There are a lot of rules, and a lot of ideas masquerading as rules in gardening, but well-known Qualicum Beach gardener Donna Balzer is trying to point fellow green-thumbs toward the insights their own gardens can provide.
Balzer and her daughter, Chelsie Anderson, have put together the Three Year Gardener’s Gratitude Journal — a diary for gardeners that includes growing advice and stories — which Balzer will launch at Seedy Saturday on Saturday, Feb. 3.
“Think of it as a gardening tool,” said Balzer of the book.
Providing a sort of guided journaling experience, the book encourages people to pay more attention to the natural world as a type of life philosophy, by way of noting what’s happening in their own garden, and also learn from how and when things grow in their garden, said Balzer.
“I had one friend here in Qualicum Beach who called me over and she said, ‘You know the aphids are just destroying my tree; I don’t know what to do,’ and I looked at her tree and she had on that tree baby ladybugs: the little crawlers, and she had eggs, she had pupa, she had adults, she had them all. She had aphids, but she had all the things that were going to help her. But she just didn’t know where to look,” said Balzer.
Those are the kinds of things people might learn to notice and take note of with a journal, and learn to notice the interconnectedness of how one thing impacts another in nature.
Formerly the horticulturalist at the Calgary Zoo, Balzer ended up getting a call from CBC to give gardening advice, then wrote her first book, connected with HGTV to co-host a show that aired for three seasons, and now is a columnist for the Calgary Herald and a contributor to CBC Radio1 in Alberta.
She said the journal came out of “Good News Stories” she and her daughter were collecting and posting on Balzer’s blog, with a plan of putting together a book when they had enough stories.
The stories are featured in the journal, alongside dated note-taking spaces, monthly writing prompts and more.
Balzer said she’d excited to launch the book at Seedy Saturday, and was surprised by how quickly the book was put together with the help of a local designer and editor, and a printer in Manitoba.
“It’s just an all-Canadian, all-the-time story,” she said.
She said the journal is a great tool for the novice as well as skilled gardeners, both of whom may sometimes jot down notes on spare bits of paper about their gardens, but who could all benefit from learning about how things grow in their own garden from one year to the next.
“Each and every garden, whether you live in Parksville or Nanoose or even up in Courtenay, doesn’t matter where you live, each side of your house and your garden, each neighbourhood, each street is going to be slightly different, because if you’re quite low, you’re going to get frosts earlier; if you’re higher you’re going to get winds,” said Balzer.
“For instance, this yard is north-facing, so we don’t get that early spring sun that other people get. But if you did, you’d already have flowers blooming right now, things to record in your journal.”
While gardeners can learn from each other, the internet, books and TV shows, Balzer said she thinks there’s a little too much reliance on those things. “I think it’s kind of fun to rely on yourself, so this is a bit of a self-reliance tool.”
Balzer will be speaking at the Seedy Saturday event on Feb. 3 at the Qualicum Civic Centre (747 Jones St.) where she will also launch the book.
For more information on the book, go to donnabalzer.com/product/three-year-gardeners-gratitude-journal-part-diary-part-personal-growing-guide/.