Russell Nursery

“Gardening is how I relax.  It’s another form of creating and playing with colours.”  — Oscar de la Renta

How lucky I felt to find this charming and well-stocked garden nursery close to our home when we first moved to the Greater Victoria area!

Just driving through the entrance gate, even on this December day, made me feel warm, knowing I was entering one of my “happy places”.

On this visit, my eye was immediately attracted to this leatherleaf mahonia which bursts out in spring with stalks of yellow flowers, and in fall shows off its needle-edged leaves topped with blue berries.
Russell Nursery staff have a solid knowledge of their plants and our microclimate here on the Peninsula.

Upon their recommendation, I’ve planted Mountain Fire Pieris (above), ubiquitous in this area, and various rhododendrons which even now in December sneak out a few blossoms, like this ‘Elizabeth Ostbo’ rhodo (below), ready to burst open…..

……….and this overly optimistic ‘Hansel’ rhododendron (below).

Walking past the benches of heathers,

I was drawn to one of my favourite performers, the Callicarpa beautyberry shrub (below).

Russell Nursery offers pottery, next to their shade garden.

Walking in the shade garden back to the main plant and shop area, I caught the sun on a large pot.
As this was approaching Christmas, it occurred to me that if one was searching for an extraordinary gift for a special gardener, one of these Halls English greenhouses would surely make a lasting impression!

But the stars of Russell Nursery right now are all the seasonal items, starting of course with trees, such as Douglas fir, Grand fir and some pines, sourced in Mill Bay and Duncan here on the Island.

The area normally filled with flowering trees is now chock-full of these cut evergreen trees, ready for decorating.

Christmas planters and centerpieces are made on-site using local plants.

Or you can design your own arrangements using Russell Nursery’s design elements.



I made my way to the garden shop where I knew the wood-burning stove would cheerily welcome me.

The garden shop is the business end of things where payment is made for purchases.  Brian Russell and his wife, Michele, have owned and operated the nursery for 25 years and are easing into retirement in January, 2018 as they sold the nursery to two of their senior staff, Susan Tice and Laurel Rassenti.
We’ll still be able to catch Brian on site in the coming months, as he’s remaining to help with a smooth transition to the new ownership.

Not only are Susan and Laurel the new owners, but they have decades of experience and this translates to the entire staff being educated regarding the plants and merchandise they sell.

Laurel pointed out to me the acid-etched steel art created by Roz Stanton from Pemberton, BC.

Unique gardening books are offered.

Laurel and I both commented on the Rustic Woodcrafts birdhouses (below, left) which are created less than two km from Russell Nursery.
Also offered is the Pender Botanicals line of soaps, cremes, balms and candles (above, right, and below) made on neighbouring Pender Island.

Susan and her staff offer a number of classes where participants can make their own holiday wreath or centrepiece.  Workshops are held next to the shop and all supplies are provided.

Having no personal experience with this, a friend and I took the wreath-making workshop, and these are the wreaths I made in 2016 (left) and 2017.

I think I’m getting the hang of it!

Russell Nursery
1370 Wain Road, North Saanich     
Closed Dec 23rd through Jan 31st

Art in the Barn Gallery

“Great art picks up where Nature ends.”  — Marc Chagall

Tucked onto a natural, forested acreage just off West Saanich Road is a most unusual barn.
No question, it’s a barn;  inside, you can see the concrete curbs on each side of the main aisle which formed the footings for the horse stalls.  The floors slope toward this middle aisle — that was a functional slope.

What is unusual is the contents.
This former barn now houses horses differently – horses painted on canvas.

It also houses other animals, painted on canvasses…………..

………because, as no doubt is apparent,
this is a barn converted into a gallery.

The proprietors are Jacqui and Gabriel.

Jacqui is a painter, and all the paintings
featured in this post are hers.

In addition to her own resource material,
Jacqui also paints animals by commission,
such as the two portraits of dogs, above.

Gabriel is a photographer.
Several of his matted and framed photographs are exhibited in the gallery.

Nature figures strongly as a resource in
Gabriel’s photographic work.

Other local artists’ work is also welcome to be exhibited in the gallery.

The art pieces, above and below, are examples of Gabriel’s photographs taken in nature.

Linda tried to gauge the size of this creation by Jacqui.
The art piece depicts a sight that’s so typical of our Peninsula outside Victoria.  It is this aspect of nature that Jacqui continues to capture in her paintings.

Gabriel also spends hours to get the “perfect” shot of a specific aspect of nature that he wants to share.
He also photographs “found” items!

Matted prints of Jacqui’s paintings and Gabriel’s photography work are available unframed as well.


The painting above, right, is one by Jacqui of Gabriel.

Art in a Barn is a true gem………local artists creating, displaying, and making available to others the personal creations of Nature that they want to share.    Check it out!


Art in the Barn Gallery
4578 Hughes Road


Thur – Sun 10 – 4  or by appointment












Cast Art Studios

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed.   And you are beautiful.”   —
Amy Bloom

Seeing such a sign generally does not instill confidence in the quality of items below that arrow!

And the “showroom” is a fenced off portion of a parking lot just off an industrial street on the Peninsula.
But let us not generalize!
These items are not ones that you’ll tuck up under your arm as you head off to the cashier.
They’re statuary made of concrete, and they are large, and they are heavy.    












And they are durable — tested to withstand even Prairie winters — and I recall plenty of those!
We checked things over carefully………

…..including the bird baths, of course………decorative pedestals……


………interesting benches………..
……………..wall art…………..

…………serenity-inspiring statuary……………


……….and my personal fave, which has nothing at all to do

with the fact that I’m about to become a grandma!


These palletized items are ready for shipping, to anywhere!

So, you want statement garden art?    Where y’ gonna go?

Cast Art Studios
2145 Keating Cross Road

Mon – Fri    9 am – 4 pm


So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright — at Legacy Art Gallery

“It is quite impossible to consider the building one thing and its furnishings another, its setting and environment still another.  In the spirit in which these buildings are conceived these are all one thing.”  — Frank Lloyd Wright

This is a story of restoring something to its original place, of giving something back to the place it once lived.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 1959) was an internationally renowned American architect.  He was a strong force in moving architecture from the Victorian style to the much more simplified and functional form that we are now accustomed to seeing.

This specific story involves Darwin D. Martin (1865 – 1935), who was an executive at the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo, New York.

Martin started working for the soap company when he was 12, selling soap on the street while living in very poor rentals.
He educated himself and worked hard, and eventually became a senior executive with the company.

In 1902 Martin met Frank Lloyd Wright when Martin was selecting an architect for the company’s administration building.

He was also looking for someone to design his own family home on a 1.5 acre estate in Buffalo.

He commissioned Wright to design a house for his sister and her husband, Delta & George Barton.  That Barton House was the first of six that Wright designed for the Martin estate.

The Carriage House, Pergola, Conservatory and the Martin House were built by 1906, and the Gardener’s Cottage was completed in 1909.  Below is a front view of the Darwin D. Martin house.

During the stock market crash of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Martin family lost their fortune.
The Barton House and Gardener’s Cottage were sold to new owners.
After Darwin Martin died in 1935, the family  was unable to pay the taxes, and the remaining property defaulted to the city in 1946.

Below is an aerial view of the original estate.

In the 1950s another architect purchased the property and turned the Martin House into three rental suites.  The land with the Conservatory, Carriage House and Pergola was sold to developers who demolished the structures and built an apartment building.
The State University of New York acquired the Martin House in 1967 and renovated it to serve as a residence for the University President and a venue for university functions.

The photo, below, shows the original dining room with furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Over the years, lack of maintenance deteriorated the structure.  Many pieces of furniture and artifacts were removed or lost, including over 200 pieces of art glass. Below is one such piece of art glass.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this glass panel for  a staircase landing in the Martin house, and had the panel lit from behind, much as a skylight is backlit by natural light.  Few such panels remain, as the panels failed from lack of maintenance when the house was abandoned in 1937.

An Art History professor at the University of Victoria purchased a number of the art glass panels and added seven of them to UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries in 1968.
Below is a pair of casement windows which are part of this collection.

The Darwin D. Martin House Complex was designated a national historic landmark in 1986.
The significance of this Complex lies in the way it showcases Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style concept in the linked structures and the landscape, down to the smallest detail.

Wright widely promoted the Martin House by exhibiting and publishing his architectural drawings, plans and photographs.  Below is Wright’s drawing of a glass panel design in the Martin House.

In 1992 a non-profit group called the Martin House Restoration Corporation was formed to preserve, restore and promote Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House.
The MHRC eventually acquired the title to the Martin House from the State University and the title of the Barton house from private owners, and are now in the advanced stages of implementing a $50 million five-phase restoration plan, fundraised from public and private sources.

Below is an example of before and after restoration of the Conservatory.

As part of the final phase of the restoration project, the MHRC is trying to obtain Wright’s  original glass panels, and have appealed to the UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries to repatriate the windows.

Thus, after five decades of stewardship, UVic Legacy Art Galleries is repatriating seven ‘light screens’, as Wright referred to them, to the MHRC in exchange for a modest endowment that will be used to care for the Legacy Art Galleries’ collections.

Below is a pair of cabinet door windows designed for the Martin House by Wright.

The light screens “exemplify Wright’s unifying design principle called “organic architecture” which integrated the natural environment, the architectural plan, and the interior fixtures and furniture into a whole harmonious scheme.”

Returning the light screens from the UVic Legacy Art Galleries collection back to their original context in the Martin House will honour Frank Lloyd Wright’s intent and vision.

The Legacy Art Gallery’s current exhibition offers a light box with glass pieces in various colours and shapes so visitors can create their own Wright-inspired window, as above.

The light screens are currently exhibited at the UVic Art Leagacy at 630 Yates Street until September 16th, 2017.
On that date, from 3 – 5 pm, the Legacy Art Galleries Director, Mary Jo Hughes will host a public presentation and discussion with the Martin House Curator, Susana Tejada.
Hughes will discuss the repatriation decision and both Hughes and Tejada will discuss the significance of returning seven Frank Lloyd Wright-designed windows to their original home.


UVic Legacy Art Galleries
630 Yates Street

Wed – Sat   10 – 4

Fan Tan Gallery

“I like to look for gifts throughout the year.  If I find the perfect item for someone, I put it in my “gift closet” and keep it for the next holiday.  But I often get too excited and just give it to them before!”  — Christina Hendricks

Sooo……..I’m not the only one with a “gift closet”!

Linda appreciates beautiful things, and she’s also practical.   When we casually browsed through Fan Tan Gallery and Linda spotted the Linnea display, she gave that an approving nod.
For each month the calendar features a beautiful 11″ X 14″ art print suitable for framing or mounting to any flat surface. Beautiful and practical!

I bought one to keep for her as a Christmas gift. But you know that it didn’t make it to December!
Fortunately, her birthday came up before December so the Linnea calendar was out!
The calendar is not by any means the sole draw at the Fan Tan Gallery, also known as Fan Tan Home & Style.

The shop, with its double storefront presence on downtown Fisgard offers a wide variety of wares made locally in BC, in Canada, and carefully sourced internationally by the owner, Janet, ranging from the USA and Europe to India and Afghanistan.
There are the Cedar Mountain marble coasters and art blocks from Salt Spring Island,   fan-tan-gallery-13
artisanal small batch foods and dishes also made on Saltspring Island and elsewhere in Canada,
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candles and room atomizers made in the USA,
socks hand-knitted in Afghanistan from wool and lined with a thin, soft fleece,

personal bath and toiletry products sourced in Italy, in France,
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more from France,
            and more from France,

quilts from India made in the Kantha style,fan-tan-gallery-24

more quilts with their exuberant colours,
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wooden blocks from India which are used for printing their fabric,

fabric printed using various wooden blocks,
more samples of block-printed fabric, scarves,
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.              and

Of course, right now there are displays of seasonal items…………..some rustic,

some glitzier.
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For gift-giving anytime — or for myself! — there’s a good selection of Blue Q socks,

games and puzzles,
          tin cups,

pretty ring holders,

and tidy, tiny plants.

Sure, come to the Fan Tan Gallery  for the beautiful Linnea calendar, but you’ll surely leave with
at least one other unique item — I promise!

Fan Tan Gallery
541 Fisgard St
250- 382-4424

Mon – Sat 9:30 – 5:30, Sun 11:30 – 5

McTavish Academy of Art

To make Living,      itself,      

an Art         That is the Goal               

( on the McTavish Academy of Art pamphlet)


When I opened the door to the McTavish Academy of Art and stepped into the foyer, two young men greeted me with smiles and a friendly hello. “Welcome to the Academy and how can we help you?” I told them that just that morning I had heard about Broadway show dance lessons being offered and I wanted to sign up, and as an afterthought I asked, “What is the Academy all about?”


The cofounders are Sean McNeill, Lucas Copplestone, and Carl Joosse, …these men have a vision and a creative spirit, they have passion, humour and talent. They are dedicated “… to the advancement of  ‘The Living Arts’ a place of art, music, dance, mindfulness, creative expression and sustainable agriculture …”

This is Sean… cofounder and ‘The Principal” of the Academy


Formerly an elementary school the building was purchased in April 2016 and renovated in a matter of months with friends and family helping out. The Academy consists of a Dance studio,


Art Studio,


a Screen Printing room,


Rental bike shop… hop on a cruiser and tour the Peninsula


plus a Yoga Studio, Gymnasium, Podcast Studio.

and an Artist Gallery where local artwork is on display and rotated every 2-3 months… some stunning paintings…









and a backyard that extends to the back forty.


It is all so wonderful! And North Saanich… this is in our midst…a sweet gem of a place for our community.


Home to WARP academy: teaching digital music in person and online,

Home to Canada’s only certified training centre for ABLETON Live digital music production,

Yoga classes: Stretch, Meditation, Daily classes, Workshops…

Dance classes: Broadway Shows (that is the one I signed up for), ballet, hip hop, Irish…

Art classes: Drop ins, Acrylic, Parent & Tot, Water Colour, Sketching, Screen Printing, Pop Art, Human Anatomy…

Play: Events, Ball hockey, Badminton, Workshops, Rentals, Sustainable Agricultural Workshops, Music….

and so much more. Visit the Academy, chat with Sean or Lucas,  go online and peruse the many classes that are being offered or spend a rainy afternoon touring the Art Gallery.

PS         McTavish Academy of Art is participating in the Saanich Peninsula Studio Tour this weekend,  Oct 22 & 23  11 am-4 pm. And on Friday, Oct 21,  6 pm-10:00 pm the Academy is hosting a Studio Tour Kick-off   Tickets  $15

McTavish Academy of Art

1720 McTavish Rd (just west of The Roost)

North Saanich BC


Schedule & Inquiries: McTAVISHACADEMY.CA

LaLoca, Sidney

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”  —  Jane Goodall

Outside LaLoca

Walking into LaLoca in Sidney is like entering the market-of-the-world!

Tapestry, cards @ LaLoca

Christine, the owner, has travelled extensively throughout South America and sources her own products.
All items offered for sale at LaLoca are purchased as part of a fair trade partnership with individual women and artisans around the world.  Christine is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, which signifies that producers are treated with respect and paid fair wages, development is fostered and environmental standards are adhered to.

Handmade sweater, LaLocaThese darling handknitted sweaters are made by women in Peru, using their own harvested alpaca wool.

Metal wall art, LaLocaSubstantial pieces of metal wall art are made in Haiti.

Handmade baskets, LaLoca These handmade baskets are from Guana.

       Felted wool animals, LaLocaHand-felted wool birds are made in Peru.

            More recently Christine also began sourcing items from India and Africa.

Handmade bags, LaLocaThese totes are made of hand-felted wool with embellishments in Nepal.

Neckpiece, LaLoca
Edgy jewellery like this neckpice is crafted by Zambian artisans in the South Luangwa using organic materials originating from the African bush.

Frog guitarists, LaLoca
Colourful frog guitarists are made from recycled tin cans in South Africa.

Clothing, LaLoca
here’s men’s, women’s and unisex clothing from Nepal as well as from Thailand.

Wall hooks, LaLoca
n assortment of colorful wall hooks comes from India.

Kisii stone
The K
isii stone carvings from Kenya are ultra-smooth and beg to be touched.

Mouse slippers, LaLocaThese adorable mouse slippers come in all sizes and various colours.  This pair was my specific choice as a gift for a family member.  The hand felted alpaca wool slippers are made in Nepal.

Banners, LaLoca               Handmade wall tapestry, LaLoca

Banners with quotable messages are from Indonesia.
Of all the striking, colourful items on display everywhere, my personal favourites were the stunning wall tapestries are handmade in Bolivia.

What a  treasure trove from all over the globe!  A true gem.
2367 Beacon Ave, Sidney

Tue – Sat 10:30 am – 5 pm


Good Things Consignments

“The home should be the treasure chest of living.”  — Le Corbusier

Love a great find?  Come to Good Things Consignments in a stroll-friendly part of Oak Bay Avenue.

Good Things Consignment 2
Three rooms of eclectic items — plus items outdoors on a pleasant day — make this a browsing treat!
Wares are well organized and include both vintage and  and nearly new items.  And LOTS of good finds!

There’s furniture, artwork, china & crystal, kitchen wares, jewellery, household appliances, carpets, toys……..really, it’s a treasure chest for living!


Good Things Consignment 4 (Medium)

The shelf with copper items caught Lili’s attention.

We noticed folks dropping off items for consignment.  We noticed people browsing and buying.
And we noticed a lot of intent looks — and smiles.
With the steady influx of items, we found that it’s worthwhile to browse the shelves every few weeks or so to catch any new additions.
Items are not dirt-cheap, but they’re priced fairly.  And things are in good shape and working order, where appropriate.

Good Things Consignment 3 (Medium)

Linda found a classic, useful silver serving plate.  One more person leaving with a parcel and a smile!
A sterling gem!

Good Things Consignments

1841 Oak Bay Avenue, #104
Mon – Sun 10 am – 5:30 pm

Calla Design

“If you love something, it will work.  That’s the only real [design] rule.”  — Bunny Williams

Newly opened in fall of 2015, Calla Design is a longtime dream of designer Janice Long.

Janice says, “People walk in and say that this is the kind of shop/studio they’d expect to find in Los Angeles or maybe Vancouver, but Victoria?”   Yes, in Estevan Village in Victoria!

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The shop features original paintings by local artists,
decor and furniture by Martha Sturdy in Vancouver, solid and custom made furniture by Whittingdon  & Co from Mississauga, Lafco lotions and soaps from New York, and
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luxury home fragrances by Antica Farmacistica from Seattle.

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Calla Design also features unique items found by Janice Long, such
as this chair from the Ken Shore estate in Portland.
Throughout the store Janice has created vignettes showcasing pieces of the fine furniture lines, along with a variety of the decor items and accessories she offers.

The Egyptian cotton towels are sumptuous.
The furniture throws are fine pieces well-crafted from natural fibres.

But the jaw-dropping items for me were the Kinzig lamps made as future collectors’ items using solid brass and copper, with shades of fine silk and other elegant fabrics and inset with
coloured blown-glass features.  Kinzig Lamps are made by Susan Kinzig in San Francisco and the shades are made by Susan’s sister-in-law in Philadelphia.  The colours and shapes of the shades and blown glass in the lamps can be custom ordered through Calla Design and are available as table lamps or floor lamps.  These are undeniably unique and as much pieces of art as they are functional.


Calla Design
2541 Estevan Ave, Victoria

Open Tues – Sat 10 am – 5:30 pm, Sun