Month: October 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

With Halloween fast approaching, the pumpkins are marshaled outside many plant nurseries and roadside stands in the Chester area. A few frosty nights have finished off all but the most hardy garden plants and this year’s autumn leaves have been more subtle than vibrant in colour.

Fortunately, many gardeners can depend on ornamental grasses to add texture and movement to their gardens.

The reliable sedum “Autumn Joy” brings much-appreciated colour with its burgundy flower heads and succulent green leaves.  

A tall clump of feathery ornamental grass has turned from its summery green to a soft wheat colour as autumn temperatures work their artistic changes.

In a sunny spot, we came across an assortment of chrysanthemums, in varied hues, mixed with corn sheaves, pumpkins and even a healthy hibiscus. For those of us who feel a sense of loss when summer departs, such a display cheers the heart and reminds us to enjoy the bounty of a good harvest and the colours of autumn.

Artisans at Work

Artisans at Work

The club’s October meeting brought forth a number of members eager to try their hand at creating decorative garden stones under the tutelage of fellow member Sharon Boyd.

Sharon had set out buckets of pre-measured special sand/cement mix as well as the appropriate amount of water for use in mixing the cement, along with assorted bins of coloured glass, stones and broken crockery to use in creating a decorative pattern on the surface of the stone. 
Working in pairs, the members began stirring in the ingredients until the mixture was about the consistency of moist cookie dough. 
Some containers were larger than others but the amount of cement was carefully measured out in the same proportions for the second partner of each pair.

 Stirring the mixture required a fair amount of strength but many hands make light work!

 Once the mixture was ready, it was poured into the various moulds that members had brought.

Then it was on to decorating. The bone-shaped mould on the left holds a stone that is dedicated to a favourite dog. The one on the right used sea glass to pay homage to Nova Scotia’s ocean heritage.
Soon the rubber gloves were off and creative enthusiasm took over the group as they patted glass, beads and shells into place, and mopped up any excess moisture. 
The motifs and styles varied widely with many members opting for simple geometric or abstract patterns but one member who had planned ahead created a lovely floral scene, which seems most appropriate for a gardener.
Once the moulds were all filled and decorated, they were lined up to cure overnight, and the table bore a remarkable resemblance to a bake table at a local bazaar.  Participants left the meeting that evening feeling quite happy with what they had learned and, the next day, they returned to claim their masterpieces. Each decorative stone was easily removed from its mould and each has found a place in a local garden.
Dahlias Brighten Fall Gardens

Dahlias Brighten Fall Gardens

Chester gardeners are mindful of the need to be prepared for all kinds of weather but, having enjoyed a pleasant warm September, most of us were caught by surprise when a sudden, unseasonable, hard frost hit our gardens on the night of October 6th. The photos in this post were taken by CGC member Myra earlier  that day, with no hint of the sad spectacle that would greet her the next morning –  limp blooms drooping  from their stems and leaves blackened and lifeless.  We are posting a selection of her photos as a reminder of the beautiful blooms that we did enjoy in our gardens before Thanksgiving, which arrived three days later and brought summer temperatures again; alas, too late for any dahlia fans.

Critchton Honey (ball type)
Camano Choice
White Cactus type (name unknown)
Yellow Baby (pompom type)
Master Michael (pompom type)
Zorro (informal decorative type, about 10 inches diameter) 
Looking ahead, members are reminded of the forthcoming meeting on October 17th, at which artist Sharon Boyd will hold a workshop on creating decorative garden stones. The event will begin at 7 pm and will be held at the usual location –  St. Stephen’s Parish Community Centre in Chester.
You Say Gaillardia…

You Say Gaillardia…

… and I say Rudbeckia! A sharp-eyed reader has pointed out that a recent post (September 15) misidentified the blooms below as Gaillardia whereas in fact they are Rudbeckia. My apologies to followers of this blog.

Although they share the same splash of colour spreading out from the centre of the bloom, the flower shown below, with its cushion-like centre, is a true Gaillardia. A group of Rudbeckias (Coneflowers) have shared space in this garden with Gaillardias (Blanket flowers) over several years, and have migrated via seed dispersal so that the resulting volunteer plants have become indistinguishable to your blogger.  

As fall progresses, we tend to look for colour in fruits and vegetables rather than flowers. Identification is a little easier with most of these plants.

Clearly identifiable are the crabapples clustered on a branch in a different garden. They add cheerful colour to Sandy’s fall garden. Until a dramatic drop in temperature yesterday, the early fall had seen warmer than usual temperatures and it has brought some surprises such as the Rhododendron ramapo below that had a second blooming in late September.

Sandy also sent in a shot of a cluster of sumac fruits, something she mentioned she’d rarely seen.
Luscious apples ready for picking grace the branches of an old tree on a former farm near Chester. The stands at our local farmers’ markets are overflowing with apples, pumpkins and other harvest yields in preparation for the Thanksgiving weekend  ahead.
The next meeting of the Chester Garden Club will be held on October 17 and will take the form of a workshop on making decorative garden stones. Members are asked to bring along some necessary supplies, including rubber gloves, a ridged tin dish to be used as a mold, and assorted bits of broken crockery or other items that they want to insert as decorative pieces. For more details, please refer to a recent e-mail sent to all members.
Fall Decorating

Fall Decorating

Although we haven’t yet had a hard frost, many of Chester’s perennials are finished and the annuals are looking a little weary. To add interest to an entry-way or freshen up a window box, some gardeners are turning to a combination of fruits and berries to create an attractive display of nature’s bounty. There are lots of sources of plant material that offer an alternative to the large orange gourd-like squash that we call a pumpkin.

In the photo above, Jocelyn has combined barberry boughs and apples from old fruit trees on her property to good effect in designing a fall window box. Dried flowers can also be used when the fresh varieties are hard to come by. This was a great year for growing marigolds, which air-dry well and can be used in arrangements or simply poured into a decorative clear glass container.

The dried marigolds in the photo above add a wonderful fragrance to Jocelyn’s new garden shed where she plans to spend much of her time. For those who might want to attempt drying next year’s crop, there’s lots of time to learn and the internet offers dozens of methods. One of easiest, as demonstrated on YouTube, uses simple materials found around the home including coat hangers, dental floss, and hairspray as the fixative.