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Helen Chesnut: Blooms abound in misty and fruitful fall

As the garden lay shrouded in fog, day after day in October, the opening line of Keats’s poem Autumn kept coming to mind: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
As the garden lay shrouded in fog, day after day in October, the opening line of Keats’s poem Autumn kept coming to mind: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”

Every day I opened the side door into the garden to the sound of heavy dripping from the trees, even though there was no rain. And when I had a tall fir, an ailing and dangerous tree close to the house, taken down, the limbs splashed to the lawn below in a shower of water.

The fall of 2013 surely has been misty, and fruitful. As well as all the fine food, stored in house and garden, a bounty of bloom remains. Dahlias flower still in the front garden. The begonia hanging baskets outside my office window bear some soft cream and peach flowers. A collection of white and pink Gaura, planted late in the summer, still looks good, especially ‘Rosy Jane,’ which continues bearing a considerable show of dainty little flowers, dancing on willowy stems.

The broad strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) at the top of the driveway has never been so filled with autumn bloom. The deep green foliage is thickly festooned with fat clusters of small, creamy white bells.

Spider webs are everywhere. A prominent one has been spun between two stem ends of a wisteria vine, also at the top of the driveway, beside the carport. The webs are works of garden art.

November. As daylight time ends and standard time returns Sunday, darkness will take over more of the late afternoon, limiting gardening time. Still, in whatever usable daylight there is, much cool-weather work can be accomplished to clear the way for spring.

In many gardens there is leaf raking, along with continuing cleanup, weeding, composting and general repairs to or building of garden structures. Protect open compost heaps from leaching of nutrients in the rain by placing a loose covering, a tarp or plastic sheeting, over the pile. First, fluff up the heap and, if possible, mix in some seaweed and place a layer on top.

Brighten the November gloom with a colourful little flowering house plant. Pot an amaryllis bulb. Start planning and plotting the 2014 garden as the new catalogues begin to arrive.

Blooming tales. I rarely buy flowers, but as I passed by a table of cut flower arrangements at my local farmers market last month I was struck by a small, lively bouquet of collarette dahlias — perfect, I thought, for a friend who could do with a bit of cheering up at the time.

The flowers were in sunny, warm colours, deep yellow and orange-scarlet, in the classic collarette style: flat, ray-like petals around an open centre that is surrounded in a wreath, or “collar,” of shorter petals, often in a contrasting colour.

My gesture seems to have turned my friend on to cut flowers. Currently, her living room is brightened with an impressive arrangement of large, white chrysanthemums.

An acquaintance phoned me early in the fall with her cut flower story. She, too, rarely purchases cut flowers, but one day as she was food shopping she spotted a display of exquisitely perfect, long-stemmed white roses. On an impulse she bought one, and placed it in water in a narrow vase.

When the bloom had faded, and Annette tried removing it from the vase, it would not budge. She did finally manage to wriggle the stem out, and found it had grown a huge mass of roots. She potted the stem and place it by a window, where it grew speedily into a healthy plant. It even developed flower buds.

I suggested she winter the plant in a sheltered place outdoors, and plant it in her garden early in the spring.


VRS. The Victoria Rhododendron Society will meet on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. The public is invited to join society members in enjoying members’ photography night. Prints and digital images will be featured, of whole plants, single trusses, foliage rhododendrons, companion plants and garden scenes. Admission is free.

VHS. The Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Garth Homer Centre. Parking is available on site and behind the Saanich Municipal Hall. Lorian Roberts, a local Ikebana teacher who has studied at Tokyo’s Ohara School, will be demonstrating this delicate art of flower arranging. One of Lorian’s arrangements will be raffled off at the meeting’s end. Memberships will be available at the door.