Nursery still growing after 60 years

Le Coteau Nursery offers free workshops on urban farming

Rob Harris stands outside his Le Coteau Nursery

When Rob Harris was a peacekeeper in the late 1980s, a fragrant scent accompanied his daily patrols in Syria’s Golan Heights. Years later, when he took over Le Coteau Nursery in a bid to keep learning in his 50s, he finally discovered the source.

“I never knew what it was until I started getting citrus in and it bloomed and I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness that is what that smell was,” said Harris.

Founded in 1956 by Jack Ponchet, Le Coteau Nursery in West Saanich has been supplying local grocery stores and providing plants and familiar fruit trees to gardeners eager for apples, peaches, plums and pears. Now in its 60th year, the farm offers such exotic fruits as lemons, Chilean guava, and persimmon, and is marking the occasion with a series of special events.

On most Saturdays this April and May from noon to 2 p.m., Le Coteau will feature a different free workshop on introductory urban farming, berry growing, herb gardens, and plants with health benefits.

Farming is a long way from his former careers in the military and the insurance business, but Harris kept growing in his backyard in James Bay, which he attributes to hot childhood summers in Ontario surrounded by beefsteak tomatoes and lettuce patches. Now Harris cultivates herbs, deer-resistant shrubs (some of which even bear fruit), hanging baskets, and much more on a commercial scale. He says that citrus has become very popular with customers, which he attributes to the smell of the blooming plants.

In addition to supplying hobby gardeners and landscapers, Le Coteau supplies local grocery stores with vegetables like cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes. The farm also supports other local food initiatives like the Grow Young Farmers Society, which teaches farming skills to children and puts fruit trees and vegetable gardens in schoolyards, and Food Eco District, a collection of local restaurants and volunteers promoting urban food production. After a long search, it is clear that Harris has found his passion.

“What better way to make a difference than to put food in people’s yards, take up carbon and put oxygen into the atmosphere? That makes me feel good every time a tree goes out.”

Saturday workshops offer a lunch by The Salt and Pepper Fox for $12. The festivities will culminate with a 60th anniversary party on May 28 featuring on-site events and giveaways. To register for workshops and for more information, email or visit



Just Posted

St. Luke Cedar Hill Anglican Church hosts open house, spring cemetery clean up

Learn more about the region’s oldest cemetery May 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Three arrested in Sooke drug bust

RCMP targeted traffickers in fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine

Standalone Beach Drive plum tree gets love

Ivy pulled off plum tree next to Queens’ Park

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read