My British Columbia Adventure 2003!

   On our return, January 5, we came back at a different border crossing (that closes at 8 PM) and stayed a night in Chilliwack in order to visit John Mathies at Cannor Nurseries, and Brian Minter at Minter Country Garden before returning to Vancouver, and the ferry to the Island. Brian gave me five pots of a new type of English daisies that he said would be in bloom “all winter”. The photo below was taken on January 17, but I should tell you that they looked even better all through May--continuous bloom no less!

One of the first ‘big events’ upon our return was arranging to have the kitchen installed. The cabinets became available just as we were departing. We ordered these from Bill Thomas of Van Isle Kitchen and Millwork, in Courtenay, 45 minutes north of us on the Island. Over the months of August and September we spent a great deal of time weighing possibilities for what was a relatively small kitchen, compared to the huge one we had on Nesbitt Drive in Toronto. On the other hand, we only ever used a small part of that large kitchen. This new one, however, had to accommodate a stacked washer and dryer as well! The kitchen was finished right at the end of January, except for minor finishing which awaited some painting by Yves and appliance installation by Wilf. Van Isle Kitchen and Millwork’s James Oliver did a terrific job on the installation of the cabinets and he’s seen above just as he finished on January 28.

Just about the same time, we had more early flowers in the garden. On January 26 I took a shot or two of the first crocus to bloom along with some early primulas pushing through their leaf mulch.

In early February another of the major purchases for the house arrived, the cork flooring which was to go down throughout our great room, entrance halls and kitchen. We had originally been going to put down hardwood flooring in the great room and were inquiring about something for the kitchen when the subject of cork came up. Back in the mid-summer of 2002 my supplier suggested cork, and said that if we waited just a few weeks it would be available as a laminated ‘clickable’ product from two good suppliers. We did wait, and eventually ordered it from Michael Young of Island Floor Centre Ltd., in Victoria. [Michael also toils hard on the annual Victoria Flower & Garden Show.]

In the final week of February I had an opportunity to take new photos of both the kitchen and master bathroom and they are below. The master bath really just needs the carpet, which is a way off, and some small refinements. The kitchen is all but finished, except for some lighting fixtures, the backsplash, and some trim awaiting the installation of the floor. François had also recently delivered the special French doors that will go between the master bedroom and great room. In the photo at the bottom right here they are shown leaning up against the master bedroom wall (where the bed king-size will go eventually).

Also in that last week of February Wilf got to doing the final preparations to the sub-floor and by the third week began the installation of the floor. The cork is put down on a very thin (blue) foam that comes on a roll. The cork itself was manufactured in Germany, is one cm thick, and each section is 30 by 91 cm. He worked on it steadily for four days and subsequently reported that his back did not appreciate the stooped position for such a long time.

Getting the floor down allowed a whole host of other smaller tasks to be undertaken. There was trim (natural fir) around all the doorways, baseboards and subsequent varnishing to be done. In addition, during the first two weeks of March, Yves and I moved all of our belongings from the Moulliet Street apartment to the house, and actually moved into the house finally on March 7. Wilf helped us with the heavy washer and one particularly heavy cabinet, but Yves and I did all the rest using my truck. It was only 7 Ks between the two locations. Then on March 13 I departed for Toronto, not to return until April 2.

As some of my listeners and readers and most of my friends will know, I make monthly trips to Victoria for meetings of the board of directors of the Victoria Flower and Garden Show. Usually I drive; it takes just under two hours. In order to get the West Jet plane for Toronto in March, I took the VIA train down, and back in early April. It’s an interesting way to see some views of the island not seen when you are driving (although it takes over three hours!). Below is a shot of the VIA LRT train (just one car in the off-season, and two during the tourist season) sitting at the station in Victoria, and I included a shot of the world-famous Butchart Gardens’ early spring display.

While I was away, out in the garden Yves moved the huge red rhododendron that was growing over what will become our main path to the street-side door. It is well over two metres in height and spread. He had to have Wilf help him get it out of the hole, and then he dragged it across the lawn and paved patio (rolling it on broom poles) to its new location at the side of the house--just outside of the master bedroom window. I only wish I had photos of that!

Just as I left, Wilf began working on the outside of the house, the interior having advanced as far as we could until the carpet arrived later in April. He had two concrete pads to remove from the street-side patio where there had been secondary entry doors when we bought the house. These were now windows. In removing the concrete with an air hammer, a piece of it came away and hit his toe injuring him. He was off for the better part of a week. Upon his return, he began removing the wood from the base of the house and studio. There were shingles, nailed over painted boards. This all had to come off to be replaced by tarpaper, wire mesh, and finally concrete--on about 2/3 of the house and one half the studio. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ of this work on the front (street-side) door area are shown immediately below, then there are two shots of the east side of the house, followed by three showing the progression on the studio. The final photo in this group is of three eagles fishing on the foreshore right in front of our house while the tide was out one day in early April.

In the shots of the east side of the house above you can see the old outdoor shower which we are retaining, but in a substantially improved form.

Though spring was late in the east, it was early here. In fact, we literally didn’t have any winter. We had one climbing rose bush that had an unopened bud on it right through the winter. It finally opened in February.

Soon after I arrived back from Toronto in early April there was much to see in the garden.

One of the most impressive spring-flowering bulbs were the bluebells (Hyacinthoides nonscripta) which must have lasted a period of at least two months. They are basically blue but there are pink- and white-flowering ones as well. They are scattered in various parts of the garden here and were amazing. Among my new bulbs planted in November there was a group of pink Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) but these did not do nearly as well as the established ones; we’ll see what happens next year. All bluebells also spread by seed which makes them very interesting for naturalizing. They are hardly known in eastern Canada, possibly because they may not be as hardy as some of the other bulbs.

Our two camellias came into bloom before the tulips but remained flowering for almost two months. In the photo below left, the pink camellia is seen in the distance with the lily-flowered tulips in the foreground, along with ‘Angelique’ the double pink one that has been a favourite of mine for years. Near that bed on the east side of the house is our sour cherry tree that was also gorgeous in full bloom. (On the right-hand side of this photo, Yves can be seen installing a new hummingbird feeder on a bushy old winter currant [Ribes sanguinea] that was in full red bloom.) In the two photos below those two, just some of the new bulbs that I planted in November; there were many types that were quite impressive, particularly the Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’ and the lily-flowered tulips ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Red Shine’.

After the base for the stonework was done on most of the house and studio, Wilf’s next task was to begin construction of our new deck facing the water. The old one was small and not in good repair. The old and beginnings of the new deck are shown in three photos below. Note in the lower left shot, one of the two new ‘Tilt and Turn’ French door systems had been installed. They are not white, rather an oak veneer that comes covered with white tape.

Meanwhile at the street-side of the house our apple tree, newly pruned by Yves while I was in Toronto, was in full bloom as shown above right.

Another of Yves’ projects is the total removal of that ever-so-aggressive herbaceous perennial goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’) from the street-side garden. It has spread incredibly. A good friend and former neighbour in Toronto, Janet Peaker, has complained to me for years about her inability to remove the weed. I made various suggestions, and have tried several ideas here, but the only thing that seems to work well is to dig and turn over the soil carefully, and remove all signs of its roots to the burn pile. Any root left in the soil results in a new plant. I knew for years that glyphosate (Roundup) does not work on it, but I thought a combo of 2,4-D, Mecoprop and Dicamba (e.g. Wilsons Tri-Kill) would kill it. In fact, after four sprays at ten-day intervals last year the top growth did die, but it just came up as strong as ever again this spring.

In the two photos below, you can see just some of what Yves has to dig, and a shot of part of the project completed. This work requires careful “screening” of the plants, roots and soil as they are dug up because there is a wealth of other herbaceous perennials entangled (and being strangled to death) within the goutweed. It’s amazing what he’s found, rescued and replanted.

Earlier I made brief mention of the new ‘Tilt and Turn’ French doors that we ordered from the Vera-De Window company up in Courtenay. Before ordering these on January 30th, we agonized for months on just what type of doors to put in place of the old sliders that had more than earned their retirement! They were normal patio door size, with narrow panes on the side and above each set. We wanted to have two single sets of doors to fill each space. Many companies could make doors to suit, but not without the side panes. We looked extensively at Pella, who could make what we wanted, but just before ordering, I got to thinking about the German-made ‘Tilt and Turn’ product, that we had used almost exclusively at the Nesbitt Drive house in Toronto. And, which we liked very much because of the ability to open them in two ways--as a door, or as a tilt-from-the-top window. There was the company in Courtenay, and we finally went up to see them, and were convinced that their product would be best for that position. Interestingly they were slightly less expensive than the well-known Pella product. Rather than being white as they all were in Toronto, Vera-De offered that they could be made up with a very real-wood-look, and we chose the white oak veneer.

Courtney Ogilvie who installed the doors has worked with these products for decades and did an excellent job. Amazingly, he knew Manfred Pfeiffer in Toronto who sold us the original Tilt and Turn windows and doors there in 1986-87. I’ve included one photo of the old, along with three of the new doors just as Wilf had begun work on the new deck. Note the door at far left is open on tilt.

Our house here is located in a little community known as San Pareil/Shorewood, a part of which was originally a sheep farm on an island. It is not a physical part of the City of Parksville, rather part of the Regional District of Nanaimo, although we receive police and fire services from Parksville. Most of the houses have water and sewage service but many of those along the water have their own wells and septic tanks. Actually we consider ourselves lucky not to be on the water system because it suffers major shortages during the summers and severe water restrictions are in effect for at least three months. Last year the restrictions were just one watering day per week. With our own well, we have no restrictions and are able to run the irrigation system nightly--which is needed due to the extremely sandy nature of the soil.

The single entrance to San Pareil/Shorewood is Plummer Road that leaves the old Island Highway (19A) just before (south of) the large bridge over the Englishman River. Plummer Road runs along the river and on the other side is a working farm and there are often cattle grazing one field that abuts Plummer Road. In the two photos below, you’ll get an idea of how beautiful wild English daisies can be when they are in flower as they were in early May here.

By late May, the two large clumps of yellow lupins located near the seawall were in full bloom. As a result of observing these two clumps I was able to add Lupinus to my list of highly deer-resistant plants as well as to the list of plants that will withstand salt spray from the ocean!

Just as a nice contrast I’ve included two shots of lupins growing wild along the banks of Highway 19 just north of Nanaimo. (Note in the upper right shot, just right of centre, the single stalk of a white-flowered one.) The yellow that predominates in spring and early summer is the noxious weed, gorse (Ulex europea). With all its problems (grows on non fertile land because it fixes nitrogen from the air for nutrition, rapid invasive spreader, pushes out many native species, can be cause of fires) it nevertheless is pretty to view in the countryside and along highways!

The final photo in this group (lower right) is Lithodora diffusa a perennial that is quite drought tolerant and inhabits rocky outcrops, including on the mountainsides along the Malahat range just north of Victoria.

Since I mentioned Yves having moved the large Rhododendron while I was away in March, I thought I should advise that the plant never wilted nor shed a leaf. When it came into full bloom at the end of May I took a photo of it from the master bedroom through the wooden Venetian blind. We decided to put it in this new position to provide some additional privacy from the neighbour’s property, and yet still enable us to see past it to the ocean, and to give us a nice splash of colour from the bedroom in mid-spring. Below are shots just after it was moved, and what it looked like from indoors.

By mid May we were more than anxious to get the huge roll of carpet from the supplier in Nanaimo, so that we could get Phil the carpet layer in to put it down. I picked up the roll early one Saturday morning, after my broadcast and of course they loaded it for me using a special powered loader. As they did it I wondered how we would handle the unloading once I got home!

It was not easy, although Yves and I managed to get it accomplished by sliding it on smooth surfaces put down over the grass and stone, and on inverted pieces of old carpet once we got it into the cork-covered front hall.

About a week later Phil came and installed it all for us. That left the way clear for Wilf to finish the baseboards, mouldings etc. in the master bed and bath, plus the guest bathroom and the small guest bedroom. All the floorcoverings were finally down!

In the photos below, I’ve put in two of the master bedroom, one showing François’ doors wide open, and one just inside the doors, and below those are shots of the larger guest bedroom and guest bathroom.

The master bathroom, while it looked great before the carpet was put down, we think it looks terrific now that the carpet is down, including on the step-up to the whirlpool bath. While I was taking these photos, Yves had been busy sanding, cleaning and restaining the big old MGM cabinet. Remember, it is now in two pieces, and we had Wilf build a short (60 cm/2 ft. high) base cabinet for the taller glass-doored part. The idea is that the taller glass-doored cabinet will sit on the new piece, and the old large base cabinet will be placed on the other side of the hall as a separate unit. On the right below is the new cabinet base that Wilf built after its first coat of stain.

And to close off for now, here are shots of the old parts of the cabinet separated, and in various stages of completion from a staining/varnishing point-of-view. They are sitting just out from the respective walls where they’ll be permanently.

This is an ongoing story, so watch for more photos as time goes on. Our next major project (after the goutweed is all gone) will be a two-part water garden.