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Helen Chesnut: Thanks for rain, and a dear departed gardening friend

May fall and winter rains be gentle but regular

So much to be thankful for:

Rain. Like many gardeners, I was almost giddy with delight over the significant amounts of rain that arrived, finally, last week. The ground is deeply dry. May fall and winter rains be gentle but regular.

Food garden. I’ve never lost the feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving at gathering zucchini, cabbage, lettuce or potatoes for a meal. How fortunate to have fresh, nourishing food mere steps away.

A son besotted with growing things, like his mother. Most of my house plants are cuttings grown from his collection of over 100 plants in his small studio apartment. He often sends me photos of the community garden plots in his apartment complex. The latest shows a small bee “snuggling” an echinacea bloom.

Readers of this column are ever generous with observations from their gardens, new topics for me to explore, and questions that often send me happily scrambling for answers. Thank you.

Hard lessons. In recent years Mother Nature has inspired useful changes in gardening practices to adapt to rising heat levels and extended periods of drought. Gearing up for the 2024 growing season in my garden will include having adequate supplies of shade cloth and root-cooling mulch materials on hand in the spring.

Companion gardening. Almost 30 years ago, a woman appeared at my door and introduced herself as Happy Boughen. She had come to tell me about a wonderful woman in our neighbourhood who helped her and others in their gardens. She gave me the name and contact.

When I called, Daphne’s husband Dennis said she would pop over to see me. When I began to give directions to the house, he interjected: “She knows where you live, Helen.”

Of course she did. During our friendship of three decades, I came to know Daphne as a walking encyclopedia of local people — and beyond. Going with Daphne to the Denman Island Home and Garden Tour last year was like accompanying visiting royalty as people greeted her with glee. Her friendships were legion, her multi-generational family a large one.

One day, shortly after Happy died, Daphne brought me an immense, sprawling hoya that Happy wanted me to have. I rooted cuttings from that plant and distributed them. One went to Daphne. My plant remains at a kitchen window in my home. Happy’s Hoya.

Daphne gardened with me for 27 years before she retired from her “Companion Gardening” work two years ago. Following “retirement” Daphne immersed herself in lending a capable helping hand wherever she saw friends and family could benefit from it. She became so fully occupied with these supportive projects that she commented this summer that ” I don’t know how I ever found time to work.”

Husband Dennis the builder, Daphne the gardener, equals in empathetic generosity, have been a “dream team” of skilled assistance wherever they saw a need.

In late August, Daphne died in a fall while hiking. In one random, dreadful moment, that strong, vibrant body and generous, loving presence was stilled, forever.

Daphne had always expressed a desire to have her celebration of life in a garden, but the weather had become uncertain and the family knew large numbers of people would be attending. The local Civic Centre’s main space used for concerts was booked. Friends and family brought masses of flowers and foliage to create “Daphne’s garden” where hundreds of sorrowing people came to remember and honour her and a full life, well lived.

Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden.

I will meet you there.

- Rumi

Next week: I’ll be taking a break from writing next week’s columns. May this Thanksgiving be filled with warm companionship and fine, home-grown foods. I’ll be back answering your questions on Wednesday, Oct. 18.


Garden art. Abkhazi Garden, 1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, invites the public to the last day of artwork on display in the tearoom on Monday, Oct. 9 (Thanksgiving Day) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the QB Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. This will be the second to last meeting of the year.

Floral arts. The Mid Island Floral Art Club will meet on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 2 p.m. in St. Stephen’s church hall, 150 Village Way in Qualicum Beach. The teaching session will explore the “Hogarth Curve in Floral Design”. Further information at