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

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!
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.
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


The store offers plenty of decorating and gift ideas as well.
patio-gardens11     patio-gardens8

It’s a delight to visit Patio Gardens during this cheerful Christmas season.
And I can only imagine how Patio Gardens will remake itself in the springtime!


Patio Gardens
6536 West Saanich Road, Victoria

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

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