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S2 Episode 15 – Food Gardens at Hollyhock Retreat Centre

Helping Gardeners Grow: The Podcast
Helping Gardeners Grow: The Podcast
S2 Episode 15 - Food Gardens at Hollyhock Retreat Centre

Guest: Dana Trueman

Big Idea:

Gardening for a Crowd using French Intensive Methods

Topic Today: 

Big Scale Food Production at Hollyhock Retreat Centre on Cortes Island

From an invitation to “start work tomorrow”, Dana Trueman became a gardener at the Hollyhock Retreat Centre on Cortes Island over twenty years ago. His job is to beautify the site but also to grow food for the kitchen and flowers for display.

“The heart of hollyhock is the beauty”, says Dana in this interview. Greenhouse growing, composting, soil amending and raising enough vegetables and flowers for the centre all fall to the four garden staff.

“We’re always striving to increase [vegetable production] and to find the things that are really useful and needed and seasonal. It’s so nice for the kitchen to get those seasonal vegetables”

Some of the specific and favourite vegetables Dana mentions are: Calypso cilantro, Astro arugula, Damsel and Golden Brandywine tomatoes. Dana also loves Red Sails and Marvel lettuce in spring and Salvius Romaine lettuce in the heat of summer. In the spring, staff turn on the greenhouse heat, mix their own soil and seed long-season crops like leeks and quick succession crops like Olga lettuce.

In the fall, Mizuna, which dislikes transplanting, is direct seeded. It provides a lot of frilly red and green foliage for the twice-daily salads. Dana uses Ms. America and Red Frills mizuna and loves Magenta lettuce. Parsley – up to a five gallon pail a day – is required all season.

You don’t have to stay at Hollyhock or take a program to tour the gardens but why not? It is a world class institute and non-profit centre dedicated to helping people improve their business and personal lives.

For more info:

Hollyhock Leadership Learning:

Seasonal Hollyhock garden tours, weekly at 9:00 AM (please inquire at store

Sample Hollyhock Life Garden Videos:

Links: Source for heirloom Olga lettuce:


Donna is Helping Gardener’s Grow through her interviews with various growers and gardeners. Want to build soil, grow food in extraordinary ways or raise the world’s most expensive spice? Listen in, rate and subscribe.

In every podcast we talk about food or how to grow better food. To ask a question about the current or past episodes send a voice memo from your phone to [email protected]. In the voice memo tell us your name and where you garden first and then ask your question.

Music in every episode is by Donna’s son, Brennan Anderson, a musician in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada. Season 2 has all new music so thank-you Brennan!


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