Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: How to distinguish endive, chicory and escarole

Dear Helen: What distinguishes endive from escarole, and chicory from endive? I’m confused.

S.L.

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You’re confused because the names are often used interchangeably. The catalogues from William Dam Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds separate them clearly enough to help reduce confusion. Bitter greens of various sorts can be found in health food stores and at farmers’ markets.

Basic endive comes in two forms, the more familiar fine-leaved, frilly or “frisee” types and the broadleaf “Batavian” kinds, also called escarole, that form substantial heads of broad leaves with creamy hearts.

Among the chicories, there are “Italian dandelion” types popular in Italian cooking and “Sugarloaf” varieties that make slim, pale green heads for use in the fall. They are popular in Holland, where they are called “greenlof” chicory. That’s in comparison with “witloof” chicory, which we call Belgian endive. No wonder you’re confused.

Bitter greens in general are highly nutritious and beneficial to digestion. I like them chopped finely into lettuce salads. To counter their tart notes I often add chopped apple, fig or orange to the salad.

Dear Helen: Bearded irises in my garden have thrived and multiplied, but in recent years they have produced fewer flowers. This year, it looks as though there may be none. How can I prompt them to bloom again?

T.H.

To maintain good flowering, bearded irises need to be lifted and divided every three or four years, in July or August. In preparing them for transplanting, make sure each division to be planted has at least one fan of leaves. Cut the leaves back slightly, making clean cuts with sharp scissors, and trim back any overlong roots.

The planting site for bearded irises should be in full or nearly full sun, with a rich, loamy soil that drains quickly of excess moisture. I usually form a ridge in each planting hole, so that I can settle the horizontal rhizome atop the ridge and arrange the roots down the sides before firming in the plant. The rhizome should end up just barely showing at the soil surface.

Trimming back the leaf fans will reduce transpiration from the foliage a little and help the newly planted divisions settle in.

Avoid over-watering bearded irises. Keep the soil a little on the dry side.

Weekend column: I’ll be taking a break from writing a column for the Saturday of the upcoming holiday weekend. The events in this column cover the time through next Wednesday, July 3. Happy Canada Day to all!

Garden events

VHS meeting. The Victoria Horticultural Society meets Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Linda Gilkeson, entomologist and Master Gardener instructor, will present Where Have All the Insects Gone? Linda will speak about the crash of global insect populations and what gardeners can do about it. The pre-meeting workshop at 6:30 will feature Linda exploring The Winter Vegetable Garden: what to grow, when and where to plant, how to fit winter crops in with summer plantings.

Government House plant sales. Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, will hold plant sales every Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., from July 2 to Aug. 27, at the Plant Nursery opposite the Tea Room. Visitors will find an extensive variety of plans. A sampler: For shade there are hardy fuchsias, astilbe, Choisya ‘Sundance,’ small red Japanese maples, heuchera. For sun: salvias and hebes, threadleaf coreopsis, phlox, sedum, nepeta and more.

Picnic in the gardens. On Wednesday, July 3, the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is inviting families and friends to bring their own dinners for a picnic in the gardens while enjoying local musicians. Browse through the works of local arts vendors, visit a Master Gardener booth for answers to gardening questions, and check out sales of plants propagated from the gardens. Admission is by donation between 5 and 8 p.m. hcp.ca.

Westshore tour. Soroptimist International of Victoria Westshore is hosting its first Westshore Garden Tour of six beautiful View Royal, Colwood, Langford and Mechosin gardens on Saturday, July 6, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by a Garden Gathering at Down to Earth Gardens and Nursery, 1096 Derrien Place in Metchosin. This after-tour event will feature food trucks, entertainment, demonstrations of flower arranging, and a portrait photographer. This fundraiser will enable the club to help more women and girls reach their potential, support their families, and give back to the community. Tickets at $25 are available online at SIVW.ca/WGT and at Down to Earth.

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