Gardens in Bloom 2016: Select Photographs

The CVHS is pleased to present select photographs of nine of the ten gardens on the Gardens in Bloom 2016 Tour (the green link below each will open the pictures in a new window).

Garden One

This large rural garden frames a stunning view of Georgia Strait and the Coastal Mountains. An amazing variety of evergreen trees and shrubs was selected to meet the challenges of coastal exposure to weather and the daily presence of deer. A lovely variegated holly at the entrance hints at the clever combinations of textures, shapes and tones of colour seen throughout the garden in a predominantly green setting. Pieris varieties, perennials and flowering shrubs add colour and contrast. Sloping beds are supported by large rocks complementing the scale of this garden.

Garden One

Garden Two

This diverse and established garden has a unique variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. It is a great garden in which to wander. Pause to enjoy a waterfall and pond with fish, water plants and a real dock. Stroll past the multiple raised vegetable beds and fruit trees. Don’t miss the abundance of interesting plants from creepers to climbers along the paths towards the house. Once in the backyard, enjoy the woodland garden with a view of the distant mountains and the recently transplanted climbing roses and clematis on the fence below.

Garden Two

Garden Three

This garden was professionally designed and planted to replace a lawn and to create a wheelchair accessible, low maintenance front yard. Ground covers, grasses, variegated yuccas and small evergreen shrubs, such as boxwood, intermingle with rocks and dry riverbeds. The center of the garden features a beautiful witch hazel and a handsome specimen of sequoia. A nicely sculpted California lilac defines the property’s edge, while a rose covered trellis borders the path to the front door.

Garden Three

Garden Four

This large oceanfront property is like a private park. Extensive lawns flow down toward the house bordered by large mixed beds. Closer to the house an impressive waterfall cascades over rocks and through an Asian-inspired garden area. On the ocean/pool side of the house additional beds are filled with mass plantings of shrubs, annuals and perennials. Of particular botanical interest in this garden is the diverse and extensive use of deciduous trees, which provide shade, privacy and beauty in this lovely setting.

Garden Four

Garden Five

The owner of this unique city garden describes herself as “a girl on a small lot with the heart of a farmer.” This hidden gem provides food all year. Every inch is filled with vegetables, perennials, climbers, fruit, and especially an amazing variety of owner-grafted apples; don’t miss the Belgian fence. Room was even made for a greenhouse to complement the continuous food production. This gardener’s passion carries well beyond the bounds of her fence with a variety of shrubs, trees and native plants on the street side.

Garden Five

Garden Seven

This lush, densely-planted garden is small in size, but large in impact. It’s a plant lover’s garden full of unusual varieties, displayed in well-balanced garden beds. While walking through this garden you will be surrounded by trees, shrubs, climbers and woodland plants crowding to the very edge of the path. The crevice garden is an amazing part of this horticultural gem created with great knowledge and care. Whimsical pottery characters hide among the plants. Tread very carefully among the delicate plants popping up along the garden paths and enjoy the journey.

Garden Seven

Garden Eight

This charming small city garden offers lawn-free beds in the front and an intimate outdoor living space in the back. The shady canopy of a large cedar tree under-planted with shrubs, perennials and grasses invites you in from the street. Plantings in the sunny backyard surround a unique patio imprinted with fern leaves and cedar. Clematis varieties creep up the fence. Pots with shrubs and annuals add interest and colour. Don’t miss the back lane garden, a surprising use of an often overlooked space featuring a pretty weeping maple and a tiny path.

Garden Eight

Garden Nine

If you have ever wondered how much food it is possible to grow in a city garden while including beautiful trees, shrubs and perennials, this is a garden you will want to see. Raised beds packed with amazing varieties of vegetables and tomatoes abound. Here you can learn all about seed saving, companion planting, the art of food production and efficient use of garden space. Flower beds full of perennials, flowering shrubs and small trees complement the raised beds both in the front and the back yards.

Garden Nine

Garden Ten

A labor of love, this front garden is one of a kind. Roses, roses, roses! Here you can admire over 100 roses, including ramblers and climbers. Also of interest is the amazing structure of owner-designed stone walls used to create walk ways and garden beds. Don’t miss the large sculpted smoke tree bordering the driveway.

Garden Ten



February 20, 2017: Donna Balzar “No Space? No Problem!”

6:45 p.m.       Doors open
7:30 p.m.       Announcements
~ 7:45 p.m.    Guest Speaker presentation
~ 9:00 p.m.    Meeting wraps up after Question period with our Guest Speaker

Our very special guest speaker Monday Feb. 20 features Donna Balzer, award winning HGTV host of Bugs & Blooms, a regular CBC radio guest in Alberta and a home gardener who says she makes mistakes so you don’t have to. Donna will speak to us on maximizing space in smaller gardens, by creatively cultivating  in vertical gardens. You can grow more food more efficiently, and multiply your yields faster than breeding bunnies! Donna is also the co-author of the popular, NO GUFF Vegetable Gardening,  with Steven Biggs. Their “she-says, he- says” banter shows there is more than one way to slice a tomato and turns growing gardens into a really fun process. Their gardening journey started out in Montreal, spending some quality time in Alberta and Qualicum Beach.  With Donna’s 30 years of horticultural experience, her tips,techniques and hand outs will make this evening a “can’t miss” event. Donna is currently writing the Gardener’s Gratitude Journal, and Under Cover:Grow Food Faster, and is a contributor to Groundbreaking Food Gardens by Nikki Jabbour. Donna will have copies of her book available for $25 cash, or $27 (including GST) if paying by credit card.

The doors at the Courtenay Filberg open at 6:45 pm, with our Guest Speaker starting around 7:45pm. Come early to fill out your $20 annual membership form (family $30) and join us to reap the many, many benefits of being a Comox Valley Horticultural Society member. Guests are welcome for a $5 charge.

January 16, 2017: Gordon Mackay, “Pruning Trees and Shrubs: the how, when and …WHY! “

6:30 p.m.    Doors open
7:30 p.m.    Announcements and Business
8:00 p.m.    Guest Speaker presentation
9:00 p.m.    Meeting wraps up after Guest Speaker question period

On Monday January 16, Comox Valley Horticultural Society welcomes Gordon Mackay, from Alba Plants in Cowichan Bay, with his very timely topic of Pruning Trees and Shrubs: the how, when and …WHY! Mackay will speak on pruning techniques, covering do’s and don’ts, with special reference to fruit trees, and summer and winter tasks. Gordon’s passion for all things green began in Glasgow, studying at the Threave School of Gardening, where he was mentored by Magnus Ramsay and achieved the top student award for plant identification. In 1994 he was invited to Vancouver Island to establish a specialty plant nursery, Alba Plants, and decided this was the place to be. He is a certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture, and instructor at the Horticultural Centre for the Pacific in Victoria.

Our doors at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay open at 6:30 p.m.

Powdery Mildew

A fungal disease which is found throughout North America, powdery mildew is easily recognizable by its white or greyish, talcum powder-like circles appearing on leaves, flowers and fruits of various vegetables, fruits, perennials and shrubs. The list includes roses, lilacs, dahlias, begonias, delphiniums, phlox, monarda (bee balm), euphorbias (spurge), catalpa (bean tree), zinnias…as well as squash, cucumbers, beans, peas, melons, apples, pears, strawberries, gooseberries, and grapes.

Zucchini ‘Dark Star’ with powdery mildew

Leaves covered by powdery mildew cannot manufacture enough food which can impact on plant growth and fruit development, depending on the rate of infection. But rarely does the mildew kill the plant. It just looks horrible.

There are a number of different fungi species responsible for powdery mildew. Some are species specific, others will attack a wider range of plant varieties. In regions of high humidity and moderate temperatures, the fungi produce mycelium and spores on the surface of affected foliage. The spores are then carried by wind currents to other plants.

Strangely enough, it is the wind which will reduce the risk of fungal infection. Providing adequate spacing between plants will increase air circulation and decrease the moisture retention on the leaves. Opening up shaded areas to more sunlight will also help.

Autumn is another trying time of year for protecting our plants and crops from powdery mildew. A lot of fungi spores repose in the soil and come fall, the rains splashing up onto the plants will often carry a few spores with the droplets.

No matter the time of year, once a plant has been infected, the mycelium will continue to spread on the leaf surface regardless of the moisture conditions.

And there is no known cure for powdery mildew…only prevention and a modicum of control once it appears. Best line of defence is to remove the affected leaves as soon as you spot them. Always put the infected plant parts in the garbage. Never put them in the compost unless you have a very hot pile.

To prevent powdery mildew on susceptible plants, mix up either of the following recipes. Both are reasonably effective.

Recipe #1:

One part cow’s milk
Nine parts water

Combine ingredients in a sprayer, if you have a lot of plants to treat…or a spray bottle if treating just one or two. Will have to be repeated after each rainfall.


Recipe #2:

1 gal water
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp dish soap

Combine all ingredients, in order as listed, in a sprayer or spray bottle. Preferably apply this mixture on cloudy days with no threat of rain. Applying on sunny days risks sunburn on the leaves.

Will protect the plant longer because of the addition of vegetable oil and soap in this recipe. However, it must be reapplied after a few rainfalls, or an especially hard downpour.


Submitted by Leslie Cox
CVHS member and writer as the “Duchess of Dirt”

June 5, 2015 – Gardens of the Cowichan Valley

A wonderful day spent touring lovely gardens and a couple of nurseries. Many thanks to our two wonderful CVHS volunteers who organized this trip.

Destination: Gardens of the Cowichan Valley
Date: Friday, June 5, 2015
Time: TBA
Cost: $65.00

Oops! The bus is not quite full yet! Don’t delay! This is a day-long tour of private gardens in the Cowichan Valley. There are still a few seats left on the bus for this fun trip to the picturesque Cowichan Valley. (You must be a CVHS member.)

For more information and to book a seat on this tour, please refer to Page 6 in the April 2015 edition of the CVHS Newsletter.

Oct. 16, 2016 – Mushroom ID Walk

Mushroom ID Walk / Workshop with Kem Luther,
in conjunction with local expert, Alison Maingnon

Date:  Sunday October 16, 2016
Time: 2:00 to 4:30 pm
Cost: $15 per person

Enjoy a 1 ½ hour walk with Kem Luther and Alison Maingnon, searching for mushrooms along a local trail. After, we will regroup at an indoor central Courtenay location to warm up, examine any specimens we have collected, and ask Kem and/or Alison any questions.

Minimum number of participants: 10    Maximum: 15

To register, contact Joan Wynden, Program Chair at

** Payment must be made to complete your registration  **

 Once you have paid for your participation, your fee is non-refundable. However, if you cannot make the Mushroom ID Walk, you can transfer it to another current CVHS member.

Payment can be made in one of two ways:

1) Drop off cash or a cheque at 55 Rod & Gun Road, Courtenay, BC (Joan’s home)
2) Send an eTransfer to

You will receive an email confirmation your payment has been received and you are registered. This will also include details (including instructions/maps) of where we will meet at the trailhead and the indoor location we will gather after the walk.

Workshop will run rain or shine, so please dress accordingly.

For insurance reasons, this workshop is open to current CVHS members ONLY.


Uploaded on October 12, 2016

How to Freeze Fresh Basil Leaves

Remove basil leaves from stems. Immerse them in a cool water bath and swish to remove debris and any bugs that may have hitch-hiked inside.

Fill your salad spinner with washed leaves and gently spin dry. (Doing this in smaller batches will help to remove the water droplets better.) Lay leaves out on clean, dry towels to finish drying. You can speed this up by gently patting the leaves with another clean, dry towel.

Once leaves are completely dry, fill a small or medium freezer bag about three quarters full. (A non-zip freezer bag works best for this.)

Gather up the neck of the bag tightly in the circle between thumb and forefinger. With finger from other hand, make a small opening in the neck of the bag. Blow air into the bag until it is fully extended to its limits. Quickly squeeze the neck of the bag shut to trap the air inside, and tie the bag shut securely with a twist tie.

Label the bag with the date, and type of basil species if you prefer. Place in the freezer.

Note: Be sure to keep all of your frozen basil at the top of your chest freezer. Piling anything on top of them risks expulsion of air from the bags, thus damaging your basil supply.

Frozen basil leaves will keep for a year, or more…but best to use up this year’s supply and replenish your stock with fresh leaves you freeze for the following winter’s use. (But good to know it will keep, just in case you do have a crop failure next year. Heaven forbid!)

Oh…and when you go to use your frozen basil leaves…open the bag and remove the amount needed for your recipe. Immediately, blow air into the bag following the method noted above, and secure the bag shut once again. Place the bag back in the freezer right away before the remaining leaves thaw.


Article submitted by Leslie Cox
CVHS member and writer as the “Duchess of Dirt”

Dealing with Green Tomatoes

October and it is high time all those tomatoes were picked off the vines in the greenhouse, regardless if they are still green. Tomatoes need a constant overnight temperature of 15.5 °C for proper growth and ripening. Lower temps sustained for longer than a week will cause growth problems, such as splitting, and delay ripening.

Green tomatoes can still be rescued and ripened indoors for fresh eating through the winter. One of the best methods is to place them in a single layer in newspaper-lined beer flats and cover them with a couple of layers of newspaper to keep them in the dark. (Tomatoes can be stacked two to three layers high if you are using deeper boxes, as long as you keep the heavier tomatoes on the bottom, and cover each layer with newspaper. However, for ease of regular checking for ripe tomatoes, the beer flats really work much better. And they stack wonderfully if you place each flat crosswise to the previous flat.)

Place the flats of green tomatoes in an unheated basement, or somewhere where it is relatively cool. Some people use their 2nd fridge but the tomatoes should really be kept at a slightly warmer temp than 4 °C.

Be sure to check through all of the flats on a weekly basis for ripened fruits. Such a treat in the middle of winter. So full of flavour.


Article submitted by Leslie Cox
CVHS member and writer as the “Duchess of Dirt” 

October Garden Chores

A list of chores to do this month:

  • It’s apple season! Store your harvest at 0 °C to 7 °C (32 °F to 45 °F). Some varieties will keep longer than others, so regularly check they are not spoiling.
  • Make sure to dry your beans well before storing in a moisture-proof, airtight container for making those soups and chili dishes over the winter.
  • Make sure your onions are dry and wiped clean of all dirt. Store away from apples and potatoes where it is cool and dry. Again, some varieties are better keepers than others.
  • Root Crops. Clean your potatoes, carrots, beets, etc. of any soil. Store in a cool, dark place. If you clip the tops off of your carrots, beets, parsnips, etc., they will stay fresher longer. (Some people like to store their root crops in sand-filled tubs.)
  • Squash and pumpkins should be washed with a 10 % bleach solution and wiped dry thoroughly for storing. They should be stored at 10 °C to 15 °C (50 °F to 65 °F).
  • Time to dig up the tender plants for storing, such as dahlias, canna lilies, begonia tubers, etc.
  • Right time to plant the spring-flowering bulbs, if you did not get this done last month. Put markers of some sort where you have planted your bulbs and late-flowering perennials. That way you will not dig them up in your spring enthusiasm.
  • Still time to divide and move those overgrown perennials.
  • Get on with the Fall clean-up schedule in the garden. Cut back those herbaceous perennials which are dying back, such as hostas. Put any plant debris which is showing signs of serious disease such as botrytis in the garbage, or on the burn pile.
  • Those piles of falling leaves. They are a wonderful, protective mulch for any borderline hardy perennials you may have snuck into your landscape design. Leaves are also great for protecting soil erosion from winter rains.
  • Good time to start some Paperwhite bulbs indoors now.
  • If you have kept last year’s poinsettia, and stored it in a dark closet, now is the time to bring it out into the light so it will produce those lovely, colourful bracts at Christmas.
  • Check your climbing roses are securely tied to their trellis so as not to risk any broken branches during the winter storms.
  • Put your garden furniture under cover to ensure longer life.
  • And for goodness sakes! Plant that garlic now!


Article submitted by Leslie Cox
CVHS member and writer as the “Duchess of Dirt” 

Fall Plant Sale 2016

Thank you to everyone who attended our plant sale!
And many, many thanks to our wonderful CVHS volunteers
who made our sale possible!

Saturday, September 10, 2016
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Conference Hall, upstairs in the Florence Filberg Centre at 411 Anderton Ave, Courtenay.

With summer waning into fall, it is one of the very best times to make any necessary changes in your landscape design…and to add new plants! The days are cooling down little by little from the torrid heat we have experienced through the summer. Nights are cooler too. And hopefully, fall will bring some blessed rain. Assuredly winter can be counted on to provide enough rain to keep new plantings well hydrated as they establish themselves in their new environment.

So…with all this renewed growing energy just waiting to be utilized…be sure to attend the CVHS Fall Plant Sale to peruse the wide variety of plants available for sale. There will be a wide assortment of perennials, shrubs and some specialty plants available…and all at very, very reasonable prices.

Master Gardeners will be in attendance at our plant sale…ready and willing to answer any questions you may have about the plants, or gardening in general.

Be forewarned! Come early for the best selection. Our plant sales are very popular events. Bring a box!