Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All

Lil and I have slooowed the blog down for the last two weeks of December. With a new grandbaby (for Lil), and 11 people at 4 consecutive Christmas dinners (for me) we needed to take a deep breath and sigh. But in January our ‘secret gems’ will once again be published weekly as we continue to peek into stores and poke into alleyways to bring the best to you, our readers.

For me, the best part of the Christmas season is time spent with my family, extended family and friends. I treasure the conversations, the games and the laughter that is shared when we get together and know in my heart how precious this time is with loved ones.

I leave you with these quotes from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stuart.

Clarence: [In book inscription] Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Merry Christmas and Bonne Annee!

Lil & Linda

 

Christmas, 2017

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” – spoken by Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

My morning runs and evening walks in my local neighbourhood here in North Saanich are adventures of new sights during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

We don’t have any snow here but the wintry Christmas themes are on full display.
   

Animal themes figure prominently…………

…………………..polar bears by day and by night…………..

…………..the beloved Disney characters…………….

……………mice in the morning, and mice at night………..

………..and raccoons, no friends of mine but admittedly, cute here.

Here’s a cluster of tennis-themed ornaments on our Christmas tree.

And one of my oldest and most favourite personal tree ornaments:

I hearken back to the words of an enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge.

Enjoy this wonder-filled season.  Happy Christmas time!

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     
250-656-0384
www.russellnursery.com
Closed Dec 23rd through Jan 31st

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
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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,
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socks hand-knitted in Afghanistan from wool and lined with a thin, soft fleece,
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personal bath and toiletry products sourced in Italy, in France,
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more from France,
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            and more from France,
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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,
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fabric printed using various wooden blocks,
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more samples of block-printed fabric, scarves,
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.              and cushions.fan-tan-gallery-22

Of course, right now there are displays of seasonal items…………..some rustic,
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some glitzier.
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For gift-giving anytime — or for myself! — there’s a good selection of Blue Q socks,
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games and puzzles,
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          tin cups,
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pretty ring holders,
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and tidy, tiny plants.
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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!
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Fan Tan Gallery
541 Fisgard St
Victoria
250- 382-4424
www.fantanvictoria.com

Mon – Sat 9:30 – 5:30, Sun 11:30 – 5

Patio Gardens

“Earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, in search of Earth’s laughter, we visited Patio Gardens on West Saanich Road and we found it in spades!
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The vibrant colours of flowers and greenery can uplift any spirits, particularly as daylight hours shrink.

patio-gardens13The owner, Yvonne, has been gardening for more than a couple of decades.  In earlier days the business was mostly cut flowers.  Now the specialty is hanging baskets and container gardening, suitable for patios and decks, indoor containers and anywhere you’d want to have live greenery or a garden feature.
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And in our moderate west coast climate, water garden features can run year-round!patio-gardens15                   patio-gardens1

Patio Gardens features Christmas plantings right now, so there are lots of poinsettias and greenery. patio-gardens14In a spacious classroom setting, floral and gardening workshops are offered, and wreath-making is a popular one right now.patio-gardens4

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The store offers plenty of decorating and gift ideas as well.
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It’s a delight to visit Patio Gardens during this cheerful Christmas season.
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And I can only imagine how Patio Gardens will remake itself in the springtime!
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Patio Gardens
6536 West Saanich Road, Victoria
250-896-8338

www.patiogardensvictoria.ca

Mon – Sat  9 – 5:30 pm,  Sun & holidays 10 – 4 pm