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The Artisan’s Garden will be offering their popular wreath- making classes again for the holiday season on November 30, December 7 and 14. Gwen and her staff foraged extensively to find the freshest, most beautiful greens from their own garden, from friends’ gardens and from the Sooke forests all around them. As well, they have gathered a variety of unique embellishments and ribbons for the occasion, so you’ll have plenty of decorations to choose from as you assemble your creation. There’s hot apple cider and holiday baking on hand to sample as you work!

In 2019, Maclean’s magazine gathered data on 415 communities across Canada to identify the best spots to live in Canada. They were looking for what they call “supercharged small towns”—communities with rural charm with close access to urban jobs. They defined a “community” as a town or city with its own mayor.

They selected and compared 415 communities using the following categories: wealth and economy, affordability, population growth, taxes, commute, crime, weather, access to health care, amenities and culture.

And guess what? Three of our West Shore municipalities made the list as towns that are offering an attractive alternative to big-city living!

Here is a small sampling of some less well-known lakes in and around the West Shore that you and your friends and family can explore this summer. Pack a picnic, grab your fishing pole and head out to explore some of these Secret Lakes!

This highly-anticipated annual Sooke Fine Arts Show gives the finest artists from Vancouver Island and BC’s coastal islands an opportunity to showcase and sell their work.

This year, the Sooke Fine Arts Show is celebrating its 33rd anniversary as Vancouver Island’s longest-running, juried fine art show. Each year between 1200 and 1400 artworks are submitted.

The 11-day art show and sale draw more than 9,000+ art lovers from Canada, the US and abroad. More than 375 works of original island art are on display in a stunning, 16,000-square-foot gallery. The unique artworks encompass 2D, 3D, ceramics and glass, fibre arts, jewelry, and digital and traditional photography.

Ever been to a summer solstice celebration? Well, you’re in for a treat—Sooke style! Gwen Fisher, owner of the Artisan’s Garden & Pure Elements, has assembled a cast of exciting entertainments to make it an evening you are sure to enjoy, with music, food and a fashion show on June 21st.

One thing I’ve learned about Gwen is that she is a diligent collaborator and advocate for local artists and businesses in Sooke. Her upcoming ‘Summer Solstice Ladies Night’ is a good example of how she ‘works’ with others in her community whenever she holds a special event.

The Artisan’s Garden is in bloom for another eventful year. Along with her plants and flowers, Gwen Fisher, the inspiration behind the Artisan’s Gardens in Sooke, seeks out talented, local artisans to intermingle their art, and vintage or repurposed accessories in her garden for all to enjoy. The big event this year is Gwen’s first ‘Summer Solstice Party’ on June 21 with music, a vintage fashion show, and appies. Plus, it’s a fund raiser for the Sooke Transition House. On June 2, her gardens will be a destination spot for the ‘Sooke Secret Garden Tour’. She and her husband Ed will also be hosting Sooke’s ‘Strawberry Tea & Parlour Show’.

Gwen’s fondest memory last year was the joy she experienced watching her granddaughter engage with garden visitors. She also enjoyed the friendly groups who stop by during the day—like the mother’s walking group who come by with their children to sit, relax and sip coffee with neighbours.

Before the 2019 Jump Start photo escapade, I had asked the Mayors to submit comments on their municipal goals for 2019, their music and curiosity about life. Graciously, they all took time out of their busy schedule to do just that. Two Mayors had scheduling conflicts and could not join us for the photo shoot; but Mayor Tait did send in her comments after the fact. What follows are all those responses.

The Barking Dog Studio in Sooke has new owners!This summer, Raymond and Bernadette Kube moved to Sooke from North Vancouver with their two children, Madison and Mason and fur babies Yoda and Leia. The last few years, Bernadette had been doing a lot of work for a client who had sold her home in North Vancouver and moved to Sidney to start an Air B&B. Her experience of island life was in stark contrast to their own lack luster pace of life on the mainland. It wasn’t long before they had decided to take advantage of the market and sell their tiny townhouse in North Vancouver for a new family adventure on Vancouver Island.

With the holiday season right around the corner, why not take advantage of the lull at this time of year to brighten up the encroaching winter season with a holiday wreath. One of the first things I like to do to add charm to my home is a fresh, handmade wreath for my front door. All the fresh foliage, berries, bells and ribbons always create something unique and truly magical every year. Let us show you how it’s done step by step.

Summer sure flies by and the seasons of change seem to remind us of that in our gardens daily. By August, those of us who grow veggies are busy harvesting, canning, freezing, and planning our winter garden. This is the month that winter plants are available in the nurseries. Growing winter veggies means you will have a nice early start for spring harvesting. And, if you let some of them go to seed, you’ll have bee food in abundance! We love letting our purple kale go to seed. Those 8-foot stocks of beautiful yellow flowers attract our pollinators early in the Spring season.