“Autumn is a second spring…

“Autumn is a second spring…

“Autumn is a second spring… when every leaf is a flower,” said Albert Camus, but if he had been gardening hard on the west coast, instead of lolling about philosophizing in France, he could have dropped the second half. Here, autumn is a second spring. Period.”

By Kathryn Pankowski
Photo by Kathryn Pankowski

All gardeners, new and old, get excited in spring, running about buying plants and sowing seeds. But experienced Victoria gardeners get just as bouncy in the fall, knowing it’s a wonderful time to plant all sorts of delightful things.

That’s why the James Bay Fall Plant Swap and Sale will be back on Saturday, September 8 in Irving Park, 10-12, to help move extra plants and unused tools to neighbours who want them, just in time for fall gardening. If you have lots to pass on, come set up your own table. If you have a few things, bring them down and do a trade. Nothing to pass on? Then come and shop. And if you can’t be there, but have some plants to share, you can donate them to the JBNA Gardening Committee table – all its proceeds go towards neighbourhood gardening projects. Questions? Contact Kathryn at jamesbaygardens@gmail.com.

And what can we plant in the fall? Here are a few ideas, along with a sneak preview of a few of the plants coming to the swap.


In our climate, hardy perennials planted in autumn often do better than ones planted in spring. Why? The fall rains water them in nicely, and they spend winter happily putting down roots, so they are ready to take off in the spring. If you plant in May, we are already moving towards the dry season, when a plant will be dependent on a (possibly forgetful) human waterer to get established. We already have a collection of easy-to-grow perennials, such as bellflowers, day lilies, crocosmia and ornamental grasses, ready for the swap, as well as a selection of perennial herbs good for the garden or balcony pots. And who knows what else will turn up? It’s all part of the fun.

Winter pots and planters

As summer annuals begin to fade, it’s time to think about adding some winter interest to pots. Among the plants that have come in so far, there are a couple that would be great additions to a winter planter: bergenia, whose leaves turn interesting shades of red in fall, and Japanese blood grass, which also looks dramatic all winter.

Winter vegetables

Vegetable gardening never sleeps on the coast. Fall is an excellent time to plant kale, chard, corn salad, and a variety of Asian leafy greens for overwintering – and some of these make very decorative plants for balcony gardens too. We’re not sure what veg starts are coming to the swap, but I’m willing to predict that there will be kale. (There’s always kale. Everywhere. It’s like triffids. Only tastier.)

House plants

While September and October are great planting months, we know what’s coming next – dark and dreary November. Now is the perfect time to get a new indoor friend to keep you company through the rainy season. We have a small selection of winter-blooming plants, such as Christmas cactus, orchidaceous cactus, and jade plants. (Yes, jade plants bloom in January. Once they get old enough.)

Neighbourhood Garden News

If you have a fruit tree that you aren’t going to pick this year, consider getting LifeCycles to do it. It’s a free service. Volunteers come gather the fruit, you get a portion (if you want it), the volunteers get some, food banks and not-for-profits serving meals another chunk, and part is made into delicious products, like Spinnakers Backyard Cider, that are sold to help keep the program going. It’s a win-win-win-win. More info at http://lifecyclesproject.ca/our-projects/fruit-tree-project/

I’d like to thank a few great James Bay businesses who have been quietly helping various neighbourhood gardening efforts this year and deserve some applause: thanks to Discovery Coffee for providing coffee for the plant swaps, water for the Michigan Street boulevard gardens, and a new longer hose that will reach the new boulevard bed; Nourish Kitchen & Café for donating water to keep the five new food trees at Charles Redfern alive through the summer, and the Red Barn for suddenly appearing out of the blue and handing over the end-of-season remnants of their herb and bedding plant stock to a group of surprised volunteers.

Kathryn Pankowski is the James Bay Neighbourhood Association Neighbourhood Gardening Advocate: she can be reached at jamesbaygardens@gmail.com. The JBNA would like to acknowledge the financial support of the City of Victoria for this initiative.

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