3 Notices: Two-day course, Perennial Plants, Anti-Spam

Hi Everyone, Have you ever wanted to post this ad on Used Victoria?
Free to a good home, one husband, slightly used, somewhat self grooming, almost house trained. Has a good understanding of plants and mechanical systems, but a poor understanding of complex (female) systems.   Does not multi-task very well.  He will work for food, and is highly motivated by beer.   If you already have one of these, I have empathy, sorry not open to trade.

DSCN3641Here is a brilliant idea I came up with and it’s even better than husband recycling…  train your husband to listen to and understand mother nature and to do what you say.  This training can occur either through husband daycare, slyly called “Permaculture Systems In Action” where Solara (of Hatchet and Seed)  and myself (Ann) will train your husbands how to understand integrated systems, using ours as examples, or  better yet come yourself and see how we train these stubborn handsome hard working creatures to work with and understand our complex systems… using permaculture design principles applied to plants, rain water, grey water, composting, solar, soil, animal and other systems to drive the point home… that nothing is separate.      Bring your husband – leash is required, must be muzzled and fragrance free.

(Notes on above:  Could be role reversed and gender neutral…just insert appropriate pronouns and descriptions.  Can anyone guess who wrote this?  Ok, for a more serious take, see short update below)

Hello,  Here are three notices from Eco-Sense.

2dayposter1.  Next weekend (July 12th and 13th), we are offering a 2-day course:  Permaculture Systems in Action: A 2-Day Introduction to Permaculture Design.  In this course, we’ll introduce the concepts and then show you many examples of what it can look like.  You will be immersed in what it is like to live in a system where everything is connected, whether it is plant, animal (including humans), water, energy, social, food, financial, solar or building systems… you’ll see it all.  Two Gardens and four instructors in partnership with Hatchet & Seed.  Check out this link to learn the details and register.  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/permaculture-systems-in-action-a-2-day-introduction-to-permaculture-design-tickets-11818781293

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Eco-Sense Farm Gate Sales for Perennial Plants.  First spring season was an incredible success…on so many levels.  We really enjoyed meeting so many new faces and connecting with old friends.  Some people came to buy plants or eggs and some just to say hi and walk around the gardens.  It was all good and our farm business looks to be financially and socially viable while meeting our needs to share and connect with people learning about adapting to our changing climate.  If you wish to buy plants over the summer please send us an email (gord@eco-sense.ca) to set up a time.  Our next farm gate open house for perennial edible plants will be Saturday Sept 6, 2014 from 10am – 2pm.  Also, we are looking for 2 gallon or bigger pots.  If you would like to recycle your pots with us please send us an email.  As a thank you, we can offer you a very nice Oca plant.  We call this tubers for tubs.

3.  Anti Spam legislation.  Our first email regarding this new law has resulted in 40% of the people on our list giving permission.  This is exceptionally high for one email.  Wow.  We sure feel appreciated with all your kind messages too.  This email today is the last bulk email to our full list and your last chance to let us know you wish to continue getting emails from us.  So, if you haven’t sent us your consenting email please do so here:  Express Consent – click here and press send  If this doesn’t work for you just send us an email saying you give your consent for Eco-Sense to send you emails.
That’s all.  Thanks!  Ann and Gord10256798_695439347166001_7225618944550495375_n

Eco-Sense and the new Anti Spam Laws

The time as come to address the new CASL (Canadian Anti Spam Legislation) – which we highly suspect is geared towards silencing those whom the government takes the most issue with… as its implementation so nicely coincides on the same day as the charitable organization tax filing deadline. But do not despair… just remember the age old saying, and answer to an age old question – “If the government implements poor legislation to silence voices if a forest is cut down, does Eco-Sense still exist?”   Why yes.

On a positive note, if you appreciate the emails received inclusive of rants and raves, info on tours, plants, open houses, and goofy stories of the challenges of a family that lives in a mud house and shits in a bucket, here is your opportunity to say “Please send me emails of comedic informative inspiration!”

New Spam Laws – what we need to do

We need to address this interesting piece of legislation that will affect virtually everyone who sends or receives email from businesses, non profits, or charitable organizations in Canada.

Please take a quick momentout of your day to help Eco-Sense’s  efforts to become CASL (Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation) compliant.  Would each of you please be so kind to provide your express consent for us to continue sending notices that may include news and rants, tour and workshop updates, plant profile information, and special event notices. Two simple options:

Option 1
Express Consent – click here and type “I give consent to receive emails from Eco-Sense” in the subject.

Option 2
A simple cut and paste reply to this email  ( ann@eco-sense.ca ) stating:
I give express consent to receive electronic emails from Eco-Sense.   

Thanks,  Gord and Ann


Chinese Dogwood – Cornus kousa chinensis

Only two more open houses until we close for the summer break.  We will still be open by appointment during the summer and will start up again this fall.  Our farm plant business has been very successful on so many levels.  We have met such interesting people, had great conversations, and opened our gardens and the Eco-Sense homestead for people to just come and see, explore, meet others, hug chickens, and be inspired.  We’ve also sold enough plants to make it all work.  A few great jobs for Gord have also come from this such as a prefabbed insulated bear proof chicken coop.

Thank you everyone.

When:  Saturday June 21st and June 28th from 10am – 2pm

Where: 3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, near Victoria, BC


Cornus kousa chinensis

Why Chinese dogwood?

Cornus kousa fruit

Cornus kousa fruit

Should I use words or pictures? A beautiful ornamental noted for flowers and fall colour, and in our case the variety ‘Julian’ for it’s large fruit.   A luxury… perhaps, but adding beauty is not a sin, and we can at least claim strong reasoned support for our choice because it is ‘edible’.

Cornus kousa flowers

Cornus kousa flowers

The fruit are large, and ripen between August and October and are showy as you can see. They hang gracefully on long stalks up to 2 inches long and may last from several weeks to almost two months.   Hardy to zone 5 (-20C), and the flowers are hermaphrodite thus self fertile. But then even because it is self fertile, who would want to have just one?


A small tree with a showy bloom

A small tree with a showy bloom

Chinese dogwoods are an adaptable easy to grow shrub handling partial shade, dappled light, to full sun, though with our site due to the intense heat we have moved ours to dappled shade as the full sun curls the leaves more when they are young. They can handle acid to alkaline soils, prefer moist but well drained (as most other plants). They start out slow and pick up their rate of growth as they age though are not considered vigorous in their shoot creation and make a good framework on their own so they require little to no pruning;  if you are wanting to adjust a little, then light pruning in late winter or early spring is the time.   Mature height for ‘Julian’ is 12-20 feet.   Propagation can be accomplished via hardwood cuttings (mature wood of the current year with a heal).  We soak all our cuttings in willow water to aid rooting (see notes below).


Edible raw ore cooked, they are sweet and juicy, a little seedy, and the pulp is creamy and custard like. Young leaves can be steamed as well, though we have not eaten any.

Willow Water for rooting hormone

We have been documenting  the rooting of cuttings using gel hormones, IBA 0.04% powder, IBA 0.08% powder and our homemade willow water.  The willow water wins consistently in doing the job.   We make our willow water using young green spring shoots from any willow, as they have the highest concentrations in them.  I strip the leaves, and chop them into 1/4 inch lengths, place  1/2 cup of them in a jar and pour boiling water over them.   I let soak for 24hrs to pull out the hormone and salicylic acid… then I soak new cuttings in there for 12 hours before placing in my rooting medium.

OCA – a very special Andean Potato

Feature Plant:  Oxalis tuberosa (OCA)

Oca is a small tuber that is a staple crop of the Inca.  They have literally thousands of types of these small potatoes…one for every micro climate in the Andean mountains.  Preserving genetic and biological diversity is essential for a changing climate.  Here is a BBC documentary on OCA  and 3000 other nutritious tubers grown in the Andes for a more resilient and nutritious food source.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSHrNwQle1E

Oca.  Lemony mini potatoes

Oca. Lemony mini potatoes

We think that every garden should grow a patch of OCA, our favourite spud.  We have OCA available for $12 a pot.  Not too late to get into the ground for a fall crop to eat.  One plant should produce enough for one meal or leave them in the ground to expand your tuber plot for many future meals.   Makes excellent ground cover.
OPEN House for perennial plants sales
Saturday June 14 from 10am – 2pm.  

3295 Compton road, East Highlands (near Victoria, BC).  We have OCA and LOTS more.  Here is our plant list.  Prices include GST.  We accept cash or cheque.  We also have two Good King Henry available (not on our list)…productive perennial spinach.

Oca is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.3 m (1ft).

It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.

Beautiful ground cover looks clover like

Beautiful ground cover looks clover like


Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the full shade. It prefers moist soil.

Tubers – raw or cooked. An acid lemon flavour when first harvested, if left out in the sun the tubers turn sweet, so sweet in some varieties that they are said to resemble dried figs and are sold as fruits in local markets in S. America. The cooked root is delicious whether in its sweet or acid state, it can be boiled, baked etc in similar ways to potatoes. The tubers tend to be rather smaller than potatoes, with good sized specimens reaching 8cm or more in length. The slightly waxy skin makes cleaning them very easy. They contain about 70 – 80% moisture, 11 – 22% carbohydrate, 1% fat, 1% fibre and 1% ash. The carbohydrate is rich in sugar and easy to digest.

peruvian Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)


Current ebb and flow of Currants, Currently

Our current affection  (remember we’re married) is for our currants  but is really not all that current, as over the past five years we have come to love and covet them.  Our current currant trends, have spawned us to expanded our currant selection, which just happens to currently be Red, Black, Pink, White and why not add Josta  to the list as well.    Too much?

Why should you like currants too?  Well… besides providing a reason for you to come visit us, the small shrub plants are notoriously adaptable to a host of situations, from part shade to full sun, making them ideal to use for hedging, wind breaks, pathway edging, and in particular for us to help stabilize edges on paths cut into steep slopes.  Oh and there are the edible aspects and their medicinal qualities (like the black currants).   They are easy to propagate, thus once you have a couple, you can expand your  stock easily –   and you are on your way to self sufficiency, (almost).

This saturday (May 31) we are open from 10 am – 2pm to chat about all things leafy and edible, along with anything else… and currants fall under both those categories.

We grow a whole host of plants in this family, the Ribes family, including the currants (red, black, white and pink currant), gooseberries (yellow and red), josta berry, thimble berry and salmon berry.   We also grow lots of flowering red currant for the beauty and the bees.

Location: Currants like morning sun, afternoon part-shade and buoyant air circulation. They can be grown in the high shade of fruit trees such as persimmon, as well as on the north side of buildings. The leaves sunburn readily and the plants collapse quickly when the soil or air temperature exceeds 85° F. Currants can withstand ocean winds but the salt air will burn the leaves and turn them ragged.
Soil:  Currants are not finicky about soil but, in keeping with their proclivity for cold, prefer heavier soils richer in clay. A thick mulch of some organic material also keeps the soil cool in summer while adding humus to the soil. Sandy soils are less suitable for currants because they dry out too fast. The plants will not tolerate alkaline or salty soil.
Irrigation: With their fibrous, shallow roots, currants are are ideal for drip irrigation. Keep the plants watered until the fruit is harvested. At this point they stop active growth and the watering frequency can be reduced. Plants stressed for water are susceptible to mildew.

Red Currants

Red Currant

Red Currant

Sweet and Tart at the same time, we eat them by handfuls straight off the bush.   Noted for their iron and vitamin C content, 100 grams provides 68% of your daily C intake.   A mature bush  (4 years) can provide up to 4 kg of berries.


White Currants

White Currant

White Currant

We have two varieties (White Pearl and Swedish).   They are virtually albino versions of the red currant.   Other than the difference in colour the reason we are growing these is that the birds seem more attracted by the red, than the non-red, hence we need to do less protection to save them for ourselves.  Slightly sweeter than the red currant.

Pink Currant

The cultivar we have is Gloire de Sablons the most common planted cultivar.  Bush is upright, not branching, very productive, and the berries quite are large but few on strig.

Black Currants

Ben - Black Currants

Ben – Black Currants

Black currants, especially the canadian cultivars are highly astringent thus fresh eating is limited, which is why we have chosen  the variety from the Scotlan Research Institute, Ben Hope, Ben Connan and Ben Tirran.   These are higher in sugar, and suited well for fresh eating, strong resilient and self fertile cultivars.  That said, all plants do better with a buddy.  One cup of black currants provides 338% of your daily requirement needs of Vitamin C, and then there is the high iron, potassium, phosphorous and maganese, which outdoes all the other currants.
Ben Connan  an early variety outyeilds all other varieties on a compact small bush, with very large berries.   It has large, deep black berries with a pleasant acid/sweet flavour, compact growth habit makes it suitable for u-pick farms and the home garden market. Great for fresh eating, jams, preserves, canning but needs to be harvested good and ripe for best sweetness.
Ben Hope, a tall upright bush, has good yields of sweet medium sized berries.   Is thought to be an ideal specimen for low input growing systems… anything we grow has to be neglected to survive.
Ben Tirran is a  late cultivarwith a growth habit upright and vigorous (not a tall as Ben Hope) with pleasant tasting medium sized berries. It flowers a little later than other Ben series black currants so it has reasonable tolerance to spring frosts. Fruit is suitable for both juice and jams.

Josta Berry



Josta berries are hybrids of black currant and the American gooseberry, the bush is tall, thornless, tends not to branch and requires the space of 2 currant bushes. The foliage is glossy, larger than gooseberry, lobed, scentless and resists mildew. It survives full sunlight but requires much winter chilling. and as for edible they have the black currant flavour with the gooseberry sweetness.   There are some thoughts of back pollinating these with the Ben series to increase the berry production up a notch while maintaining the sweetness.




Hinnomaki cultivars from Finland are sweet and flavourful.  Growing 2 metres in height, they are prickly stemmed.
Hinomaki Red Gooseberry has heavy crops of red medium sized fruit borne on upright plants that have good mildew resistance.

Hinomaki Yellow Gooseberry

Heavy crops of yellow-green medium sized fruit are borne on upright plants that have good mildew resistance.

Flowering Red Current and Thimble Berry are not potted though if interest is expressed, we can harvest  from our transplanted stock given prior notice.

So as you can see we are big fans of these little but copious fruits.  We thank our neighbour Ingo for introducing us to them in ALL THEIR FLAVOURS AND COLOURS.    Hopefully you too might follow the current, so you too can exclaim you’re a current fan of currants.

Haskaps and Honeyberries WTF is the difference?

Wow, it is Friday already and we have not yet posted our plant profile for this week.   And when tomorrow’s open house comes (Saturday from 10am-2pm), whatever will we have to talk about if we don’t post something?    (Ann:  Lots Gord…we talk about other things too you know…not just plants.  We talk about chickens, ducks, and cheese too…maybe even kefir and sauerkraut).  This week’s plant profile is a toss up between our three year old Arbequina olives (Olea europa), the replenishing of our tea stock (Camelia sinensis), new oca, the dwindling supply of Sichuan pepper trees (only 3 left)… or our late bearing Japanese Lonicera caerulea varieties emphallocalyx and  kamtschatica or HASKAPs for short.   (Ann:  eyes rolling as Gord spews out his newly learned latin).  (Gord: Ann loves when I speak in different languages).

But before we tell you about the plant of the week, we just have to say… What a week!  Composting bathrooms being built at a local park/public orchard (Welland Park), more cheese, more plants, (Ann:  More cheese), the Ladysmith Garden Club tour (Ann:  A very nice tour crashing couple arrived that the Ladysmith group invited to join their tour), plants arriving (Ann: and then Gord leaving me to move all 250 of them out of the sun), and Our Eco-village mega-tour with great people leaving with hugs as they headed on to another amazing place full of stories, Madrona Farm.   (Ann:  Yeah, then I headed out to my neighbours to milk her goat, swap stories, and return home with more milk…to make more cheese).  Did we mention our last shipment of plants… yup, we had under estimated the interest in the edible perennial food systems, and would never have had the stock  to make it to June… and left us without our propagating stock… even digging out our extra male fuzzy kiwi out of our garden. (Ann:  Males can be so redundant eh?)  We have had emails  with pictures and questions to identify plants, and recommend options.   We love the amount of interest in all the cool things from plants to… did Ann say cheese?.

Oh and not to mention, we observed the success of last year’s roof top squash bed on our steel container, where 150 squash hung off the sides (Ann:  Gord always exaggerates…it was 120)… so this year we have planted the house roof with butternuts and watermelon (Ann: note…Ann planted them…ok Gord carries up the bales and most of the buckets).   Are we crazy?  Only Ann!   (Ann:  Only Gord)(Guess who’s writing this update?).  (Ann:  Ann’s editing).

We have decided on profiling the plant which seems to have a lot of partial information on it … so here it is…wtf?  (Ann: Want The Facts?)

And one last piece of info… here is the up to date online list of plant availability and pricing .

Honey Berry – Haskap – (Lonicera caerulea spp.)

o   Lonicera caerulea var. edulis – Russian (Early)

o   Lonicera caerulea var. emphyllocalyx – Japan (Late)

o   Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica – Japan (Late)

Why Honey Berry or Haskap?

First off why the different names? The Russian varieties, have been referred to as honey berry, and the Japanese have been called haskap. The two varieties have different characteristics, but what both do have in common is that they are an early edible blue coloured berry that comes from a beautiful understory bush, that can be grown in our climate. It is hard not to turn away from early berries.

L. cerulean var. edulis – Russian/Canadian Cultivars EARLY SEASON

These are notably the hardier cultivars that can handle the extreme cold in Canada and Russia, and thus they have been a berry that has been bred to live through a Saskatchewan winter. These varieties ripen early. Our recommendation for the early varieties is to plant in areas where they get early morning sun, avoid the frost pockets.

  • Tundra – grows 5-6 ft tall, berries are firm and thus makes them ideal for machine harvesting, but great for the home garden, and has a sweet-tangy flavour. Borealis and Tundra do not pollinate each other well – Pollinated by Honeybee or Berry Blue. More Info
  • Borealis – grows 5-6 ft tall. The SWEETEST honeyberry, high yield large fruit. The berries are soft, plump, boxy and largest. It has large fruit and is the sweetest cultivar though it does tend to bleed.  Excellent fresh eating. Tundra is a poor pollinator for Borealis, Honey bee and Berry Blue are the pollinators. More Info
  • Honeybee – a tall pollinator plant suited for Tundra and Borealis. Berries are tart and used in jams and juices… they are the least tart of the Russian pollinators.   More Info

L. caerulea var. emphyllocalyx and kamtschatica – Japan Cultivars LATE SEASON

These come from Northern Japan, are 3 -4 weeks later than the Russian/Canadian cultivars, and are well suited for the coastal climate of the west coast from Oregon on north.

  • Blue Hokkaido – upright 4-5 ft. tall growth habit and very large, sweet-tart, crisp and flavorful, dark blue berries.   Bloom in March, ripen in June.
  • Blue Moon – 2-3 ft tall and wide. Very cold-tolerant — withstands temperatures as low as -40°F. This hardy variety features lovely dark green foliage. Good for fresh eating or making preserves. Full sun or partial shade. Best pollinator: Blue Velvet. Blooms March, ripens May-June.
  • Blue Pagoda – Sweet berries. Best pollination with Blue Velvet. Blooms March, ripens May-June
  • Blue Velvet – 4 ft tall by 5 ft wide compact spreading   A unique variety, distinguished by its attractive, grayish-green, velvety foliage and its very large, sweet-tart and flavorful, medium-blue berries. Grows well in cold regions, it is also a particularly good choice for Maritime Northwest gardeners.Large crops of very large tasty berries. Cold-tolerant. Good for fresh eating or making preserves. Best pollinator: Blue Moon. Blooms March, ripens May-June.
  • Blue Pacific – 2-3 feet tall and wide. Actually an L. caerulea edulis. A reliable producer west of the Cascades and in other regions of North America. Bloom March, ripens May-June
  • Blue Mist – 2-3 feet tall 3-4 ft wide. Heavy producer of large sweet tart berries. Blooms March, ripens May-June.


Generally they all will grow in part shade to full sun, though we recommend that if you live in an area with hot summers, as we do (in summer we are 5-7C hotter than Victoria), to give them protection from the heat.   Our other recommendation is to plant the early ones outside of frost pockets, where frost does not impact the bloom or the pollinators, thus where they get early sun and where the pollinators won’t get chilled.   As for the late season, plant where you wish.


The descriptions above lay out the edibility… early berries that range from sweet to tart.  Some are firmer and thus if you are so incline to use a machine to harvest… they’ll be great though I suspect all will be loving hand picked and eaten with enthusiasm.  The sweeter are great fresh off the bush, the tart ones mostly dedicated as the pollinators, are great for juice and wines or pies.


Chestnuts – feature plant for Sat May 17 open house

Our weekly farm gate open house this saturday (May 17th from 10am-2pm) features Chestnuts.  (open house details)  We believe that chestnuts will be an essential perennial food plant in the decades to come.


With climate change causing global disruption to food production, perennial foods just make sense.  Perennial plants like chestnuts, hold the soil together year round, and are more drought and heat tolerant.  PLUS, chestnuts can be ground into flours to make all kinds of nutritious foods without gluten and they even feed livestock.  Large food producing trees also sequester large amounts of carbon in the tree and the soil.  So whether you are concerned about local food, a healthier diet with less grains, mitigation of climate change, or adaptation to a changing climate, perennial plants are for you.

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Come on out to Eco-Sense this saturday and have a visit, talk, walk, learn and even share your favourite rants.
We have chickens and ducks so please leave your pets at home.

Ann and Gord


Chestnuts – Castanea spp
– Chinese Chestnut – Castanea mollissima
– Japanese Chestnut – Castanea crenata
– American Chestnut X – Castanea dentata
– European Chestnut X – Castanea sativa

Why Chestnuts?

Chestnuts are the replacement for grain crops, are perennial, heavy producers of nutrient dense food for humans, wildlife, and farm animals alike.  Considered the most important tree in temperate climates, and the topic of many books including Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture by J.R. Smith which was one of the pivotal  books that spawned Bill Mollison’s permaculture revolution.

American Chestnut - WOW!

American Chestnut – WOW!

In North America the giant American Chestnut (Castanea dentata), (100 ft tall, 10 ft diameter trunks), was the most valuable crop due to the shear quantities of reliable food it produced, and the exceptionally rot resistant wood it produced. In the early 1900s chestnut blight was introduced and heavily impacted the orchards – the die off was massive. In true human fashion, rather than protect the surviving chestnuts which may have been the genetically resistant version of the American chestnut trees, there was a huge push to chop them all down and harvest the wood before they went extinct, as is done in good human fashion.   This virtually eliminated any chance of bringing the American Chestnut back.

Chinese Chestnut 40 feet


Japanese Chestnut – 20 feet tall

The Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima) had evolved with the blight and had natural tolerances, and has since become the most widely planted chestnut in North America. The Chinese Chestnut has been used to cross with C. dentata to breed a cross that is blight resistant.   The Chinese chestnut is about half the size of the American chestnut growing to 40 ft tall, multi stemmed, has larger nuts, is suited for drier rockier soils than the Japanese chestnut.

The Japanese Chestnut (Castanea crenata), also with resistance to blight is being is also being used as a breeding stock to build immune resistance into the American chestnut. The Japanese chestnut is the smallest, reaching heights of 30 feet, with a multi stemmed growth habit, and has been known to have the largest of the nuts (up to 40 g).

European chestnut - 60 ft

European chestnut – 60 ft

The European Chestnut (Castanea sativa) is large like the American chestnut, and highly edible. It shares all the similar benefits as the others. We believe our crosses from Gabriola Island and Fernwood are C. sativa crossed with Chinese… but we will observe growth habits and leaves.


Hardy from zones 5-8, all will need a start in moist well drained loamy soils, though once established the Japanese and Chinese will handle dry conditions well, and the Chinese can handle rockier soils. Nut production should begin in 5-7 years, with heavy crops in 10-12 years.  LeafComparisons If planted in the sun, the tree will form more nuts, but if partially shaded, there will still be nuts, so we just planted more trees.   We are transforming areas over the next 10 years where as the chestnuts grow taller, we’ll harvest some of the surrounding taller trees to allow for the chestnut to become the dominant center piece.


Yes!   Nuts are a major food source for animals (including us silly humans). In comparison to other nuts they are low in calories, due to less fat, high in carbohydrates making them a good substuitute for grains for breads. They are high in folates (folic acid), 100 g has 72% of DRI of vitamin C, rich sources of oleic and palmitoleic acids (mono-unsaturated fatty acids). Further, they are also rich in many important B-complex groups of vitamins. 100 g of nuts provide 11% of niacin, 29% of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), 100% of thiamin, and 12% of riboflavin.
Boiled, roasted, raw, as a flour, these are versatile.

Other uses

Wood of all cultivars is strong and long lasting. The leaves , bark and seed husks are high in tannin and can be used in tanning hides.


Saturday May 10th: Edible Perennial Plants at Eco-Sense featuring The Autumn Olive

Our 3rd open house of the season on Saturday from 10am-2pm:
3295 Compton Road, Highlands, BC

Last Saturday we had another successful farm gate open house at Eco-Sense. Enthusiasm for perennial plants and local living is growing…almost faster than our food forest. People come to Eco-Sense to buy perennial food plants, eggs and seeds but ALSO to talk, walk, and learn.

We love that we are not just a nursery. We are a place to share stories, learn, connect, and feel inspired to put some permanent roots in the soil.

Also on Saturday is this very special workshop hosted by our good friends at Hatchet & Seed:  An awesome opportunity to learn about specific perennial plants.

Also on Saturday is this very special workshop hosted by our good friends at Hatchet & Seed: An awesome opportunity to learn about specific perennial plants.

People are coming and bringing their friends and family to stroll through our various gardens, peek at the cob house, the Eco-Hut, chicken coops, root cellar, and to socialize, hang out with chickens and ducklings, and to get ideas and share ideas.

For further details click here:  OPEN FARM DETAILS:

What fun! Thanks everyone!

Autumn Olive – Elaeagnus umbellata

Why Autumn Olive?

If you have never read about permaculture then you would never know why we consider this to be one of, if not the most, important plant we grow. This plant has many uses as a food source as well as a support plant for the fruit and nut trees and ground covers which means that we include many of these small trees.1326053669-eleagnus1_web

First off, lets just say the autumn olive is not a olive at all, but a fruit that looks like an olive, except yellow, orange and red. The fruits are delicious!   But not getting all anthropogenic and thinking about our taste buds (and health) this shrub is a nitrogen fixer for the soil.   Classified as a pioneering species, its role is to collect nitrogen from the air, suck it down to the roots where mycorhizzae (fungi) develop a transport system that takes that nitrogen and then feeds it to surrounding plants.   This means we do not need to bring in fertilizers to feed the other plants! We ultimately wish to have one plant for each of our various fruit and nut trees (this means upwards of 50).


This deciduous shrub grows 12 ft tall, hardy to -30C, and handles dappled shade to full sun.   We grow ours in the understory of our arbutus grove and in two areas that get full sun. We have found those in the dappled shade have grown quicker.


The berries!   Delicious and high in lycopenes, an intermediary in the creation of carotenoids, which integrate into the lymphatic system and both aid in reduced cancer (especially prostate) as well as increasing the resistance to skin damage by UV radiation .autumn olive berry closeup

Other uses

Nitrogen fixation for use by the other plants surrounding the autumn olive is one of the most important for us.   The flowers are a key insectiary attractant.  It was introduced to North America 100 years ago as a soil stabilizer for heavily impacted and damaged landscapes, and as it is a pioneering plant, it performed this job very well… some may say too well, but we can’t blame a plant for our own human invasiveness and land impacts – here we keep it in check by eating it… and the deer do too, (too bad scotch broom is not edible). It is also a key source for mulch during the growing season as its prunings are chopped and dropped and become mulch, as with the leaf drop in fall.

We have Garnet and Ruby cultivars, and by the end of next week will have Amber too!


Sat May 3rd Farm Gates Sales Open House (10am-2pm)

Keeping our Pawpaws off our nuts!

It’s SPRING at Eco-Sense,  and it started with a vibrant burst of activity on our first farm gate open house  (saturday April 26th), which was surprisingly more hectic than we imagined.   Over 40 people wandered through our specialized perennial food nursery and the hilltop gardens and trails like pollen floating and spreading on the breeze.    Our day was spent informing people of the details of the various plants, sharing Mud Puddle stories and cuddles, and  selling out of our eggs too!

Mudpuddle the duck leading another tour

Mudpuddle the duck leading another tour

Eco-Sense Map:  Parking at bottom of both driveways or up top.

Eco-Sense Map: Parking at bottom of both driveways or up top.

This Saturday  (May 3rd) and every saturday from 10 am to 2 pm until June 28th, we’ll be at it again, and its going to be nuts.  For specific details on the open house check out our last blog post here:  OPEN FARM DETAILS:



It was a busy week here at Eco-Sense with 6 tour groups, including five grade 6 classes and ending the week with our very successful open house.  0ver 220 people personally greeted Mudpuddle and the ducklings and many purchased perennial plants and eggs.


Slug Patrol

Slug Patrol




Speaking of nuts,besides our regular mix of Actinidia arguta/kolomikta/delisiosa, Cornus kousa/mas, Elaeagnus multiflora/umbellata…   and 40 other edible perennial plants, we will have the limited selection of Paw Paws (Asimina trilba) new this week – North America’s largest fruit that is best described as a cross between a mango and banana and cold hardy to -30C.  Even more exciting is our nuts!

Crosne.  Edible small tuber with awesome fast growing ground cover

Crosne. Edible small tuber with awesome fast growing ground cover

One of the most important features lacking in the local food security landscape is the lack of nut trees in the region.  There are some around, very healthy planted many years ago, but it became more fashionable to plant inedible nuts like the horse chestnut, which line countless streets in Victoria.   We want to change that and have choice edibles that suit the yards, spaces and community gardens with our Japanese Chestnuts, Chinese Chestnuts, American X Chinese chestnuts, Yellow Horn, and of course the most exciting being the Oregon State University (OSU) Hazelnut cultivars.    Our walnut and ultra northern hardy pecan seedlings are just sprouting and won’t be available till next year.

Oca.  Lemony mini potatoes

Oca. Lemony mini potatoes

The chestnuts are the big main trees in a guild, the hazelnuts are the next layer at 12-15 ft.  For those who don’t know our excitement over the hazelnuts, we had been trying to bring in the Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) resistant varieties from the OSU Breeding program for 6 years!   We finally have them thanks to Thom Odell of OSU,from Nature Tech, who jumped through the hoops with the tissue cultures, built his own lab and started growing the trees.   We ordered in 100 trees in the fall for this spring, we virtually sold out and have brought in more.  Good timing too, as virtually all the stock from the lab/breeder has been snapped up due to the EFB hitting the hazelnut nurseries on the island, with Courtenay growers being the latest victim having to replace all their trees, and it is working its way down island.

We have Jefferson, Yamhill, Theta, Sacajawea, Gamma and Eta, and based on your available space, we can set up a pairing of  two/three/four hazelnuts of cross pollinating trees for you.

Weekly Plant Profiles

10173567_699710030072266_2423639426299758704_nEach week we will be posting a plant profile as our way to introduce the perennial food plants that we deem viable components in a local food system.  It was hard to choose this week’s, Should it be Paw Paws, Chestnuts, Cornelian Cherry, Perennial Leek, Crosne, Oca, the Kiwis… this week it is the Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana).  To learn more about perennial permaculture plants you may be interested in this Hatchet & Seed workshop coming up on MAY 10th.


Hazelnut – Corylus avellana

Why Hazelnuts?

Hazelnuts have been a food source in this region for millennia, one of the few historical and consistent nut crops. High in fats and protein (and thus calories), stores well, and easily. That said, sadly over the past 2 years there has been a crash in the trees caused from Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB), and this EFB has finally hit Vancouver Island. This has been expected, and thus there has been a ban in BC on importing nuts that may exacerbate this, though this ban has also not allowed the growers to prep for this before now. The good news is that the Oregon State University has been researching this and creatied a breeding program to create EFB resistant varieties, that are hardier and more robust. For 6 years we have been trying to gain access but the ban has stopped us, until now… and we now carry legal OSU EFB resistant hazelnuts.

Hazelnuts are well suited for the PNW and we are one of the few places in the world where the climate is ideal, with good moisture, cold hours and pollinating conditions.

Hazelnuts require multiple cultivars for cross pollination. Some culstivars are ‘support’ trees for the ‘production’ trees, though all cultivars will bear nuts. The pollinating season is broken down into early, mid and late season, so we sell the trees in packages to match your site.


Hazelnuts can be grown as a dwarf multi-stemmed shrub to 10 feet or in tree form up to 12-15ft with the pruning of the suckers. They are wind pollinated where the ale catkins pollen is blown onto the tiny female flowers starting in January up into April.   We have found that they are great grey water plants (like our figs) so fit into grey water systems wonderfully.   When the young trees hit 4 ft tall, we snip off the top and begin to let them branch out.


Space trees about 10-15 feet apart. We plant in groups, or in line with the prevailing spring winds to take advantage of the pollen spread.

Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball (we dig our about 18” deep and wide), and roughen the sides of the hole so there are no smooth walls, as this allows root growth into parent soil. Amend the hole with half compost and half native soil with two handfuls of bone meal – fill the hole halfway. Remove the tree from the pot, ensure the root ball is wet, and separate the roots as best as possible so there are at least four of the larger radial roots heading in different directions (place the largest root the direction of the prevailing winds). At this time if you wish, add a mycorhizae innoculant to the roots – we use Mycogrow and Myke Shrub inoculants. Back fill slowly, ensuring to get the amended soil all the way around (no air pockets). Once planted, mulch in a 18” radius and water thouroughly to help set the soil and moisten up the surrounding native soil. Once the tree is 4 feet tall trim the tip to begin the branching process.

4 tree package – ($180)

Jefferson, Yamhill, Gamma/Sacajawea, Eta/Theta

3 tree package ($140)

Jefferson, Yamhill, Sacajawea
Jeferson, Theta, Yamhill

2 Tree Packages ($90)

Jefferson, Theta/Eta
Yamhill, Gamma
Yamhill, Sacajawea
Sacajawea, Gama

 The perfect 10 tree orchard ($450)

3 jefferson, 1 Eta, 1 Theta, 2 Sacajawea, 1 Gamma, 2 Yamhil



SAT April 26th 10-3pm at Eco-Sense

Spring greetings from Eco-Sense!

Tomorrow (Saturday April 26th), marks the first day of our new FARM business here at Eco-Sense.  This is not your average farm gate sales.  We are focusing on plants specifically selected for local food security, resilience, and adaptation.  More specifically, these are Permaculture Plants consisting mostly of perennials often incorporated into a Food Forest, which means that once planted they will produce food and ecosystem benefits for years to come.  If you don’t know what permaculture plants are you may be interested in an upcoming workshop on May 10 put on by our Friends at Hatchet & Seed Edible Landscaping.  Registration here:  http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/permaculture-plants-tickets-11071323627
Farm Gate Sales Open House Details:
Open house dates:  Don’t worry if you can’t make it out to Eco-Sense this saturday as we will be having farm gate sales every Saturday all spring…and then every sat this fall.  Check out our website http://www.eco-sense.ca for up to date information.  We also book private appointments for people who cannot make it out on saturdays and are interested in many of our plants.   Here is a price list of just some of our plants currently for sale…it will be changing all the time:

Page 1 price list

Page 1 price list


Page 2 price list

Paying for stuff:  We accept cash and cheques.  Sorry, no credit cards.  
What’s for sale?  As mentioned we will be selling mostly perennial plants but will also have some seeds available and other garden items throughout the season as we have extra. Anyone like kale?  Tis the season for kale and cabbage shoots.  Eggs will also be part of our farm gate sales especially this fall as our chicken and duck flocks increase.  Currently we will only have an extra 1-2 doz eggs per week as our neighbours have been buying all our eggs up.  Once you’ve eaten truly free range eggs from happy chickens, there’s no going back.  Please bring appropriate packaging materials for your purchases…box, bag, etc.
Pets:  We have a very affectionate and annoying dog named Boo.  Please don’t let him jump up on you…he responds to body language, so just turn your back on him…this works with Gord too.  We also have a very friendly DUCK named Mudpuddle…she LOVES people, so please don’t step on Mudpuds.  Please leave your pets at home as our dog, chickens, chicks, duck, and ducklings would be upset by a temporary addition to the zoo.  Even if your pets are well behaved, ours are not.

Mudpuds leading a tour

Mudpud leading a tour

Parking will be interesting:  If you think you might be just coming to check it out or buy only a couple little items, you may wish to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up…our driveway could be a bottle neck and parking is limited up top.  Check out the attached Eco-Sense map for parking options.  Gord and I are going to have a go at the driveway with pick-axes and shovels this afternoon to create a wide spot for cars to pass.  Wish us luck!
Map of Eco-Sense:  
Eco-Sense Map:  Parking at bottom of both driveways or up top.

Eco-Sense Map: Parking at bottom of both driveways or up top.

Pathways:  You are welcome to wander around and look at gardens and the food forest while you are here, but please stay on the pathways and watch where you step.  We have PLANTS everywhere that are young and just getting started.  The wild flowers are also out in FULL BLOOM and BEAUTIFUL.
It’s been a busy week around here as we’ve had 6 tours, tonnes of emails, and are getting ready for the open house.

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Thanks for sharing in our new Eco-Sense journey.
Hugs to everyone,
Ann and Gord