Month: April 2010

Friends of Nature Celebrate Earth Day

Friends of Nature Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day, as April 22nd is now known in many communities around the world, was celebrated in Chester by the Friends of Nature and by members of the Chester Garden Club at the site of a future nature park that borders Shoreham Village. The dozen or so volunteers had arrived to participate in a major tree-planting effort that is part of a long-range plan to turn a formally unused, scrub growth area into a pleasant nature park.

The building seen in the background of the photo above is situated on Highway 3, which runs along the north side of the park. The decision to convert the neglected forest and swamp area into a nature park resulted in the landscape being drastically altered last year by the removal of many crowded evergreens and dead trees. The natural course of a small waterway was cleared of debris and the streambanks improved. A few native shrubs were planted along the edge of the stream and plans were drawn up for the creation of wide pathways so that pedestrians and even wheelchair traffic would be able to move around easily in the natural setting. A low stone bridge has been built to provide access over the brook at one spot in anticipation of a path leading to that area.

Before setting out, the volunteers gathered around the leaders, Ken MacRury and Syd Dumaresq, to await instructions. Ken then demonstrated the art of using a commercial dibber to make the correct hole for the seedlings.

Having received his instructions, Rudy Haase, founder and chief coordinator of Friends of Nature, wasted no time in navigating through the debris to reach his tools in preparation for the afternoon’s work, as others began to re-group and head off to their choice of territory. The terrain was much rougher than any of the participants had expected and it was difficult at times to keep from tripping on old roots, and half-buried logs or rocks, often hidden in the deep grass.

Ken and Syd lined up flag-bedecked posts to demarcate the first three rows that the volunteers were to follow in planting the seedlings. The volunteers scrupulously planted their seedlings in the first few rows according to instructions (three paces apart and in line with the posts). Later, however, it was apparent that they had abandoned such detailed territorial assignments in view of more practical concerns such as how to get around the swampy marshland and how to adjust the plantings around a bed of shale.

Eager to get started, Rudy picked up a tray full of seedlings and a spade, and headed out to look for a team to join.

But not everyone else was ready. More discussion followed: “Who’s going to be on my team?” “Only one dibber per team!” “Here, let me have a try.”

Once the teams were sorted out, the volunteers worked their way carefully from one end of the field to the other. Here, having negotiated rocks, tree stumps and a large swathe of marsh, the troop is pushing through tangled hummocks of grass. The weather cooperated for the most part, with bright sunshine for most of the afternoon. A brief shower in mid-afternoon was not enough to dampen the spirits of those determined to finish the job.

Mid-way through the afternoon, Syd and Rudy relaxed for a moment at the edge of the little brook running through the property. By 3:30 pm, almost every one of the 840 seedlings (hemlock and red spruce) had been planted and the workers returned to the parking lot to refresh themselves with soft drinks and muffins, happy to have accomplished a gigantic job in honour of Earth Day. [ Thanks to Sandy Dumaresq for all the above photos]
Volunteer Award

Volunteer Award

As it does every year, the Municipality of the District of Chester recently hosted a reception to honour volunteers nominated by the many organizations whose members provide time and talent to maintain services within the community.
At this year’s event, Janet Piers, nominated by the Chester Garden Club, received a certificate thanking her for her contribution to a variety of organizations in the community. A long-time member of the club, Janet has been very supportive of its aims and has also turned a practical hand to such varied activities as weeding the Parade Square Garden, serving tea at the club’s annual Flower Show and tea, and pulling on rubber gloves to wash dishes when the club was hosting a big luncheon.
She and her late husband, Rear Admiral Desmond Piers, were also supporters of the Chester Playhouse, the Sea Cadets, and the Girl Guides. They took particular interest in encouraging young people to participate in community activities and to achieve their potential goals.

The Birds and the Trees

The Birds and the Trees

Guest speaker Kelly Delaney, of the For the Birds Nature Shop in Mahone Bay, had an attentive audience at a recent meeting of the Chester Garden Club.

Choosing to focus mainly on hummingbirds, Kelly outlined the steps to follow in attracting these delightful tiny creatures to our gardens. Under headings of food, shelter and water, she provided many tips that would entice the hummers to visit and possibly to nest in individual gardens. In addition to learning about making a homemade nectar solution and how to care for the feeders, we were interested to hear that hummingbirds enjoy bathing in a fine mist of water and that they are genetically programmed to be drawn to the colour red in the same way that wasps are attracted to yellow objects. It is unnecessary to add red dye to the nectar solution (and in fact it is preferable to use a simple white sugar solution) because the birds will be attracted to the colourful red container.

In celebration of Earth Day, April 21st, some members of the Garden Club volunteered to help the ecology-minded members of Friends of Nature in planting small trees in the new nature park being created next to Shoreham Villlage.

A total of 840 seedlings of hemlock and red spruce, were brought to the site and, using a few professional tools and a lot of muscle power, the ten volunteers got the job done in a couple of hours. Shown above are Sheila Knowlton-MacRury carrying a tray of seedlings; her husband Ken, using the useful dibber; and in the background, Syd Dumaresq, carrying posts used to designate the end points of the rows in which people were planting.

Members on the Grapevine

Members on the Grapevine

On a sunny but chilly morning, recently, hardy members of the Garden Club plus a few guests gathered at the Grand Pre Winery for a hands-on workshop of pruning vines and sampling the products that are created from the fruit of those vines. Thanks to Sandy Dumaresq, we have this photo story.

Huddling against a cold wind, members compare notes on gloves and secateurs before approaching the rows of grapevines stretched out on the hill rising behind the parking area.

Employee Irma Russell was the knowledgeable guide who explained the techniques of pruning and led the group around the property. Here, she is explaining how cuttings are being rooted indoors for eventual planting on a newly purchased 9-acre property adjacent to the established vineyards.
The group was instructed in the art of pruning and was able to practise cutting back a selected number of vines under Irma’s watchful eye. Unfortunately, Sandy’s camera was attacked by a gremlin at that point and we are thus unable to reproduce those photos. In essence, what was done was to eliminate all but the healthiest branch from the main stem growing up and along wire supports of the “fence”. That branch was then trimmed of auxiliary branches, and was twisted around and tied to the bottom wire. Sandy noted that the crunching of the vine as it was twisted around the wire caused great consternation among the members but it was apparently only the outer dry layer of the vine that was breaking.

After completing work on about half of one row, the members ceded the territory to the wind, and retreated to the arbour that serves as an outdoor eating area in warmer weather. Irma explained the way in which the grape vines were trained to grow up and over the wooden pergola. An interesting architectural feature of the arbour is that the upright posts are slim posts of granite.

After visiting a greenhouse, the group assembled in the traditional wine-tasting room to sample red and white wines and eat a picnic lunch. All agreed that it had been a very enjoyable experience, and many returned to Chester carrying one or two bottles of the wines that they favoured.

Bloom Day plus One

Bloom Day plus One

Despite the brief but heavy hail-storm in Chester yesterday, Sandy Dumaresq managed to record several Bloom Day photos, which are posted below. The first shows an early blooming Daphne (mezereum Alba).

Below is a lepidote Rhododendron (dauricum Ostrum’s Best White 1).

The third in this collection of Chester photos shows a Viburnum (Bodnantense Dawn).

Bloom Day photos record the plants that are in blooms in any region on the 15th of the month. Chester area gardeners are invited to send in their best photos at any time but we would be especially interested in amassing a collection of Bloom Day photos. The next date is May 15th.
Bloom Day, April 2010

Bloom Day, April 2010

The last few days have brought lower temperatures to the Chester area and thus slowed the rapid growth of plant life we were enjoying. Nevertheless, even on a cool misty morning when many buds remain firmly closed, gardeners can take pleasure in the other “earlier-than-usual” blooms. Here below are some of our photos celebrating Bloom Day north.

Dainty primroses are among the first to show their colours.

These daffodils, nodding under the shade of a large juniper, need more sun to open fully.

The blossoms at the top of this star magnolia were the first to open, when those on the lower branches were still tightly furled. Unfortunately, a frost two nights ago appears to have damaged some blossoms slightly.

Last, but not least, the old reliables – forsythias – return with vigour every year, and provide a cheery splash of colour to the landscape.

Readers are reminded that Bloom Day north is the Chester Garden Club’s attempt to add to the record of seasonal blooms in our area by posting photos of plants in bloom on the 15th of each month. We welcome all submissions, with a promise to try to include your special photos.
More Spring Blooms

More Spring Blooms

On a recent walk at Regatta Point, Halifax, Sandy Dumaresq spotted more spring blooms for our blog. The rhododendron below is one of many that were planted years ago by John T. Meagher, a strong promoter of the species. Although the records for his original tagging system have been lost, it is believed that this early bloomer is a Ruth Wainwright dauricum. A large number of plants from the original plot now survive in a city park created from part of the original neighbourhood. On one side of the road is a monument to the historic Mont Blanc anchor shaft, which landed there after being blown right over the city during the terrible explosion in Halifax harbour in the first World War.

On the other side of the street, there is a small monument to John Meagher, and both the rhodo above and the pieris below were found in a garden at that location. Readers of the blog may be interested to know the relationship among so many of these early bloomers. According to Todd Boland, a contributor to Dave’s Garden website, rhododendrons, azaleas and Japanese pieris are all members of the Ericaceous family of plants, which of course include heaths and heathers (featured in a previous blog)!

A previous blog also mentioned the early appearance of forsythia blooms but omitted to post the evidence. The explosion of colour provided by these golden blossoms is a welcome sight that relieves the otherwise drab landscape at this time of year, especially on a rainy day.

In a shot taken earlier in the week, we see some of the delicate blossoms opening to the sun in a sheltered spot in Chester Basin.

Early Spring Blooms

Early Spring Blooms

As proof that Nova Scotia is a good place to grow heaths and heathers, we offer this photo of a rockery seen in the village of Chester. Rumour has it that some of the province’s hardiest heathers are those that were first seeded accidentally, hundreds of years ago, in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park by sailors shaking out their straw-filled palliasses after a long sea voyage from Scotland. The descendants of those plants are still thriving in the park. Heaths are generally spring-blooming plants while heathers have a longer bloom season, with different varieties producing blooms from early summer through to the fall.

When forsythias are seen blooming in the first week of April in Chester, it’s a sure sign that Spring has sprung early. This year’s signs also include daffodils. Shown below is a clump of heritage daffodils growing in Herb Fraser’s garden located on the outskirts of Chester.

Other plants currently in bloom on his property are the traditional spring-flowering hellebores,

…and the beautiful blue iris reticulata seen below.

Adding to the array of unusually early blooms, a clump of pulmonaria has responded to the warmth of the sun and is on display in Herb’s garden . Even though the temperatures are forecast to fall slightly in the next few days, the trend is for higher than usual readings.

As always, members of the Chester Garden Club are invited to send photos of their gardens and surrounding areas for posting on the Club’s website. Remember to send us your photos of plants in bloom on the 15th of April to mark Bloom Day North.

Post-Easter garden chores

Post-Easter garden chores

The somewhat earlier approach of warm weather has been welcomed with enthusiasm by gardeners in the Chester area. Along with the pleasure of seeing the greening up of lawns, gardeners have been delighted to spy new growth almost every day as they monitor the dormant beds. For many, those beds are now in need of spring-cleaning, as witnessed by the appearance of Scylla popping up amid the winter mulch of leaves in the shot below.

The cheery splash of colour from early bloomers like heaths (springwood pink, below) seems to lighten the load of raking and cutting back old stalks to make way for spring growth. “Cutting” will be the key word for many in the Club this week, as they make the trip to the Grand Pre Winery in the Annapolis Valley for a lesson in pruning. Following instructions, and under the watchful eye of an employee at the vinyard, club members will actually have the opportunity to practice their techniques on selected vines. A brown bag lunch and the chance to sample some local wines are part of the program. We hope to have some photos and a report next week.

And here below, as an update on the growth of this year’s rhubarb in the Chester area, is a shot of the first real leaves developing in one corner of the patch. This photo was taken ten days after the one that appeared in an earlier blog.

The return of so many birds has turned the fields and gardens in our area into a virtual aviary, with competing songs issuing from a variety of species. Members of the Chester Garden Club are looking forward to learning more about attracting birds to their gardens at the forthcoming meeting of the club on April 19th. The guest speaker will be Kelly Delaney, owner/operator of “For the Birds” nature shop in Mahone Bay.