Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: New growth a sign of hope this Easter weekend

We embark this weekend on a series of days that form a sort of Trinity that is worthy of attention.

Today, the first day of Passover, begins a major Jewish spring festival that remembers the people’s liberation from Egypt as the plague that destroyed the firstborn in each home fell on the Egyptians and passed over without touching Israelite homes marked with the blood of a lamb.

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Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, Christians will celebrate the triumph over death of the “Lamb of God,” whose blood was shed to deliver salvation.

Completing the trinity of days on Monday, Earth Day will call on people to recognize the world of nature as the world upon which all life depends. As we celebrate and appreciate the beautiful planet that is our home, current news reports remind us to examine the effects of human activity on this earthly paradise: dangerously rising temperatures in our country; increasing rates of childhood asthma connected with poor air quality; raging forest fires and smoky air.

Common themes of all three days of remembrance are deliverance, and the need for redemptive action.

All this to ponder as our gardens, liberated from winter’s grip, rise to new life. A sign of hope, surely. Those of us fortunate enough to have a tiny speck of Earth under our temporary care have it within our power to keep at least that bit clean, and maintained with a certain redemptive simplicity.

It is possible to manage a simple, clean, and naturally Earth-friendly environment in gardens. For almost four decades now, without the use of pesticides or any chemically treated fertilizers, I have grown a good portion of my own fruits, berries and vegetables along with flowers, shrubs and trees.

All plant debris, except for woody materials and weeds gone to seed, are composted in a series of three-sided open brickwork enclosures against a side fence. Currently, I’m emptying the ones with “finished” compost onto vegetable plots in preparation for planting. The composting area is the nurturing heart of the garden, its recycling depot.

My garden, carved out of a second growth cedar and fir forest, remains surrounded by giant forest trees that produce large blocks of shade and feeder roots growing into planting areas. Still, with generous composting the soil remains productive. And I value the significant number of native forest plants that remain.

Red huckleberry shrubs and sword ferns, salal and Cascade Oregon grape grow throughout the garden. Several patches of vanilla leaf at garden edges create decorative carpets of bright green.

A large clearing behind the garden shed has been left in its natural state. It’s just been cleaned of excess debris that accumulates over the winter. I especially wanted to clear an area that holds a large patch of starflowers that I want to grow and bloom free of twigs and branches fallen from overhanging trees.

Starflowers present a charming sight in May, as thin stalks rise from low-growing whorls of shiny leaves to produce little white to blush pink flowers that appear to float above the leaves like tiny woodland stars. The natural world is lovely.

May this be a weekend filled with gratitude, and a recognition that deliverance and redemption are ongoing.


Earth Day celebration. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is hosting Earth Day in the Gardens on Monday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meet and interact with Earth-minded community groups and green businesses. Admission is free and includes access to inspiring demonstration gardens, master gardeners, and interactive children’s activities. At 11 a.m. there will be a presentation on Creating Frog-Friendly Spaces in your Backyard or Garden. A talk at 1 p.m. is on Pollinators and the Importance of Habitat and Native Plants hcp.ca.

Orchid meeting. The public is invited to the Victoria Orchid Society’s Orchid Auction on Monday in Gordon Head United Church Hall, 4201 Tyndall Ave. The plants may be observed beginning at 7 p.m., with the bidding starting soon after 7:30. This is an opportunity to select from a wide range of orchids not available locally. Photos will be projected on a screen for plants not currently in bloom at sale time.

Abkhazi Garden volunteering. Abkhazi Garden, 1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, is seeking volunteers for gardening and greeting visitors for three hours a week. Plant knowledge is not essential, but enthusiasm for beautiful gardens is an asset. Contact admin@conservancy.bc.ca or 250-479-8053.

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