Tips from the Gardens

Linda Petite

Hi Everyone, my name is Linda Petite and I have been Head Gardener since 2013. I knew when I first came here to volunteer in 2010 that the HCP was a special place that I wanted to be part of! I have always loved plants and decided to pursue horticulture after high school, taking a 2 year program in Plant Science at the NSAC in Truro, NS. I worked in a family run nursery and landscape company for many years where I learned about and shared the love of plants with colleagues and the public.

When I found out it was up for sale, I decided to head west to see what opportunities were out there and as they say, the rest is history.

We decided to offer a Q and A section on our new website. I get a lot of emails and of course many of them are questions asking when can I….

Garden Tips From Linda by Barbara Pack

As I write this, snow and cold temperatures are forecasted for the coming week. I hope by now that you have prepared your garden for the wet and cold winter ahead! The long range forecast is for a come-and-go winter, with periods of mild weather and extended periods of colder than normal temperatures (another La Nina pattern).
Bring your tender potted plants indoors (garage or shed) for the duration of the cold snap. If you can't move the pots indoors, tuck them up close to the house out of the cold winds and cover them with a frost blanket or cloche. Plants in the ground that are ‘borderline hardy', need a good layer of mulch to protect the roots and a frost blanket or cloche as well. A layer of snow actually helps insulate plants, dry cold is the biggest threat!
We haven't had much rain(January stats say drier than normal) so water your potted plants to give them added resilience to cold temperatures. Damp soil is a better insulator than dry soil. Heavy snow and ice can cause branches to break or splay open, to prevent this tie the branches together with twine. Brush off heavy snow to minimize breakage.
We should be grateful that the cold snaps we get throughout the winter don't last too long. Victoria has the mildest climate in Canada.
This is the time to peruse the 2023 seed catalogues that offer exciting new varieties of flowers and vegetables. When the endless weeks of cloudy weather get you down, take a look at the catalogues again for inspiration and ideas on what to grow this year. Before you know it, we will be digging in the soil again!

Yes,we propagate Ficus carica 'The Empress'.

Planted next to the Library/ Cottage is a beautiful piece of Victoria history. In 1914 a Ficus carica , or common fig, was planted at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. In 1981 this tree was designated a ‘heritage plant' as it had become the largest fig tree in Canada and had an impressive fruit crop. In 1986 the ‘Empress Fig' was dug up and moved to the Gardens at HCP to make way for the construction of the Victoria Convention Centre. While the transplant was successful, the tree did begin to decline. Cuttings were taken and one has grown into a magnificent specimen next to our Library.
The Gardens at HCP has now been successfully propagating from the second-generation Empress Fig for several years. Every year cuttings are taken in the spring, given 3-6 weeks to root and then are potted. Most cuttings are successful as long as they don't dry out. Each plant comes with a copy of the original heritage certificate, all you need is a well drained site with full-sun and one day you should be able to grow your own massive fig tree with a bumper crop of fruit.

Here are some tips to help you water your garden effectively:

  • Irrigate close to the ground(soaker hose)to reduce evaporation and water loss to wind.
  • Water in the morning before heat from the sun begins to evaporate the water.
  • Add a good layer of mulch(3-4inches) to your beds-it holds the moisture, cools the plants roots and suppresses weeds.
  • Collect rain water and re-purpose used kitchen water instead of letting it go down the drain.
  • During prolonged drought, let your lawn go dormant and turn brown-not to worry - it will green up again when the rainfall and cooler temperatures return.
  • Remember that container plants dry out faster than those in the ground-check them twice a day in extreme heat and my best advice is to practice longer, infrequent waterings to encourage healthy deep-rooted plants.

Yes, all parts of Nasturtiums are edible-the leaves and stems have a peppery taste ,the flowers create a lovely garnish and the seed pods can be used as a caper substitute. They thrive in poor soil, self-seed everywhere and act as a trap crop for aphids. I always plant them throughout my veggie garden.

Now-about a week before crops begin to bloom and make sure the nest box is clean. As the sun warms the nest,the mason bees begin to emerge. It can take hours or several days.
Our native bee, Osmia lignaria,is commonly called the Mason Bee or Blue Orchard Bee. The Mason bee is a small solitary bee which lives in thin reeds or holes left behind by other insects. They are typically non-stinging, do not produce honey, do not have a queen or live in a hive or swarm, making them easy and fun to watch.
The mason bee emerges in the Spring when daytime temperatures rise to 10C consistently. This coincides with fruit tree bloom.
Mason bees are amazing pollinators, generally pollinating about 95% of the flowers they visit. Installing a solitary bee nest will provide a safe environment for them to lay their eggs. One nest has the potential to yield 100 new bees.

Yes it is best practice to always water in new plantings. A water soluble fertilizer can be used as well, like 10-52-10 which is high in phosphorous and helps promote root development.

As long as your soil is dry enough to handle, you can direct seed peas, brassicas, lettuce, mustard greens, turnip and radish. Plant potatoes and onion sets as well.