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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Cold April brings lengthy bloom for spring flowers

The daffodils have stayed in lovely flowering condition for longer than usual and a flowering plum (Prunus blireana), usually in bloom through March, seems to have been flowering forever.

Amid the horticultural wailing over a month of unseasonably cold temperatures and drenching rains, expressions of delight have emerged over the extended bloom periods of many spring flowers — thanks to the same cold, moist conditions.

The daffodils have stayed in lovely flowering condition for longer than usual, A flowering plum (Prunus blireana), usually in bloom through March, seems to have been flowering forever.

My largest camellia, near the back lawn and next to a path through the back garden, has been loaded with bloom for weeks, as have a seed-grown, single-flowered camellia and a Magnolia stellata, also grown from seed.

The large camellia is due for a significant pruning, post-bloom. I’d like to do a little judicial taming of its dimensions, for esthetic reasons and also to reduce my own work in caring for it. A smaller plant almost always requires less maintenance.

A compact rhododendron called Shamrock has billowed forth with a cover of pale lime green blossoms at the base of the large camellia. The poor little plant had come close to being smothered by the camellia before I removed the larger shrub’s lowest limbs and thinned out its stems.

The “see-through” garden. Over the past few years, with help, I’ve managed to re-shape other shrubs near the big camellia in the same way. They grow across the centre pathway, in a large bed beside a stretch of lawn next to the back house wall. They are mostly rhododendrons, with another camellia, and a few other shrubs.

Removal of the lowest growth, together with a little thinning, has allowed a light and airy look to replace the previous darker, more congested feeling to the space.

People I know who have not been to the garden for a while have expressed surprise at the difference and pleasure at being able to see through plantings to the far side of the back garden.

Most like the “new look” and every day I relish the clear view I have from the back of the house through to the entire lower half of the back garden. The upper half, at the end of a gentle slope, houses the vegetable plots and fruiting plants.

Horticultural rehabilitation. The weather delayed many plantings, but the amount of plot-tending I’ve been able to do while waiting for improved transplanting conditions has been rewarding. In this large garden, there are a few areas that have long required a serious horticultural intervention.

In an old perennial and shrub bed I’m slowly uncovering the campanulas, garden phlox, heliopsis and other plants amidst a sea of self-sown flowering onion seedlings and other weeds. As top growth begins to elongate in the perennials, I’ll be able to find suitable spaces for a few interesting new plants.


Cactus show and sale. The Victoria Cactus and Succulent Society will hold a Spring Show and Sale on Friday, May 6, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Church of the Advent, 510 Mt. View Ave. in Colwood.

Saturday, May 7 plant sales:

Compost Education Centre, 1216 North Park St., Victoria, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All organically grown plants.

View Royal Garden Club, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at View Royal Town Hall, 45 View Royal Ave. Cash only.

St. Michael and All Angels Women’s Guild Plants, Pots and More sale from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 4733 West Saanich Rd. in Royal Oak. Tomato plants, flowering pots and baskets, strawberry baskets, vegetables, annual and perennial flowers, garden-themed items.

Ladysmith Saltair Garden Club, starting at 9 a.m. at Ladysmith Aggie Hall, Symonds and 1st Ave. (at the roundabout) in Ladysmith. Annuals, perennials, shrubs, herbs, vegetable transplants, house plants, grown by members. Mother’s Day gift plantings, experienced garden equipment. Master Gardeners on site.

Conservatory tour. The Victoria Conservatory of Music Mother’s Day Musical Garden tour on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will feature 11 beautiful gardens. Two-day pass $40. Details of the tour and list of ticket sale outlets at

Mother’s Day Tea. Abkhazi Garden and Teahouse, 1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, is hosting a Mother’s Day Tea on Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8 with three sittings, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. By reservation only at 1-778-265-6466. Most of the garden’s rhododendrons will be in full bloom.