The Cox family dog, Sadie, found a rare patch of sunshine in the garden. Photo by Leslie Cox

The Cox family dog, Sadie, found a rare patch of sunshine in the garden. Photo by Leslie Cox

DUCHESS OF DIRT: ‘Mayvember’ good for skiers, not so good for gardeners

By Leslie Cox

Special to the Record

I learned a new word the other day: Mayvember.

A Facebook gardening friend, who lives in Washington state, was lamenting a recent hail storm and an answering comment mentioned this new word. Having never heard this term before, I looked it up. Seems it is commonly used to celebrate fresh powder falling on ski hills with Blackcomb and Whistler specifically mentioned in one of the Google hits. Fine and dandy if skiing and snowboarding are your “thing” but this depressingly unseasonal cold weather is playing havoc in at least some of our gardens.

But trust the Victoria area gardeners in the Gardening Fanatics on Vancouver Island Facebook group to show off their clematis blooms, rose bushes covered in flowers and a host of other floral delights. I noticed quite a few “jealous” comments and emojis to go along with all the hearts, thumb ups, oohs and ahs. Having gotten my hands dirty in my parents’ garden in Victoria many decades ago, my contributing comments were all thumb ups in appreciation for the sharing of such gorgeous blossoms. Admittedly, there was a tinge of jealousy but it was just a niggle.

Yes. This Mayvember weather is challenging a lot of us. I noticed on Facebook many gardeners were keeping to the “tried and true” schedule of what to plant when. And then sadly posting the under-performing results. Heartbreaking.

Here in our garden, we are most definitely not repeating last year’s April 26 tomato transplanting date into the greenhouse. (That was the earliest date ever for getting the tomatoes transplanted.) This year, we will be lucky if the overnight temperature in there will be high enough by the May long weekend. It has a way to go from the 1 to 5C range over the last week. Subjecting our seedlings to these temperatures would impact on their ultimate production capabilities come summer. Heaven forbid.

On the bright side, no azalea sawfly pests… so far… or at least that I have seen. It is now two weeks past the date when I typically see the adult females laying their eggs on the azalea leaves. Notice I said “see” and not “catch.” These tiny flies are almost impossible to catch on an azalea that is taller than me.

But the leaves are just unfurling now. I am not seeing any eggs but my magnifying glass is not the best quality and I am reluctant to pick any leaves on the off-chance of finding eggs when I place them under my microscope. I will just have to keep a close watch for any possible larvae chewing damage.

I should try Tanglefoot on the azaleas. A recent garden visitor said he had great success with this product against sawflies on his azalea plants. Perhaps it is not yet too late to stop any potential adults from getting up into the shrubs after emerging from the soil. When it comes to pests, it pays to try and stay ahead of the game, if you can. Catching female sawflies now would save me a lot of larvae squishing hours down the road.

Speaking of female pests, I learned something else recently, after I found what I think are root weevil pupae while I was weeding. Whilst double-checking the seasonal timing for the root weevil’s pupating stage, I discovered adult weevils are all females! They reproduce asexually and each female lays about 30 eggs. Thankfully, there is only one generation per year. (More information about this pest is on my website.)

Open season

Our garden is open! Thursdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For directions: email or phone 250-337-8051 and leave a message.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at

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