For gardeners used to puttering about outdoors almost daily, this dark, drenching time in the year can be trying. I have my own effective antidote to the soggy doldrums: projects, such as my most recent one to reduce shade and a closed-in atmosphere in a couple areas of the garden.
A former neighbour who is an accomplished tree worker did a fine job of "lifting up" cedar trees in a clearing behind the garden shed. He removed all the limbs drooping toward the ground. The result is a brightened, spacious view from the house and, when the glowering cloud cover lifts in April or May, an improved view of a mountain in the distance.
I also had a few lower limbs removed from a hemlock near a back corner of the house. The targeted limbs were hovering over the house gutters and descending into an Enkianthus growing below.
Taking out just a few branches has reduced shade in the area, given neighbouring shrubs breathing room, and allowed better light into the dining room and kitchen.
Beth's new garden. I cannot get my friend's new garden out of my mind. I have visited her twice in Nanaimo and, if she'll have me, I'll be back at various pruning times to help with her big project - remodelling an established garden.
The garden is mainly at the back, on a very gentle slope up from a sheltered patio area across the back of the home. The space is a long rectangle, narrowing slightly toward the back. Best of all, the whole garden is fenced, with trelliswork forming the fencing top. A contemporary version of a walled garden.
Adjacent to the back fence are raised vegetable plots and a big cherry tree that, unfortunately, rather sabotages the prospect of successful vegetable growing nearby. At the side fences, on either side near the back, are a grape vine and a fig. Shrubs and perennials grow in narrow beds along the side fences. In the middle of the lawn is a big, oval raised bed.
I tramped around this interesting garden, and thought of "Capability" Brown, an 18th-century landscaper who saw every landscape as having "capabilities" for improvement.
As with most gardens, there are great possibilities here. Here's what I'd do with the space, were it mine.
? Remove the cherry tree. It's badly placed and unproductive.
? In January, prune the grape to direct framework arms cleanly against the fence, with the top arm along the trelliswork top.
? In March or early April, prune to train the fig against the opposite side fence and along the back fence. This will involve removing limbs reaching in toward the garden's centre.
? Empty the large raised bed in the middle of the lawn of its shabby plantings. Beth has already begun this. She'll keep a flourishing rose at the lower edge and plant a row of raspberries across the upper edge. The cleared space will house more edibles.
? Keep the rhododendrons, the gorgeous hydrangeas, and desirable perennials in the side fence beds, and dig out the weedy invaders - Crocosmia, Alstroemeria aurea (Peruvian lily), Prunella vulgaris (heal-all) and Spanish bluebells. I'd take out some columbines too. As in my garden, they've self-sown all over the place. Larger ones are a chore to dig out.
My friend's neatly enclosed back garden has the potential to be an even more enchanting and productive sanctuary.
Peninsula meeting. The Peninsula Garden Club will meet on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Mary Winspear Centre, Sidney. The club's own Brian Taylor will be speaking about heathers, with tips on how to care for the plants. peninsulagardenclub.ca
Flower arrangers. The Victoria Flower Arrangers Guild will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. in Saanich. Andrea Walker will demonstrate Christmas Decor.
Admission is free. More information at 250-721-1162.
Outsmarting garden pests. The City of Victoria Recreation Department is offering an Outsmart Your Garden Pests workshop on Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon at the City of Victoria Parks Yard. Dr. Michelle Gorman, the city's integrated pest management co-ordinator, will discuss the removal of tent caterpillar egg bands from fruit trees, banding for insects such as winter moth, proper sanitation to help control such diseases as black spot, and pruning to improve the health of plants. Cost is $25. For more information or to register, contact the Crystal Pool & Fitness Centre at 250-361-0732.
© Copyright 2013