It’s been a long hard week at the greenhouse and the truth is I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. This is such a beautiful time of year to be working at the nursery. Fields of flowering cyclamen and primroses a plenty. My bosses took a small week-long hiatus and left me in control of their operation. While it wasn’t always easy I enjoyed the opportunity to play a bigger role in the business. It’s satisfying managing people and finding the right job for the right person. I’m always amazed what a good attitude will bring to the workplace, I drink a couple extra coffees and keep things positive. Sure I didn’t end up getting a long weekend like everyone else, but everything went smoothly and in that I’m satisfied. The experience gave me a better perspective on what it’s like to run a business of this size. I now understand why my boss has trouble sleeping during the busy season. Making sure every plant is watered, pest free and shipped when it’s in it’s perfect state is not for the faint of heart. It’s easy to judge your employers actions this way or that but take a moment in their shoes and you’ll see it’s a lot of work being on top. Managing staff, talking up clients and making the BIG DECISIONS can take a lot out of you. We all have our strengths and weaknesses but “the boss” is suppose to make it look like he has none. To keep people focused, to set a good example, and to put out the inevitable “house fires” that occur. On Monday they’ll have returned and I’ll go back to my humble life as the resident plant geek and order puller.
In other plant based news, have you stepped outside lately? Sure it’s been an average of 5-8 degrees Celsius lately but it’s stinking beautiful out there. Cold yes, lifeless not. All around you things are slowly springing to life, bulbs are setting buds and snowdrops are in mass. It’s truly a magical time of year. Sometimes I pretend I love summer the most but really there nothing better then the transition from winter to spring. If you had never visited my garden in the summer and looked at it now you’d barely recognize it. It’s like moving day or something, everything’s packed up and mostly hidden. From here on out starts the slow (but surprisingly fast) process of unpacking and expanding. My love of plants does not so much lie in their stationary aesthetic but the way they’re constantly changing, growing and impressing.
I worked 6 days at the nursery this week and you’d think that would be enough. Today we went to a couple plant stores, a stroll in the gardens at Government House and then some home gardening until it got dark. I was feeling a bit burnt out last autumn but I’m back in full force. I just can’t get enough of this stuff and feel very fortunate to have found something that makes me this happy.
Forget the Prozac, get in the garden. Spring has sprung at Government House.
Until next time…
All I’ve got to say is WOW.
A couple of days ago I decided to go for a walk at Government House to see what was in bloom. While the usual winter grimness was prevalent there was still a lot of things to see. Spent hygrangea blooms clung to naked branches, a larch in the corner loomed bear. Cyclamen leaves were tucked this way and that and the trees above were loaded with the most vibrant scarlet berries. A cotoneaster perhaps? I strolled on.
Just before leaving I turned around to look at the entrance of Government House when I noticed an explosion of yellow and lush green foliage. Mahonia x media, in full bloom, resembling slow motion fireworks. What a sight!
This intentional/accident hybrid, is a cross mix between M. lomariifolia and M. japonica. While M. lomariifolia is relatively tender, japonica is hardy well below -15 and passed it toughness onto it’s offspring. Here in Victoria it’s fool proof hardy and in time grows to staggering sizes. As seen in the photo above, Mahonia x media can grow upwards to 15ft once established.
Mahonia x media starts flowering late November and keeps going well into January. After the blooms are spent the bush is covered in interesting blue/grey berries then in spring sends out a red flush of new foliage. The foliage of course being equally as attractive as the blooms, is holly like but larger. As a potted specimen growth will be a tad slower, but the plant thrives non the less. Depending on how it’s looking mine gets moved throughout the garden and seems to enjoy sun to part shade. Overall not a fussy plant being quite drought tolerent and almost fully pest resistant. Minus it’s soft spring flush of leaves, Mahonia is prickly enough to discourage deer as well.
Fresh foliage underway May 2011
While I tend to avoid a lot of shrubs due to size restrictions, Mahonia x media proves to cooperate even if you have limited space. Pot bound you shouldn’t be overwhelmed by it’s spring growth. All hesitation aside, if you get the chance to grow this plant don’t think twice. Hands down the most beautiful plant outside right now and it does most of the work for you. Best bought on impulse in October/November just starting to bud, a late buy for it’s foliage alone will suffice.
True hybrid propagation done through cuttings, mahonia can also grow from seed but with some variation.
It was worth a trip to Government House after-all, and if you haven’t been there before, take a stroll today. It’s free, and quickly becoming my most favorite public garden in Victoria. Incredible.
Keeping with the theme of this weekend, I decided to burn off a Chinese food hangover and go for a walk around Government House gardens. It’s a beautiful property to roam when you find yourself with a little extra time to kill. Unlike Buchart gardens or Abakazi, Government House doesn’t request an entrance fee which makes it a favorite for a quick garden blitz. It’s amazing how much has popped up in the last month and a half. The gardens are waking up and rubbing their sore tired eyes, there is certainly a good reason to go out and wonder. Spring bulbs, primulas, hellebores and even the odd rhododendron are saying hello to the new year. I’m so excited for spring!
More hellebores looking amazing.
These hellebores have just started to open. “Wake up Mr hellebore”.
Did a grown man just write that, I’am shocked and ashamed. I digress.
Troves of galanthus snowdrops, I love seeing established plantings of these.
Did i mention snowdrops… “Where!?” “I can’t see them”
You know spring has sprung when Primula Denticulata is flaunting it’s stuff.
What looks like a planting of euphorbia blackbird.
Another spring favorite, winter aconite grows in small clusters like patches of gold nuggets.
Something you tend to forget about in summer is how beautiful and wild gary oaks look without their leaves. Much like a fractal, their branches resemble the form of lightning and are worthy of much awe and wonder.
This concludes my tour of the Government House gardens in February. The grounds were well maintained and dare I say meticulous for this time of year. This month can sometimes be underrated for gardening. Truth be told there was definetly enough to see to keep this plant geek entertained. Perhaps this time of year doesn’t have the size and extravagance of June or July, but it is noteworthy in it’s own way. Visit Government House gardens as soon as you get the chance, you won’t be disappointed.
1401 Rockland Avenue
Victoria, BC V8S 1V9