of boxes stacked one upon another.  The lower boxes are filled with frames in which are inserted wax sheets on which hexagons have been imprinted and upon which the bees build chambers where the queen will lay eggs and where honey is stored.  Usually a hive will consist of two lower boxes, sometimes referred to as brood chambers, above which are honey supers where excess honey is stored.

The Queen and her workers:

Beekeepers dab paint on the back of the queen for easy identification, using a different colour each year so the keeper knows how old she is.

Queens mate with multiple drones fertilizing her lifetime supply of eggs that she holds in her abdomen and for this reason she is much larger than worker bees. She lays approximately 1500 eggs every day.

Queen bees can live up to 5 years but beekeepers replace their queens every year or two.

Worker bees do all the work with drones needed only for mating.  There are 100 or so drones in a hive, mating only with queens from other hives, after which they die.  In the fall any drones remaining in the hive will be kicked out.

The queen lays eggs in the chambers built by worker bees.  The eggs develop into larva and are fed royal jelly with honey and pollen added to their diet as they develop.  The worker bees enclose them in the chamber to pupate and they hatch 21 days later.  When they emerge from the cell these ‘nurse bees’ immediately clean up the hive, feed larvae and build comb cells. Eventually they begin foraging to gather nectar.  In the summer they live six weeks and in winter their life span is six months.

To create a queen a larva that has been deposited in a specially built large sized chamber is fed only royal jelly. She will not be fed honey and pollen as are larvae that become worker bees.

Bees Making Honey:

Foraging bees do a waggle dance to communicate to other foragers the direction and distance to nectar sources.

When bees leave the hive to forage they move in circles that are ever increasing and this is how they re-find the hive.

To create honey, worker bees evaporate water from the nectar by flapping their wings and when the nectar is dehydrated sufficiently the cells are capped thus enabling the honey to keep indefinitely.

If the hive gets too crowded the old queen will take half of the bees in a swarm to a new location. They fill themselves with extra honey before they leave for sustenance until they can build a new hive.

A swarm line run by the Capital Region Beekeepers Association for reporting a swarm can be reached at 250-900-5133.

To prevent your hive from swarming and risk losing half of your bees, split the hive and start a new one. Place some of the full frames in a new box and when the bees realize they do not have a queen they will work at producing one.

Bees making wax:

Beeswax comes from a gland on either side of the bees’ body and they work it to make the comb in the hive.  Colour of the wax also ranges from light to dark and for commercial use the whiter wax is preferred.

Propylis comes from sap from certain plants and trees and is used as a glue in the hive.

Harvesting Honey:

To extract honey or to work with the hives, beekeepers use smoke to make the bees easier to work with.  The smoke causes them to fill up with honey and that makes them more docile.

To harvest honey, scrape the wax off the surface of the frame then it insert into a machine where the honey is sucked out by centrifugal force.  Honey can range from white to dark brown depending on where the nectar comes from.

Challenges of Beekeeping:  

Beekeeping is more complicated now because of disease, parasites and pesticides.

Join the beekeepers association to learn how to properly care for your hives or you will lose your bees ( region

Neonicotinoids are a systemic pesticide that kills bees.  There are curbs now put on the use of this substance.

Gardeners need to ensure the plants purchased from nurseries have not been treated with neonicotinoids because it is a long lived and toxic chemical.  It affects the nervous system of the bees causing problems with navigation, learning and communicating.

Varroa mite spread through Europe and came here in early 2000s.  It bores its way into the larva and spreads disease to the bees.  Mite treatments include oxalic acid and oil of thyme,  used in late fall and early winter when no brood is in the hive.

Helping the Pollinators:

There are approximately 70 kinds of bees on Vancouver Island.

Pollinators (including the queen) will overwinter in dead garden debris so gardeners can help them by leaving part of the garden untidy with dead leaves and stocks for them to live in. It is therefore doubly important not to use pesticides in your garden.

Attracting the pollinators:

Capital City Bee Keepers website has a list of plants that attract bees.

Colour is important – yellow is favourite – blues, purples, mauves and some reds are good.

Planting in groups is preferred to make them easier to find.

A sunny location 4 – 6 hrs. per day for good nectar production.  Some plants produce nectar in morning, some in the afternoon and some all day long. Synchronize sunshine hours with peak nectar production.

Good nectar producers:  dandelions and thistles, maple & arbutus; oregon grape, salal, snowberry, camas, fire weed, manzanita, fruit trees, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry bushes, runner beans, broad beans, squash, chives, sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias, roses – single blossoms are better than doubles –  Roses have the highest percentage of nectar, herbs, crocus, snowdrops, oregano, rosemary, thyme, borage, ground covers such as clover, vetch and buckwheat. Rhododendron are poisonous and bees avoid them (except bumblebees).

Dinter Nursery – 40 Years; and Urban Food Gardening

Presentation: 40 Years as a Nurseryman

Bernie Dinter ( ) reviewed local Garden Centres over the past 55 years, and the changes that influenced them.

* In the 1960’s numerous small, family owned and operated garden centers such as Layritz Nursery on Wilkinson Rd., Cedar Hill Nursery owned by Rudolf William and the Duncan Eaton’s Garden Centre.   Dinter Nursery opened in 1973 as a full service centre offering expertise and advice. At this time there were expert gardeners in the media such as Doris Page on CHEK TV and Bernard Moore on CBC.

  • Big sellers in the 70‘s were Junipers, English Laurel, Ivy, Marguerites, petunias and marigolds.
  • Nurseries sold chemicals such as Diazanon, Paraquot & Round Up.
  • Some reference books you will recognize from that time were “The pacific Gardener” by A.R. Willis and the Sunset Western Garden Books.
  • Popular garden styles were English Cottage and West Coast Suburb.
  • Vegetable gardens were common following from the depression and wartime Victory Gardens when growing food was a necessity.
  • Gardeners were knowledgeable, often specializing in roses, fuchsias, dahlias, chrysanthemums, rhododendrons or alpines. Ed Lohbrunner was one of those specialists.
  • Deer were a novelty being seen as adding to the charm leaving the gardener at peace.

Today, Garden Centres are struggling.  Many have met their demise leaving fewer options for gardeners.  There are fewer new ones coming along.  Centres that are left, band together to form nursery groups for economies of scale.

Reasons for this change are:

  • high land prices
  • ALR zoning regulations where growing the plants is permissible but selling those plants on ALR land is not.
  • The business is more capital intensive requiring a high level of automation offering efficient distribution to chain stores.
  • Chain stores and grocery stores sell plants at a low margin with limited selection at peak season taking the market share of sales.

Growers in the future will have to face the issue of large chains who have a “pay by scan” arrangement with growers, meaning they only pay the grower when a plant is sold.  Customers will be able to order plants from Amazon passing the order on to growers who ship to the customer, bypassing the local garden centre.

The Market in 2016 looks quite different from the past.  The majority of consumers are the Generation X’ers and Millennials. Marketing to this population is quite different from previous generations.

  • they look on line for their information
  • generally , they do not trust marketing
  • often don’t own property
  • they are not knowledgeable plant consumers
  • influenced by word of mouth, friends and online reviews.
  • they want to grow their own food
  • tend to see gardens as a place to relax and entertain
  • emphasis is on accessories such as decks, comfortable seating areas, fire pits and hot tubs, with the focus being on the accessories rather than the plantings.

Marketing to Millennials will require creativity taking advantage of their penchant for technological devices and the level of sharing they do. Some nurseries have installed Selfie Stations so customers can take pictures to show their friends where they are, feeding into their comfort with word of mouth advertising.

Challenges facing gardeners:

  • Drought:
  •  We live in a Mediterranean climate with little rain between April and November.
  • Coping with water shortages – There is a Xeriscape demonstration garden at the Summerland Research Station.
  • Tree watering systems – “Tree Gator” is useful for watering trees away from a water source
  • Rainwater Collection tanks:  need to be large to hold sufficient water to make it worthwhile.
  • Lawns:
  • Pros for having a lawn – spaces for recreation, relaxation, a tidy ground cover.
  • Cons – uses too much water in summer, is a monoculture, requires regular care and inputs. It is not bee and insect friendly.
  • An alternative to lawns is a flowering meadow – insect friendly, drought tolerant, low maintenance and self-seeding.  A wildflower meadow cannot be mowed or it will not self-seed and will die out.


  • Plant to attract pollinators and beneficial insects.  There has been a realization of the necessity of pollinators in recent years and many people are providing our native Mason Bees with houses to encourage their presence in the garden.
  • Birds also are being attracted for insect control and general birding interest.
  • Creating a diverse ecosystem is a goal for many younger gardeners today.
  • Composting is popular, especially with organics not permitted in the waste stream, recycling nutrients back to garden keeps the soil healthy.
  • Water gardening is an important component in many gardens.
  • Food gardening:  Fruit tree sales are popular and some apple keeper varieties may last until Easter providing large quantities of food with a surplus for processing or juicing.  Varieties not normally available in stores are sought and growing them provides savings and satisfaction.
  • Growing our own food has become popular again having dwindled in the 80’s. Some reasons for this are the publicity around the 0 mile diet and a desire to know where our food comes from.  There is a renewed interest in exotic fruit such as Chestnut, Asian Pear, Quince, Crab Apple, Persimmon, Mulberry, Medlar (old fruit variety) and Olive.
  • Fairy (miniature) Gardening is another trend that developed a few years ago and although it was expected to be a passing fancy, it is still popular.

Future of the garden centre:

The garden centre will continue to be a source of advice, providing practical hands-on ‘how to’ knowledge by selling quality plant products that are suited to the area and will be successful there.  Garden centres will provide customers with inspiration and ideas that reflect their life style to help them create a garden that reflects their values.


Workshop:  The Garden of Eating

Local urban food gardeners and activists, Ruth & Brian Holl, led a discussion on food gardening.  To grow your own food you will need:


  • Know the direction your garden faces, how many hours of sun it gets per day and the microclimates it contains.
  • Use that knowledge to your advantage to grow a wide range of food.
  • Most vegetable plants like sun and the sunniest areas can be used to grow the heat loving plants such as tomatoes.  Cherry or Roma varieties will ripen in the garden.
  • Areas with some protection from the sun are good for cool crops such as peas, lettuce, kale and spinach.


  • This is the single most important component of a vegetable garden.
  • A healthy soil has good microbial action.
  • It is a good idea to have at least one professional nutrient test done by a soil testing lab to get a breakdown of all the micronutrients.
  • Most vegetables prefer an alkaline soil.  Determine the PH level by using a simple testing kit available at garden centres.  This will let you know if your soil is alkaline or acidic.
  • A simple test will demonstrate whether your soil is sandy or clay by adding water and soil in to a jar and shake well.  As the mixture settles the course sand and small gravel falls to bottom with finer particulate matter at the top.  After settling, the jar will have a level of sand at the bottom, the next layer will be silt and at the top will be the clay. The suspended materials in the water are either clay or silt.     A lot of sand indicates soil with good drainage and poor water and nutrient holding capability.  A large component of clay means high potential for compaction, water logging and poor drainage although clay soil has the advantage of having a good capability of holding nutrients.  What you want is soil with a large layer of silt indicating a loamy soil.
  • Sandy and Clay soils are difficult to change in the short term and you just have to work with what you have.
  • The best way to amend a poor soil is to add thick layers of good quality compost each Spring and Fall.  Over time your soil will be transformed.
  • Every batch of compost is different from every other batch; the challenge being to find a supplier who can reproduce a similar compost year after year.
  • Look for non-steaming compost because if it is steaming it is still working and could burn your plants.
  • Be careful with inputs into your garden because you can import ‘nasties’ such as field bindweed, which despite determined efforts, cannot be removed.  You can prevent this by letting the compost sit after you buy it to see what grows before adding it to your beds.
  • In home composters use only kitchen plant waste and non-weedy garden refuse to prevent weed seeds from contaminating your garden.
  • A useful resource to learn about healthy soil and the connection to human health is “Soil and health:  A Study of Organic Agriculture” by Sir Albert Howard first published in 1945 and republished in 2007 by University Press of Kentucky.

Food production:

  • Not just relegated to the veggie beds; grow ornamental plants that are edible such as borage and calendula that can be added to salads. Cabbage can be grown in amongst the ornamentals.  Camas is good to eat however it needs to be roasted overnight because of the concentration of inulin.
  • Fruit trees provide plentiful harvests of apples, pears or plums and come in dwarf and semi-dwarf for backyard growing.  They can be espaliered as a space saver.
  • Peach trees are best grown on the south side of the house with protection from winds.


  • Encourage bees and butterflies to visit your garden by growing plants that are attractors.
  • Have mason bees ready to pollinate the fruit trees in spring.  Harvest the pupae in October storing them in a cardboard box or Tupperware container with ventilation holes in a garage, carport or fridge until late winter when they can be put back outside.

Pest control: 

  • There is no need to use pesticides because they destroy beneficial insects.  Encourage beneficials instead.
  • Vinegar on paths can be an effective weed control but the best control is diligently and dogmatically pulling weeds before they go to seed. That, combined with regular mulching effectively deals with weeds and adds organic matter to the soil.
  • Cover crops such as Crimson Clover suppress weeds, adding organic matter and nitrogen when worked into the soil in the spring.

Saving Farmland: Madrona Farm — Worm Farming

Presentation: Saving Farmland: Madrona Farm

(For workshop on Worm Farming scroll down.)

Saving Farmland: The Fight for Real Food a book by Robyn Alys Roberts, Nathalie Chambers and Sophie Wooding.

Presentation by Robyn Alys Roberts.

Madrona Farm in the Blenkinsop valley has been in David Chambers’ family since 1952. With great effort, he and his wife Nathalie saved it from housing development and ensured it will be used for food production for years to come. The farm is 27 acres and located just south of Mount Douglas Park. To keep it as a working farm the Chambers sold it to the Land Conservancy of BC which will protect it in a trust in perpetuity. It will be leased to farmers who commit to using the land for food production.

A model called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was used to preserve Madrona Farm.

This is a social economic model of agriculture and food distribution in which growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. Shares in the current year’s crop are purchased early in the season and in return the shareholders receive a weekly supply of produce, thus providing economic support and predictability for farmers. Locally, Haliburton Farm and Little Mountain Farm also use this model.

Once their farm was saved, Nathalie turned her attention and energy to the issues of food security and saving farmland for sustainable agriculture. She received a full bursary courtesy of Story Clark, a land conservationist and Wyoming rancher to a National Trust conference offered at Yale University. There she met Rob Macklin from the UK National Trust and eventually went to the UK to further her knowledge of saving farmland and promoting food security through education, innovation and protest.

Education and awareness efforts have included attending Saanich Council meetings and show-and-tell sessions on vegetable production and reproduction. David Chambers used watermelon and zucchini plants to demonstrate that it takes both a male and female plants to reproduce these fruits. His point was that the more development and suburbanization that is allowed in the Blenkinsop Valley, the greater the threat to pollinators and to our food supply.

There is a global movement working toward sustainable agriculture. David Suzuki, Prince Charles and Vandana Shiva are three people supporting this work and much admired by Robyn. David Suzuki co-authored an article science-matters/2011/06/small-farms-may-be-better-for-food-security-and-biodiversity/) in which he talks about the energy efficiency possible with small farms using sustainable techniques. Studies show that these farms are produce at a greater rate than larger farms. Suzuki concludes that “alternative methods could produce enough food on a global basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base.”

Prince Charles speaks about the importance of sustainability emphasizing in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, DC that small farms using agro ecology methods were the most productive and if these farms received the subsidies available to industrial farmers, then organic, sustainably grown food would become the affordable choice.

Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, philosopher, feminist and seed activist/farmer who was born in India. After receiving an integrated Masters of Science honours degree in particle physics from the University of Punjab, she received her Master of Arts degree at the University of Guelph, in the philosophy of science and a PhD at the University of Western Ontario. Vandana Shiva has long been a vocal advocate for the critical importance of seed sovereignty and the interwoven nature of plant biodiversity. She warns about the negative effects of the global industrial food complex on ecosystems, small-scale farmers and traditional food systems.

Robyn concluded her presentation by highlighting the idea of “Developing a Commons” This is a publically shared space owned, protected and used by the community. In Portland, Oregon, architect Mark Lakeman formed an informal organization called City Repair:  to enable volunteers to create “commons” in public spaces. This Portland model is spreading across the United States, thanks to Lakeman’s frequent national talks and his dedication to designing beautiful and sustainable places that bring people together in community: . He notes that to understand the movement to save farmland the concept of ‘commons trust’ must be understood.

To help us understand this concept he compares a commons trust to a corporation and a government. A corporation’s raison d’etre is to make profits for its owners and shareholders and it has no legal personal liability. A government often has a short perspective and time frame and has allegiance to donors and special interests and is subject to pressures from corporate interests. It has no mandate to care for future generations. A Commons Trust, on the other hand, is an institution with a legal responsibility to future generation; its job is to foresee and prevent harm and its trustees are legally accountable to future generations. (”.

Robyn lists many resources in the endnotes of her book Saving Farmland, published by Rocky Mountain Books Ltd., 2015. You can purchase a copy from Robyn by emailing her at:


Workshop:  Worm Farming

David Greig: “From Heaven to Earthworm” – Vermicompost Workshop.

David is a registered horticulture therapist, a certified organic landscape professional and a worm farmer.

The vermicompost, or the “soil” that is a by-product of worms, is the richest microorganism product available. This should motivate you to become a Worm Farmer!

The glaciers wiped out the worms that used to be indigenous to this area, with the exception of 4 types that can be found in BC’s old growth forests, therefore all of the worms found in our gardens are species that have been introduced.

Red Wiggler (Eisenia fetida) also known as tiger worms were introduced from Europe hundreds of years ago and thrive in rotting vegetation, compost and manure. As with most introduced species, these European immigrants are causing damage to hardwood forests in Eastern Canada. Now Asian worms are moving in and it will take some time to understand their effects.

The Red Earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus) is the largest species of earthworm in North America, they have been found 3-4 feet long in Oregon and 10 feet long in Australia. Earthworms can be useful in helping you test the healthiness of your soil. If you count the worms within a cubed ft. of soil, 10 worms indicates healthy soil and the fewer the worms the more the soil is lacking.

Earth worms are a tube-shaped, segmented worm that has 5 hearts, no eyes, no teeth, a crop and a gizzard. They are hermaphrodites (monoecious) having a band like swelling called the clitellum toward the front of the animal that contains the sexual organs. To reproduce they overlap their clitellum and exchange sperm with each other. A cocoon forms around each worm after separating, and as the worms slip out of the cocoon the eggs are fertilized and deposited in the cocoon which closes up at the ends as the earthworms slip out.

Bin: To start your own worm farm you need some type of bin in which to house them. Bins can be made out of wood or any Rubbermaid-type bin, keeping in mind the relationship of size to weight. When filled with soil and moisture the bins are very heavy so locate it in its permanent site before filling. The bins need to drain and at the same time hold 50-60% moisture. If wood is chosen a good size is 4’ x 2’ x 1’. The Compost Education Centre sells worm bins. David insulates his outdoor bins with styrofoam to keep them warm.

Bedding material: is required for the worms to live in and eat. Popular materials are coconut fibre (coir), peat moss, or newspaper torn into strips. The inks in the Times Colonist are vegetable based so they are safe for worms.

Watering: Worms prefer the bins to be moist but not too wet.

Feeding: Any carbon material is good including leaves and fresh fruit and vegetable scraps as well as coffee grounds, bread, rice or pasta in moderation. Do not compost meat, fish, bones, or fresh manure in your worm bin. There is a product called Effective Microorganism you can add to the bedding using 1 part Effective Microorganism mixed with 1 part molasses and 1000 parts water to enhance the microbial action in your bin.

Earthworms have calcium in their bodies and use it to make their tunnels strong, creating pathways for water to get down into the soil. They pull in the soil with their proboscis (beak or nose) and grind it up in their gizzard. Adding greensand or silica to the bedding mix will aid in this grinding process.

Worms like neutral to alkaline soils. If your bin becomes too acidic or anaerobic (lacking oxygen), the worms will leave the bin or die. An offensive odour indicates anaerobic conditions, so stop adding food and add a small amount of dolomite lime or wood ash, and carefully stir the food scraps to aerate them. When the smell disappears, resume feeding.

Harvesting the Compost: When your compost is ready the next challenge is to separate out the worms from the compost. If you are not keen to stick your hands in the soil and remove the worms by hand there is an easier way. The worms dislike sunlight because they have photo receptors in their skin and you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Empty the bins out on a tarp in a large mound. The worms will scurry down into the soil to hide from the light. Scoop off the top soil just vacated by the worms and keep repeating this process waiting after each collection for the worms to descend and eventually the worms will all end up at the bottom on the tarp where they can be easily collected ready for the next bin.

The finished material makes a very rich compost. It is suitable for making compost teas by mixing with water and 1 oz of molasses. Let this mixture stand for 24 hours and use as a foliar spray. The compost is excellent when used in planting holes – Dahlias particularly like it.

Some problems people experience with worm bins include a proliferation of red spider mites, especially if the bin becomes acidic. Remedy this by adding large pieces of cantaloupe that will collect the mites and when the cantaloupe is removed so are the mites. Be sure to correct the acidity level to prevent a new infestation. Other issues for outdoor bins are rats, and fruit flies are problematic both indoors and out.

There is a myth that an earthworm cut in half will regenerate into two worms. If it has been severed behind the clitellum that portion will survive and sometimes a new anterior will grow but usually it just heals at the cut site. The anterior that has been cut off will die.

Resources on worm composting:

Worms Eat Our Garbage: Mary Applehoff.   Flower Press, 1992.

Teaming with Microbes, The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web: Wayne Lewis. Timber Press, revised edition 2010

The Earth Moved: Amy Stewart. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.