Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Pruning advice yields gift of prawns in ‘exchange economy’

Early last autumn, I felt very fortunate as I ambled through the impressive selection of spring-flowering bulbs at a garden centre close to my home. A considerable number of them were marked as new releases on the retail market.

I bought three Triumph tulip varieties and a few of the little bulbs for popping into the planting mix among pansies and violas in four planters that spend the winter and most of the following spring on the patio.

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Among these small bulbs, I chose favourites: Pink Giant, a Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) that produces sturdy little bouquets of waxy, pink flowers, and Katherine Hodgkin, a beautifully veined blue, white and yellow dwarf iris.

To the purchases of miniature flower bulbs I added Arctic Bells, a new bulbicodium (hoop-petticoat daffodil) type of narcissus with exquisite flowers like tiny open umbrellas in a creamy shade of ivory. I planted the little bulbs with a colour mix of Fizzle Sizzle pansies, their fancy flowers presenting a nice foil for the simple elegance of Arctic Bells.

Friendly exchanges. For many of us, it’s about much more than gardening. Time in the garden is about solace, healing and staying sane.

And companionship. I can’t even remember when I last socialized inside the house with friends, but there have been plenty of visits in the garden — outdoors, the safest place to be.

One sunny gardening afternoon last week, I heard a neighbour calling to me from the corner of the house. She’d come by to visit, exchange neighbourhood news, and ask a few questions about her current gardening projects.

Tanya bore a gift — a container of prawns her partner had harvested from the pristine waters of the Central Coast. The prawns had been prepared in a coconut curry sauce. Lucky me.

We talked as I trimmed a honeysuckle, and when she left I accompanied her home to see a new bed she was making to house a fruit garden. She had questions on the pruning of her young apple trees.

That evening, a friend called from Duncan. On hearing about the visit with Tanya, Heather suggested I was delving into the “exchange economy.” But don’t gardeners do that all the time? A neighbour comes to my rescue with a computer problem. I take him an apple-ginger custard pie.

Perhaps you have extra seeds of a plant I’d like to grow. Here’s a rooted section of a perennial you’ve admired in my garden. Thanks for your help in the garden; pick a bagful of young kale shoots to take home.

This month, as we plant seeds and divide overgrown clumping perennials, opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges will arise. Consider also helping out friends and neighbours who are struggling as they embark on food gardening. Who knows? They might just bring you something delicious to eat.

Next week. I’ll be taking a break from writing next week’s columns. I’ll be back on Wednesday, April 21.

Gardening in pots. Next in the Peninsula Garden Club speaker series is Jennifer Lasko presenting “Creating a Garden in Pots” on Monday, April 12, at 7 p.m. on Zoom. New members are welcome. Membership is required to access a link to the presentation. Check out the club’s list of speakers and how to become a member at peninsulagardenclub.ca.

Plant sale. The Peninsula Garden Club is holding a spring plant sale on Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at three locations: 9313 Carnoustie Cresc. (off Bradley Dyne) in Ardmore; 10661 MacDonald Park Rd. in North Saanich; 9600 Third St. at Ocean Ave. in Sidney. Cash in small bills and change, and cheques, are welcome. Social distancing and masks are required.

HCP sale. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is holding its annual spring plant sale online, with online shopping and phone orders opening on Monday, April 19, at 9 a.m. Closer to the date, a plant availability list, together with ordering and pickup details, will be at hcp.ca.

Native plant presentation. The Hardy Plant Group will meet via Zoom on Tuesday, April 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Linda Cochran will present “Using Under-Appreciated but Showy Pacific Northwest Natives in the Garden.” Details for linking to the meeting will be emailed closer to the date. Non-members can view the presentation for a $5 drop-in fee. Contact thehardys@vichortsociety.org for payment information. For information on the group visit vichortsociety.org/hardy-plant-group.

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