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Back To Letters: The First One This Week Is About Sweet Chestnut Trees And Then About Bentgrass
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

November 9, 2014

Above, The spring flowers of American sweet chestnut (Castanea dentata) and the same trees showing a good crop of nuts in late summer. Below a close-up of an American sweet chestnut with the ripe nuts ready for picking. Note the nuts are much smaller than the commonly seen Horse-chestnut in Ontario; the growth of fine-leaved Bentgrass.
Author photos.



A way back in late August this year, Penny Scott who just lives up-island from us here, wrote about her interest in sweet chestnut trees. Here is her letter:

“I looked up where to buy sweet chestnut trees on the internet and came across an article written by you, learning that you live just a little ways down island from us! I am very interested in growing sweet chestnut trees here on our four-acre property. Is it possible? Would they do well here and where would you suggest I find some to buy? Thank you for your help.”

As was the case for the topic of last week’s question (growing spring-flowering bulbs in containers in cold climates such as southern Ontario) Penny’s also deals with a topic about which I have a reasonable knowledge stretching back over 40 years.

When I was in Ontario I kept in close touch with at least two active members of The Society Ontario Nut Growers (SONG)—Messrs. Ernie Grimo and Doug Campbell. They were both extremely interested in the growing of nut trees, particularly the American sweet chestnut (Castanea dentata) which was once a major forest tree in Ontario (and elsewhere) but was virtually wiped out by a disease imported from Asia in the latter part of the 20th century.

Due to the high value assigned to these trees various research universities and other groups got involved in many major research programmes, but even now, no ‘breakthrough’ has been found. If you wish to read more about the American sweet chestnut trees, go to the SONG website— .

An additional bit of information that Penny will want to know is that while the disease has been found in virtually all of Canada, it does not seem to have crossed the Rockies, and none has ever been found in British Columbia. While that may be good for anyone wanting to grow sweet chestnuts in B.C., it is a negative as far as finding a supplier of the trees. None of the growers in Ontario is allowed to ship the trees from Ontario to B.C.

My usual source on availability of plants here is the UBC Botanical Garden Forums ( ). But, if you go there, I’ll warn you there is not a lot of good news. If I were you, I think I would telephone Ernie Grimo in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario (1-905-YEH-NUTS) and see what suggestions, if any, he has.

Once you find a good source of a reasonable tree, you should not have any great problems getting it to grow. They should grow well in the sandy, open soil here on Vancouver Island.

Setting aside the suggestion of getting some sweet chestnut fruit and germinating them (which would take many years to grow to a producing chestnut tree) making as many contacts during the coming winter is likely your best idea.

In any case, do let me know sometime in the future if anything worked out for you, and how well!

The second letter this week came in more recently, on October 9 this year. It was from Paul Hall who also lives in Parksville. Here is Paul’s question:

“I would like to ask you, I have a croquet lawn in Parksville made of bent grass (Dominant 7) can I use Wilson Moss Out on it?”

Obviously Paul must be a real croquet fan because his e-mail address is croquet1@..........!

I have numerous old friends who are experts in the growth of bentgrass but I could not find one who was able to respond to me quickly so I will rely solely on my own knowledge on this. Wilson MossOut is not much more than a fast-acting nitrogenous fertilizer with the addition of 18.6 percent Ferrous sulphate. That is just a sulphate of Iron itself, and the label states it has 6.8 percent of actual Iron as well, and a little bit (3.9 percent) of Sulphur. None of those should be harmful to grass, even the sensitive bentgrass.

I will be continuing to check and if I hear differently, I shall advise you. I assume you would not be putting the Wilson MossOut on until relatively early next spring.

I have other questions here, but both are fairly lengthy and so will leave them over to another week.


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