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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Son's visit allows for a step back in time

We picked peas and, as we did when he was a boy, we sat on the back lawn and shelled them

The civic holiday long weekend that ushered in the month of August was the best ever as my son came home for a few days. The visit was an idyllic combination of beach time, good eating, garden work and household projects. We indulged in strawberry shortcake for breakfast, with homemade scones and a minimally sweetened strawberry sauce I’d made with the last berry picking.

It was a nostalgic step back in time. We swam at the same beaches of his childhood swimming and exploring. We stacked wood and covered a length of pathway with newspaper and wood shavings. We picked peas and, as we did when Chris was a boy, we sat on the back lawn and shelled them.

Tea time. A highlight of the weekend was tea with new friends on the Saturday afternoon. The friends were keen to see through the garden. After the tour, the four of us enjoyed tea and cheesecake on the lawn.

Almost all the desserts I make use garden fruits — fresh, frozen, and stored. They are mainly prune plums, apples, blueberries, kiwis and figs. This allows me to indulge in desserts (and jams) that have little or no added sugar.

For this occasion, I made a simple blueberry cheesecake, making the crust and the blueberry topping ahead of time and refrigerating them until cheesecake assembly time. For this one, I chose to make a shortbread-type crust.

Blueberry cheesecake


1 cup flour

1 Tbsp icing sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened but not melted

Combine and press into a nine-inch pie plate. Chill before baking at 350 F for 12 minutes.


1 250g package cream cheese

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

Beat together until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.


Blueberries, in a little water and lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick, added once the berries have begun to bubble

Sugar or honey to taste

Cook, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick and thicken to desired consistency with corn starch dissolved in a small amount of cold water. Spread over cooled cheesecake. Use leftovers as jam.

The cheesecake seemed to please everyone. Because it was minimally sweetened, one of the visitors who rarely eats anything sweet found it entirely to her taste.

Garden wildlife. Sunday morning brought entertainment in the form of a cute, wee bunny hopping about the front garden. My son spotted the creature, but hesitated to inform me of its presence. He presumed I’d be upset. Rabbits are not considered good news for gardens.

I’d seen the rabbit a few times, on the back lawn as well as in the front garden. I’d not noticed much damage. A few new shoots of a summer-flowering clematis had been chomped down, but enough were left to form a blooming bower at an edge of a vegetable plot.

The worst harm was to two perennial plants I’d been sent to trial in my garden. Soon after they’d been transplanted, they were eaten. The plants are slowly regrowing, in pots for now, but that’s a big disappointment.

It has been a big bunny summer around my small town. The creatures are a constant presence on the lawns and sidewalks of the town. Right after the weekend, I watched a black and white rabbit sitting at the main corner of the town, hopping onto an adjacent municipal garden bed to nibble on some of the small shrubs before proceeding along the sidewalk.

None of the lettuce or other vegetable transplants were eaten in the spring, but the last batch of flower transplants, made early last month, were nibbled. I’m about to set out more lettuce plants, which I’ll probably protect with pieces of chicken wire, at least temporarily.


Secateur sharpening. Russell Nursery, 1370 Wain Rd. in North Saanich, is offering a workshop on sharpening secateurs (hand pruners), with Brian Russell, on Friday, Aug. 19, at 10:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Dull secateurs are dreadful to use. Learn how to take them apart, clean, sharpen and put them back together. Bring your secateurs with you for this hands-on workshop. In honour of Russell Nursery’s 30th anniversary, the workshop is free, but register for a place by phoning 250-656-0384 or email