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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Reborn into Eden, on a sunny Sunday in fall

On the gloriously sunny Sunday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I was back in the garden after a week dealing with a muscle-ache type of flu and another week indulging in a follow-up time of rest.

On the gloriously sunny Sunday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I was back in the garden after a week dealing with a muscle-ache type of flu and another week indulging in a follow-up time of rest.

The return was like emerging, reborn, into my own little Eden. The garden was full of birds. A few bees flitted in the bright yellow flowers of the Aspabroc mini-broccoli plants. Hummingbirds whirred in the last few Peaches and Cream honeysuckle flower clusters and in the flower-laden strawberry tree.

Billowing mounds of sweet alyssum still bloomed along plot edges, together with the bright green leaves and cheery flowers of nasturtium.

From a late July seeding I’d made along the base of wire fencing that in summer had supported the shelling peas, snow pea vines were laden with crisp, juicy pods. There were three varieties — the ever-bountiful Oregon Giant (West Coast Seeds), Dwarf Sugar from T&T Seeds, and Japanese Climbing snow peas from Salt Spring Seeds. The Japanese Climbing vines were the tallest and most vigorous. They still bear large, juicy pods and striking purple and pink flowers.

I harvested the last few cucumbers, and some small zucchinis, and found a little salad garden I’d transplanted in September was looking perky with lettuces and radicchio. I brushed away the cedar droppings that had fallen on the plot, lightly cultivated around the plants, and tucked floating row cover over the planting.

In the midst of the leafy green vegetables a dill plant had emerged to produce a mass of aromatic foliage on a short, bushy plant. That prolific little plant, a visitor in a bed of salad greens, was a reminder of a creamy dill dressing I used to make.

Since then, I’ve been snipping away at the plant for dill to mince into a blend of sour cream, fresh lemon juice and oil, with mashed or grated garlic, salt, hot sauce and Dijon mustard added to taste. For a perfectly smooth salad dressing, the mixture can be processed in a mini-processor or blender.

A muted thankfulness. The Jack Knox column on that same Thanksgiving Sunday captured the flavour of the holiday again this year. The light-hearted humour with a philosophical twist was perfect for the times and a reminder that, for all its challenges, life is good.

For those of us whose gardens are an essential element of living and an echo of sorts of life’s general joys and woes, the Kat Savage quotation at the end of the Knox column will have hit a chord: “Life is simply a mix of mayhem and magnolias, so embrace this gentle riot and gather flowers along the way.”

In this time of lamentable division, among friends and within families, it is helpful to embrace an acceptance, with as much grace as possible, of things that one cannot change. Thoughts of a beloved estranged family member turn me automatically to a quote from the poet Rumi. I came across it in The Gift of Rain, a beautiful, haunting novel by Tan Twan Eng: “Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.”

Abkhazi Garden hours. Abkhazi Garden, 1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, is open five days a week, from Wednesday to Sunday, for the fall and winter. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last entrance at 3:30. To avoid disappointment, reservations are recommended for the teahouse. 778-265-6466.

Gordon Head meeting. The Gordon Head Garden Club will met via Zoom on Monday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. Amy Sanderson from Stellata Plants will speak about Expanding the Mediterranean Plant Palette. For Zoom link information, contact Though membership in the club is encouraged, there is no charge for non-members and visitors.

Harvest festival. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is hosting its Annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Families are invited to come and explore the gardens, plant a bulb, make a bird feeder, take a walk to learn about fall bird migration, and explore the facts about bats. Fee is $25 per group. Details and registration at, or register by phone: 250-479-6162. HCP is open during the fall and winter from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday.