Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: April a time of resurrection in the garden

From my university days, a few vivid memories remain. An interesting course I recall taking was titled Roman Life and Letters. That time being one of youthful frolicking, at one point I’d skipped several classes.

Upon my return, the instructor met me at the door with a pointed greeting: “Resurrexit!”

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Resurrection is the theme of this weekend, and of this month in the garden. Plants rise anew from the soil. Gardeners rise up to enjoy the warming temperatures and lengthening days as they prepare the soil and plant, tidy and trim. In April, we become full, active partners with Nature in nourishing rebirth and creating new life.

Celebrating with plants. Special occasions are often marked with flowers or plants. Easter lilies, Easter cactus, Lenten rose (Helleborus hybidus) and tulips come to mind for this weekend.

In recent weeks, I’ve been admiring the masses of beautiful flowers on a Lenten rose I bought at the last Seedy Saturday I attended. Let’s hope that conditions will allow for these lively and popular events to return next year.

Depending on what the landscape will accommodate and the type of plants that interest you and the family, consider acquiring and planting a small flowering tree, a shrub you’ve always wanted in the garden, a rose bush perhaps, or food plants such as blueberry bushes, raspberry canes and strawberry plants.

Early every spring, I delight in the pink bloom on my flowering plum (Prunus ‘Blireana’) tree. Popular also are mountain ash and snowball (Styrax) trees. These trees are (or can be kept) compact and are recommended for small gardens.

Perennials are the backbone of many ornamental gardens. They can yield a long season of bloom and loads of flowers for the house. Deservedly popular and easy to grow are black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), coneflower (Echinacea), the hardy geraniums and the taller, border sedums.

Rozanne is a prized hardy geranium, with bright violet-tinged blue flowers starting early in the summer. The taller kinds of sedum bear large clusters of flowers in late summer and early autumn.

The plants have succulent foliage that can be variegated or dark purple depending on the variety. Bees love the blooms. In my garden the plants have been very drought-tolerant once established, and close to indestructible.

Coral bells (Heuchera) are very showy evergreen perennials with fancy foliage in a wide range of colours. I find them to be supremely enduring plants. I’ve even used them as specimen plants in winter hanging baskets.

Planting. Whether it’s a tree, shrub or perennial to be planted, keep in mind an old adage: For a $10 plant you need a $50 hole. That’s just another way of admonishing gardeners to take time to prepare the soil well to receive a plant in a selected site. Dig over the soil as deeply as possible, over an area at least twice the width of the plant’s root ball.

Incorporate a generous layer of a nourishing, substantial compost, a balanced fertilizer, and lime for all but acid-loving plants. Feed the soil well, and it will take care of the plant.

Careful soil preparation is crucially important for long-term plants — trees, shrubs, and long-lived perennials like peonies.

Check plant labels carefully and note the recommended light exposure and eventual size of the plant before choosing a site.

VHS. The Victoria Horticultural Society is hosting a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, April 6. Lynda Dowling from Happy Valley Lavender and Herb Farm will offer a workshop on edible flowers from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a presentation on all things lavender from planting to harvest (7 to 8:30). Non-members can register for $5.00 at vichortsociety.org.

Plant sale. The Mill Bay Plantaholics will be holding their annual Charity Plant Sale while observing COVID rules. Over 1,200 plants have been potted and the money raised will be divided between Malawi Girls on the Move and Somenos House in Duncan. Starting on Saturday, April 17, there will be two plant pick-ups each week, on Saturdays and Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. The sale will last for about three weeks or until most of the plants are sold. The plant list is available now by emailing Elaine Scott at TheScottRogers@aol.com. Orders will be filled in the order they are received. Pick-up will be at 2836 Oceanside Lane in Mill Bay.

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