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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: The garden is alive with the sound of honeybees

The familiar sound of bees at work again after an unseasonably cold start to spring was encouraging, an assurance that at least this element in the natural world was coming to rights.

It’s an oddly comforting sound, the subdued but persistent droning of bees. I hadn’t heard it much during the mainly cold, wet and windy spring weather, but late last month, as I walked by a back corner of the house, there it was.

I looked up into the raised bed beside me, in the direction of the gentle buzzing, into an attractively tiered Redvein Enkianthus, each wide-spreading branch laden with small, nodding white flowers with pink veins. The whole plant was alive with honeybees.

The familiar sound of bees at work again was encouraging, an assurance that at least this element in the natural world was coming to rights.

The next en masse bee activity I noticed in the garden was mainly bumble bees, in a broad expanse of bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum), a “grow-anywhere” plant that had managed to spread itself over a platform of rocks beside the back lawn. The solid ground cover of soft, aromatic leaves was flowering late last month, attracting and nourishing the bees.

Over the course of the spring, I’ve given away numerous pieces of this ground cover geranium to friends and helpers in the garden. Phoebe Noble, a local expert on hardy geraniums, was a great fan of this plant. Because it will grow in sun or shade, and in even the most challenging sites, suppressing weeds as it spreads, Phoebe’s maxim was: “When in doubt, plant G. macrorrhizum.”

Yes, it does spread, but it’s not invasive. The shallow-rooted plants pull up easily.

Another hard-working plant. Outdoor seedings made this spring were slow to germinate, and new growth was stalled by cold weather.

The calendula seeds I planted to edge two vegetable plots were no exception. Luckily, along other plot edges, I’d left last year’s plants and just trimmed away the woodiest stems. Those overwintered calendulas, even in this spring’s adverse conditions, provided patches of cheering colour to brighten the general gloom.

Calendulas, with their sunny colours and edible petals, are ideal for growing in vegetable gardens. These tough annuals often over-winter and have a long flowering season that, depending on the weather, can include almost every month of the year.


Teeny tour. Victoria Hospice is presenting a return of its Teeny Tiny Garden Tour on Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets at $25 are available at Capital Iron and GardenWorks outlets and at Heirloom Linens in Broadmead Village.

Nanaimo area tour. Altrusa, an international non-profit, is holding their Annual Garden Tour of six gardens in and around Nanaimo tomorrow (Sunday, June 12), 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour is a fundraiser to support women, children and literacy in Nanaimo. Tickets at $20 are at Green Thumb and Little Tree Nurseries, Turley’s Florist and K.C.’s Boutique.

Peninsula meeting. The Peninsula Garden Club will meet on Monday, June 13, 7 p.m. in the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. Ryan McLane and Bryan Bachor, succulent enthusiasts and owners of The Planted Garden, will talk about the different succulent varieties and how to care for and propagate them. The evening will include a parlour show, raffle, refreshments, and access to Master Gardeners. $5 guest admission. Covid protocols in place.

Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will meet on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the QB Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. A panel of gardening experts will answer members’ questions. Current Covid protocols in place. Doors open at 7.

Ukraine Fundraiser at Abkhazi Garden. Abkhazi Garden, 1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, will celebrate Canada’s National Garden Day next Saturday, June 18, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All donations received at the gate will go to the Canada Ukraine Foundation. A program of live classical music will be presented in the garden at 4:30 p.m. Abkhazi Garden is a site of war memory. Founders of the garden, Prince Nicolas and Princess Peggy Abkhazi, were both interned during the Second World War.

Rose information day. Members of the Mid Island Rose Society are holding an open garden and information day featuring old garden roses blooming in Huddlestone Park in Lantzville on Saturday, June 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. These roses are offspring of roses brought to Lantzville by miners, farmers and other pioneers in the early days of the community. The park is on the corner of Lantzville and Huddlestone Roads.