Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: How to learn about your new garden

Dear Helen: My husband and I just bought our first house. With it came a beautiful garden. Our problem: We can identify only about half of the bushes and perennials. Where might I find a reputable garden adviser to help us identify the plants and tell us how to care for them?


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I’d start with your new neighbours. As you introduce yourselves to them, consider making a request for help from people with impressive gardens. You might find an expert adviser just doors away. Chances are also that a neighbour or two were well acquainted with the previous owners and are familiar with the garden and its plants.

If tapping into neighourhood expertise yields inadequate or incomplete results, consider joining a local garden club. There you are bound to find people well able to provide you with all the information you need on your plants. Someone might be happy to visit your garden, or advise from photos you take of the plants.

Another possible source of help might be found at local garden centres, where personnel can likely identify the plants in question and perhaps point you to a reliable person to tour your garden with you and provide the advice you need.

Dear Helen: My very tall pea plants flourished and had begun to form pods when the vines started turning brown at the bases early in July. The dieback continued, moving upward through the plants. What could have caused this?


Your description indicates a root rot condition caused by a soil fungus that is most damaging to plants seeded into cool, wet soils. Prevention measures include delaying planting until the soil is no longer wet and using compost in preparing the soil for planting. Compost adds beneficial, disease-deterring micro-organisms to the soil. Delay mulching the vines until the weather has turned warm and dry.

Make sure that peas are planted only in very well-drained sites.

Change the location of the pea planting from year to year. A space of four years before returning to a previous pea site is ideal.

You might also consider changing varieties. If you have keen food-growing neighbours, ask what varieties have proven most trouble-free and productive in their gardens.

Dear Helen: Could you please let me know whether pomegranates can be grown here? I was thinking of a sheltered outside location. If this is possible, where might I buy seeds or obtain a cutting?


There is a source on Wain Road in North Saanich called Fruit Trees and More Nursery and Demonstration Orchard. Their website (fruittreesandmore.com) currently lists pomegranates with its Mediterranean fruit trees. This nursery specializes in temperate, citrus and Mediterranean fruit trees. The website includes their open hours.

Among the sources I know of, seed is available only for a dwarf, metre-tall version of the pomegranate.

It’s listed in the catalogue from Chiltern Seeds in Britain. The botanical name for pomegranate is Punica granatum.

The dwarf version has the added descriptive term “nanun’ signifying its dwarf stature. But I presume you are going for the fruit. You’ll be wanting the regular fruit-bearing tree. Fruit Trees and More is well known for its innovative methods for success in growing marginally hardy fruits.


HCP arts and music. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is hosting its 25th Annual Arts & Music in the Gardens event on Saturday and Sunday, Aug.10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The weekend will showcase three stages of live music and more than 50 local artists, vendors and exhibitors as well as installations by the Victoria Floral Artists Guild, food trucks and Victoria Master Gardeners on site to answer questions. The full event program is available at hcp.ca/artsandmusic. Cost of admission is free for HCP members, others $10. Proceeds are used for the ongoing development of the gardens. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.

Nanaimo garden tour. The Nanaimo Horticultural Society is holding its annual tour of six members’ gardens on Sunday, Aug. 11. The tour will include a variety of sites from a small green oasis in downtown Nanaimo to a large garden in Lantzville, food gardens and others filled with flowers and greenery. Free “tickets” with details are available at libraries and garden centres from Ladysmith to Nanoose.

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