Bill and Karen Millward stand with one of their three beehives in their sub-urban backyard in Parksville. Their garden is one of 12 participating in the Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society’s Mother’s Day Weekend Garden Tour on May 12 and 13. — Adam Kveton Photo

Gardeners a-buzz for MARS tour in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Couple to discuss bee benefits at garden tour May 12-13

You wouldn’t bee-lieve the yield this pair of gardeners gets from their small, suburban yard.

For this year’s Mother’s Day Weekend Garden Tour, put on by the Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society (MARS), 12 gardens in both Qualicum Beach and Parksville will be open to visitors, including the Parksville garden of Karen and Bill Millward.

In their small, suburban yard, the retired pair manage to grow an impressive amount of fruits and vegetables, not to mention some flowers including roses and rhododendrons, with the help of their three bee hives.

“We don’t buy any fruit at all, other than citrus fruit,” said Karen while showing The NEWS around their garden. Even then, they’ve got enough to give jam and honey away to friends, family and neighbours.

In fact, that’s an integral part of introducing their bees to the neighbourhood, said Karen.

“You have to be an educator and an ambassador for them (the bees),” she said. “The easiest way is to hand out honey,” she added with a laugh.

Doing a bit of educating is part of the couple’s plan for participating in MARS’ garden tour, taking place in Parksville and Qualicum Beach May 12 and 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will be the first time they’re participating. The Millward’s feel they can offer examples of how to make good use of a relatively small space for growing your own food, and introduce sub-urban beekeeping to more people.

The pair moved to Parksville from Ontario four years ago, and had thought about keeping bees occasionally, but decided to take on the challenge upon seeing a swarm of bees collecting on a post in the backyard of the Parksville home they wanted to buy.

Turned out their future neighbour was a beekeeper, and this swarm had broken off from one of their hives.

The Millward’s decided to take it on, and their garden (and many others in the neighbourhood) have been the better for it, they said.

“Everything gets fertilized when you have bees in the yard,” said Karen.

The Millwards report getting gallons of currants, in addition to significant numbers of fruit and vegetables, including cherries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, asparagus, pears, figs, onions, tomatoes and more.

The Millwards have also worked hard to grow such a variety of things in their yard, with Bill in particular feeling that, if people have land, it should be producing something.

Growing your own food in your own space (whatever size) is a growing trend, and one that the Millwards hope to shed some light on during the tour, as well as the benefits of sub-urban beekeeping.

The garden tour has a variety of different kinds of gardens to see — some with local artists who will be painting at different times in the gardens.

Tickets for the self-guided tour are $15 for a tour map. Attendants at each garden stamp tickets and direct participants.

Tickets/maps are available at Mulberry Bush book stores in Qualicum Beach and Parksville, Arrowsmith Greenhouses, Milner Gardens and Woodland, Ken-Dor Garden Centre, Buckerfield’s, Cultivate Garden and Gift, and Colyn’s Nursery and Garden Centre in Port Alberni.

For more info, go to marsrhodos.ca or call 250-228-0564.

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