Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: September sparks joy of new beginnings

September has, in the main, lived up so far to its potential as a splendid turn-of-season month. The sweetness of the morning air, the mainly bright, sunny days, comfortable yet refreshing temperatures, the splendour of the harvest bounty — What’s not to like?

This time in the year always arouses in me a pronounced sense of new beginnings, marked by a compulsive urge to tidy, sort, and reduce to manageable dimensions all things indoors and out in the garden.

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I take enormous satisfaction, as the summer season comes to an end, in tidying plots, removing old, spent growth, digging up and composting any plants that have become beyond annoying, and preparing to treat flower or vegetable plots that have been emptied with either a cold season green manure (cover crop) seeding or a cover of leaves for the winter.After assessing the summer’s vegetable garden and noting what has done well where, I’ve already made a sketch indicating the placement next year of each main group of vegetables — the peas, tomatoes, onions, squash, sweet potatoes, and the carrot and beet bed. The garlic plot is already marked out and prepared for planting next weekend or soon after.

Sweet repose. In an ongoing effort to simplify the garden and its care, I’ve eliminated some small beds that demand an unwarranted degree of maintenance. One such bed, however, I’ve kept and even upgraded this year. It’s a small, semicircular area located against the south side of the garden shed.

Two Hybrid Musk rose bushes grow there, backed by a compact climbing rose on a trellis. In the spring, when I reshaped the bed to widen the path beside it, I edged its curved border with young ‘Provence’ lavender plants. Brushing against the lavender in passing by releases the plants’ wonderful fragrance.

In reshaping the bed I curved it sharply at one end to create a free space that I covered in cardboard and newspaper, topped by wood shavings. In the newly created little spot I set a chair and a small, round table. This was to be a place of quiet repose, where I could sit and do odd little jobs like trimming the harvested onion and garlic bulbs, or just plain sit and enjoy the view of the garden in the dappled shade of a kiwi vine.

Beside the chair grows a tall, elegantly vase-shaped Leycesteria (Himalayan honeysuckle) plant. This year, inspired by the heliotrope in municipal planters where I live, I bought a few of the plants to grow for the summer in front of the Leycesteria and right beside the chair.

The intense waves of fragrance emanating from those heliotrope plants have been a summer-long delight. It had been a while since I’d grown this annual flower. It was good to be reminded of the flowers’ wonderful honey-vanilla scent.

The variety that proved the most robust, flower-filled and strongly scented was the broadly bushy ‘Fragrant Delight.’ Next spring, I’ll be shopping for more of the plants to fill the space between the lavenders and the roses. The bed’s flowers and perfumes should be a powerful inducement to stop a while in the midst of gardening projects, just to sit and bask in sweet repose.

Heliotrope, also called “cherry pie” in a possible allusion to its scent, was a favourite flower in Victorian times. it was introduced to Britain in the mid-1700s. Most varieties grow around 30 centimetres high and bear broad, deep purple to violet flower clusters all summer.

For optimum, up-close appreciation of heliotrope’s beauty and fragrance, the plants are best placed at or near bed edges or in containers on decks, patios and balconies.

In the language of flowers, heliotrope signifies faithfulness and devotion.


Rose meeting. Mid Island Rose Society meets Monday, 6 to 8 p.m. in the North Nanaimo Library, 6250 Hammond Bay Rd.

Comox Valley meeting. Comox Valley Horticultural Society meets Monday, 7:30 p.m. in the Florence Filberg Centre, 411 Anderton Ave. in Courtenay. Roger Griffiths will present a slide show on the Chanel Islands and the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. The evening will also include the society’s annual display of members’ garden produce. Doors open at 6:30 to allow for time to chat with Master Gardeners and check out library books.

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