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

Olive the Senses

“The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven.  I can scarcely expect bread.”  — Thomas Jefferson

Browsing through the shops, colourful wares and beckoning aromas of the Victoria Public Market on Douglas Street in downtown Victoria, we came upon Olive the Senses.

This unique shop is dedicated to items that enhance the tastes and aromas of our food, such as herbs and seasonings and especially olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

And we couldn’t believe the variations of these items!


High quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is on offer, but the eye-widening variety of fused and infused olive oils are what made us feel like kids in a candy store.

Aged balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy are presented as dark balsamic, white balsamic or specialty flavoured balsamic vinegars.

Okay, this is actually better than a candy store — you get to sample the olive oils and the balsamic vinegars!
And oh, the flavours we sampled!
Olive oils infused with wild mushroom & sage, herbs de Provence, wild dill, garlic, chipotle, for example, or olive oil fused with Persian lime or blood orange had to be sampled.
Balsamic vinegars fermented with Madagascar vanilla, pomegranate, honey ginger, jalapeno, maple, chocolate, cinnamon…. … was almost exhausting!

The tasting room is set up so that these oils and balsamic vinegars can be tasted, either with the guidance of a knowledgeable staff member or by yourself — and you can arrange a private tasting party with a group.

The shop also offers spices, coffees, teas, jams and spreads, barbecue sauces, chocolate, mustards and other condiments, and unique kitchenware items.


The owners of Olive the Senses have family that still lives and             farms in Italy.

Photographs of their family and landscapes in Italy are proudly         on display in the shop.

Gift baskets can be ordered.

Delivery is free north to Sidney and west to Sooke.


We left with our purchases in hand and our heads and senses filled with the unique tastes we had experienced.

My new go-to oil has become the Tuscan herb olive oil.  And I had to rearrange my cupboard to accommodate the                           growing number of flavoured olive oils and balsamic vinegars that seem to come home with me on every visit here.

Go with a friend or a group, or visit the store on your own so you’re limited only by your own time and palate capabilities.
It really IS better than a candy store!

Olive the Senses
Victoria Public Market at the Hudson
9-1701 Douglas St. Victoria, BC

Tue – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 11 am – 5 pm