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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Camelia a testament to Nature's wonder

Viruses have been known to cause variations in flower colours. And sometimes, mutations in plants arise spontaneously due to unknown causes.

“What are those red flowers — the ones a little to the right?”

My friend Caron had arrived to help me clean the strawberry bed. But first, I led her onto the back lawn and to a bed or rhododendrons and one camellia, all under-carpetted with flowering wood anemones. One branch of the camellia, laden with light pink blooms, had bent over close to the ground, just above the blue anemones. It is a part of the garden that I take great pleasure in each spring.

Until Caron asked about them, I had not noticed the darker flowers on the far right side of the camellia. When I stepped up onto the bed, I took a close look at the cluster of dark pink, almost red, flowers amidst blooms in the light pink that, until this year, was the only shade of pink the flowers had displayed.

I checked immediately to see whether an “off” type of bloom could have somehow emerged from below a grafting point. It did not, and there were typical, pale blooms on other stems of the same branch as the dark blooms.

I did note that the dark flowers had developed in the shadiest patch of the bed. Cooler, more shaded conditions can cause more intense colouring in flowers. The colour change was not due to aging in the blooms. Even the newly opened flowers in the affected cluster were the darker shade.

Viruses have been known to cause variations in flower colours. Sometimes, mutations in plants, such as flower colour alterations, simply arise spontaneously in reaction to sometimes unknown causes.

My puzzling camellia is a useful reminder that Nature is boundlessly varied, and ever interesting.

Our mothers: Sacred ground. Garden centres and gift shops will be buzzing today with people looking for gifts to honour and represent their love for the mothers and mothering figures in their lives.

For a gardening mom, finding an ideal offering can be quick, and easy, as in a potted flowering plant for her deck, balcony or patio garden. Favourites for this purpose are Martha Washington (Regal) geranium, Rieger begonia, and Phalaenopsis orchids.

A book on a gardening topic of Mother’s particular interest, an essential tool currently missing from her collection of gardening aids, a gift certificate from her favourite garden centre, a garden-themed cook book, a collection of culinary herb transplants are more options.

For protection from sun and heat in the summer garden, a broad-brimmed hat and/or a roomy, lightweight cotton shirt with long sleeves would be helpful.

Food gardening has become a passion for many in recent years. I’m sure I’m not alone in taking extreme delight in every vegetable, berry and fruit I grow and also in discovering, each year, new ways of preparing them for meals.

If the mother in your life is keen on growing edibles, consider looking among the transplants for her best-loved vegetables for some interesting looking varieties. If her garden has limited space, look for compact varieties suitable for growing in containers.

For mothers with a keen sense of humour, look for a bit of whimsical decor for her open or container garden. You may find garden fairies, elves, birds or butterflies, ornamental solar lights, and small concrete animals. For container gardeners, a brightly ornamental pot would be welcome.

It is more than appropriate, in these challenging times and on this weekend, to acknowledge Nature, the mother upon whose health and abundance we depend for our existence. Some of us are blessed with a wee bit of Mother Earth under our temporary care. May that care be entirely benign, and contribute to enhancing her health. Our human mother, our Earth mother: Both sacred ground.


Rose meeting. The Mid Island Rose Society will meet on Monday, May 15, 1 to 3 p.m. in the North Island Library on Hammond Bay Rd. in Nanaimo.

Hardy plant group. The Hardy Plant Group of the Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. in Knox Presbyterian Church, 2964 Richmond Rd. Gail Willson will speak about her passion for peonies — perennials that are spectacularly beautiful, delightfully scented, and close to maintenance-free. All are welcome. Drop-in fee for visitors $5.

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