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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Don't move cactus once buds appear

Sudden changes in temperature, or in light and soil moisture levels, can also instigate or compound the shedding of some flower buds.

Dear Helen: Every autumn my “crab claw” (Thanksgiving) cactus plants develop a load of flower buds. As the first ones are opening, I move the plants from their regular location at a bathroom window to display areas in the dining and living rooms, which are kept coolish even in winter. My problem: Behind almost every main flower bud there are one or two secondary buds. Every year, as the main flower fades, the secondary buds shrivel and drop off. Why do these secondary buds dry up?

S.L.

It is not unusual for plants that form an excessive number of flower buds to shed some of them.

Sudden changes in temperature, or in light and soil moisture levels, can also instigate or compound the shedding of some flower buds. For the best possible bloom season from a holiday cactus, once buds appear on a plant it is best not to move it.

Where it is possible, setting the plants outdoors in filtered light for the summer and beginning to reduce watering around mid-August both help to harden the stems in preparation for bud set.

Dear Helen: A garlic farmer I recently heard interviewed on the radio, and other growers I have spoken with, all describe Red Russian as the very best and reliable variety of garlic to grow. Is this the one you prefer?

B.T.

For most of my garlic growing years I planted both Red Russian and Music, one of the “Porcelain” varieties. When I began to see that the Music plants consistently grew taller and stronger, and the bulbs larger, than the Red Russian, I’ve been planting only Music in the past few years.

Red Russian is widely regarded as a standard of excellence in garlic. It is valued for its robust flavour. Music is prized for its large, easy-peeling cloves and moderately spicy taste.

Every garden has its own individual set of growing conditions. It is always wise, when possible, to try more than one variety of a desired vegetable, herb or flower to see which ones grow and produce most satisfactorily in your particular micro-climate and soil conditions..

Dear Helen: I have just lost my garden helper of over 20 years and am now curious about your recent column describing how you went about finding replacement help. You mention “asking around.” Where? I have no idea where to begin such a search. I need someone to help digging holes, setting up and putting away garden furniture, pruning tall plum trees and so on.

E.C.

Here are some useful ways to acquire good garden helpers:

— Ask neighbours and gardening friends. That’s how I found one of my wondefrful women helpers. She was a friend’s gardener who found a space in her busy schedule to garden with me for three hours every two weeks.

— Local garden clubs.

— Favourite local garden centres. That’s how I first found help with some of the more physically challenging work around the garden. When that person retired, his son (equally pleasant and talented at his work) replaced him. The son’s young partner became another of the women who work with me in the garden.

It seems that, once you find someone who turns out to be the kind of help you want, that help leads to more possibilities.

GARDEN EVENTS

Abkhazi Garden festive sales. Abkhazi Garden,1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, will be selling festive planters, swags, decorative table centres, culinary wreaths, culinary table centres and more beginning Saturday, Dec. 2, until Sunday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. by the front gate. New this year are bonsai kits, bird seed cake kits, flower presses and hand carved wooden bowls by a local artist. Proceeds will be used to maintain the garden and preserve the legacy of Peggy and Nicolas Abkhazo.

Rock gardening demonstration. The Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society (VIRAGS) is currently renovating the rock and alpine garden, created by the society, in Beacon Hill Park. They are inviting the public to observe and learn about the process of creating “crevice” gardens on Saturday, Dec. 2, starting at 10 a.m. Learn about preparing a perfect home for plants in rocky places. At planting time in the spring, the society will hold another demonstration in celebration of this little gem of a garden.

hchesnut@bcsupernet.com