Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Late fall a mix of hard labour and rewards

This late fall season has been even more heavily garden and plant centred than usual. First, there’s my budding re-addiction to indoor plants. It’s become nearly impossible to pass by a local garden centre that I know is filled with a tantalizing selection of house plants without going in for at least a quick inspection of the leafy enticements. My window ledges are quickly filing up.

Thanks to a goodly number of useable outdoor days, I’ve been able to dive into big projects like shovelling finished compost into two consolidated piles that will be covered against the rain over the winter and used in spring to prepare plots for planting.

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I’m widening pathways and removing old wire fencing in the food garden, to eliminate previously good growing space that is now thickly invaded with roots from a neighbour’s towering forest trees growing next to my side fence. The wider paths, and plots newly edged with large rocks, give the vegetable garden a neat, fresh look.

On a dry Sunday late last month, I cleaned out the cluttered garden shed, swept the floor and re-organized the tools before sprinkling peppermint extract around to deter mice. That was a big, dirty job.

It’s not all hard labour though. It’s reward time. After a busy growing season, I get to amble leisurely into the garden to choose vegetables for meals. There are carrots, beets and parsnips, kale, endive, daikon radishes and Brussels sprouts. Onions and potatoes are stored in a room off the carport, and more garden produce awaits plucking from the freezer.

And there are flowers. Early in the spring I seed calendula along vegetable plot edges. Depending on the weather, a few of the plants can be found in bloom at almost any time in the year.

Late last month I noticed a cluster of flowering Orange Button plants at a plot corner. This is an imposing calendula, with double layers of vibrant, deep orange petals surrounding broad purple-black centres. The imposing blooms are borne on 45-cm stems and, like so many of the flowers in the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalogue, are excellent for cutting.

At the same time I began gathering nerine lilies, whose crinkly, recurved petals make them charming cut flowers as well. The garden truly provides.

Unsolicited seeds. Thanks to Jennifer, who wrote to tell me about a friend who had received seeds she had not ordered, from an unknown source, in the mail, with a request for money. More than 750 Canadians have received “mystery” seeds, which pose a potential danger to the environment. They could carry disease, or grow into an invasive species.

Do not open suspect packages. Leave labels intact, and contact your closest Canadian Food Inspection Agency office. Planting or disposing of the seeds could cause harm to the environment.

Abkhazi Garden news. The Abkhazi Garden, Teahouse and Gift Shop are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All recommended COVID-19 safety measures are in place. Visit abkhaziteahouse.com for details, including Teahouse menus.

Of special note:

* Wreaths. On weekends until Sunday, Dec. 20, holiday wreaths, swags and table toppers will be available for purchase, along with packets of seeds as stocking stuffers.

*Teahouse and Gift Shop. The Teahouse is selling tourtiere and shortbread for takeout, and until Jan. 3 is offering a festive Christmas High Tea as well as delectable lunches and other high teas. The Gift Shop, located in the Teahouse, features local art, pottery, fabric, soaps and more.

Mixing It Up 2021. Roots, Shoots and Leaves is the theme of the virtual Mixing It Up in the Urban Garden Conference on Saturday, Jan. 30, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will include five speakers, connections with vendors, gardeners’ chat rooms, Victoria Master Gardeners’ silent auction and more. Topics to be explored: Plant Picks For Our Changing Climate; Addressing Climate Change from the Roots Up; Trees Now and Forever; No Yard? No Problem! — Gardening in Small Spaces; If Leaves Could Talk — Want to know what’s best for your plants? Listen to their Leaves.

Registration is open now at Mixingitup.org. Cost is $55. Zoom coaching will be available before the conference Full details on the speakers and their topics can be found on the site. Consider making a gift registration for an interested friend or family member.

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