Jim McCausland

This garden boasts of color even in winter

Jim McCausland,  – November 11, 2004 | Updated May 18, 2018

Winter visitors to Sooke Harbour House, a well-known country inn in Sooke, British Columbia, are surprised by the lush looks of its cool-season garden, pictured here in mid-November. The garden’s success stems partly from its mild, waterside location on Vancouver Island and partly from plant selection, soil preparation, and maintenance. The portion of the garden shown in the photo also benefits from its southern exposure, which supplies extra light and warmth during the short, dark days of winter.

The garden relies heavily on ornamental cabbage and kale for color. The edible flowers of calendulas and pansies add colorful accents here and there.

Like any good winter garden, this one begins with well-amended soil that affords good drainage. The compost used to amend the soil at planting time supplies enough nutrients to carry the crops through winter. To insulate plant roots and hold down mud, head gardener Byron Cook uses aged Douglas fir sawdust to mulch beds and paths.

Sooke Harbour House is located about 23 miles west of Victoria via Provincial Highway 14. The gardens are open to visitors anytime. If you would like to spend the night or have a meal, which usually includes some crop from the garden, call (250) 642-3421 well ahead.