Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: What to put in a downsized plot

I often wonder what it would be like to part from my big, bountiful garden and the large family house I no longer need, to embark on the adventure of creating a new, compact garden around a tiny home. I’m not alone. Downsizing is a common theme among friends, relatives and neighbours.

It’s a daunting prospect. Still, tucking creative little garden scenes away in a mind’s corner, to be wheeled out for embellishment from time to time, is probably no bad thing.

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What plants in this garden would I duplicate in another landscape? Some are seed-grown. Others are no longer available and would have to be propagated. I haven’t seen Daphne retusa in any seed or plant catalogue for many years. The little shrubs form perfectly shaped mounds of exquisitely symmetrical leaf whorls. The pinkish white spring flowers have the delightful fragrance typical of daphnes.

If a new garden had dryish, shaded areas I’d fill them with Epimedium (barrenwort), one of the very few perennials that, once established, thrive and shine even in the shade of thirsty trees, The plants form a low, dense ground cover of ornamental foliage and produce tiny columbine-like flowers in spring.

I’d propagate a duplicate plant of Narrow Water, a compact climbing rose ideal for a small garden. Introduced in 1883, Narrow Water can be grown as a shrub or small climber. The large clusters of semi-double, pale pink flowers adorn the plant from late spring through to late autumn.

Another plant that I bought long ago from a now-defunct nursery is Hellyn’s Choice, a hardy fuchsia with slim, pink-tinged white flowers from spring through late fall. I’ve seen hummingbirds feeding in the plant at mid-November. I’ve not found this name, or a flower quite like it, in any fuchsia reference.

For its non-stop bloom, and beauty of form and fragrance, I’d plant another climbing Don Juan rose and grow it again as a pillar rose. This lovely red rose takes up practically no space trained against a post at a corner of a vegetable plot, where it grows with a companion vine — a Clematis viticella called Alba Luxurians.

The Viticellas are mainly small-flowered clematis vines that bloom from early summer into the fall. They are easy to grow and simple to prune, by cutting the stems down in February.

I’d have lilies in another garden, with low-growing, billowy perennials at their bases to keep the roots cool. Casa Blanca is a wonderful Oriental. Pink Perfection, Regale and African Queen are favourite, ultra-fragrant Trumpet lilies. I’d start a small strawberry patch with a few of my Totem plants. I love the rich flavour of this old variety. And I’d grow one or two plants of globe artichoke, an imposing ornamental edible.

My current two plants have been hugely productive of large heads again this year. I steam the heads tender. Then comes a festival. Dipping the scales into melted butter and lemon and stripping the succulent flesh away with the teeth is guaranteed to turn any meal into a feast, touched with a hint of decadence.


Peninsula meeting. The Peninsula Garden Club will meet on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. Michael Pierce from the Saturna Olive Consortium will share his expertise on growing olives. Drop-in fee $5.

Floral art. The Victoria Floral Artists Guild will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Deborah Donahue will describe activities at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, including the August Art and Music in the Park event. $5 guest fee.

Brian Minter in Qualicum. The Nanoose Garden Club and Qualicum Beach Garden Club are presenting radio host and nursery owner Brian Minter, who will speak about the Changing Dynamic of Gardens, on Tuesday 1 to 3 p.m. in the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Non-members $10.

Nanaimo meeting. The Nanaimo Horticultural Society will meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in First Unitarian Fellowship Hall, 595 Townsite Rd. Leslie Cox will present Perennials with Personality. Details at 250-758-6783.

Water garden tour. The 12th Annual Water Garden Tour of Victoria gardens will be hosted by For the Love of Africa Society on July 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets ($25) at watergardentour.ca.

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