Month: May 2012

Spring Sale Draws the Gardening Crowd

Spring Sale Draws the Gardening Crowd

apple tree blossomsWith springtime temperatures that have
occasionally ventured up into summer levels, trees and shrubs in the Chester region have been pushing their spring growth with surprising vigor.  Perhaps it was that bountiful display of blossoms (like those of the ornamental crabapple tree on the right) that induced  visitors to come out to the garden club’s annual sale of garden-related items.

At 8 AM, as vendors and club members were setting up their floral wares on tables aligned along the drive, others were busy  gathering a motley collection of  “gently used” tools and accessories for sale beside the verandah of the old train station. Trains haven’t been seen in this part of the province for about 20 years and the station itself is now owned by the Chester Municipal Heritage Society. The building houses the municipal Information Centre, along with an art gallery that displays the work of local artists, and other exhibits of historical or cultural significance.

Under cloudy skies,  customers and vendors alike enjoyed a pleasant morning in comfortable temperatures, pleased that the rain that had been forecast did not materialize. 

The sale ran until noon and, by mid-morning, some of the sellers were ready to find a convenient spot to rest while chatting with visitors.  

In addition to a wide variety of perennials from members’ gardens, and the shrubs, trees, herbs and annuals offered by commercial nurseries, there were young entrepreneurs like the girls in the next photo who were promoting their family’s free-range egg business and also raising funds for the local food bank.

As for the blossoms mentioned earlier, the perfume of some plants in the last week has been almost overwhelming.  The lilac below  (Syringa vul., President Grevy) surprises passers-by with a beautiful scent as they approach the arbour from the steps below.  The second set of photos show a border of smaller shrubs ( Daphne x Burkwoodii, Carol Mackie)  that provide a strong lily-like fragrance to anyone approaching the garden along a flagstone path.

daphne bushes

Heirloom Roses and a Bloom Day Postscript

Heirloom Roses and a Bloom Day Postscript

Guest speaker Peggy-Anne Pineau drew a large crowd at the club’s May meeting  when she presented an illustrated talk on growing heritage roses in Nova Scotia.  Introduced by Sid Dumaresq who described her as a long-time gardener whose love for growing old roses has become a professional entreprise, Peggy-Anne began her talk by discussing the hardiness of shrub and floribunda roses in contrast to the more delicate hybrid tea varieties.

Sidney Dumaresq and Peggy-Anne Pineau

Roseraie de L'hay

She explained that hardy roses, like the Explorer and Parkland series, were bred by Agriculture Canada and other research groups as a cross between the native Rosa multiflora that had evolved to shed the moisture in their cells in cold weather and thus preserve the integrity of their structure,  and the more delicate hybrid teas that could not survive cold temperatures. The resulting plants can stand the rigors of a Canadian winter (down to -35° C), are disease resistant, and bloom continously throughout the season.  She also noted that Rugosa roses, which originated in Korea and Japan, are actually the hardiest in our climate.  While she was showing dozens of images of roses on the screen, she was also noting the special characteristics of each, and providing a commentary on the care, pruning, and feeding of these plants that she has made her speciality.  

snack table

As a tip on pruning, she suggested the 3-D formula: when in doubt remove all Dead, Diseased and Damaged parts of the plant.  She recommended pruning be done in the spring except for old roses, which produce their blooms on old wood. A simple guide for timing is to prune when the forsythia is in bloom.  

Following her talk, members flocked to a special tea table laden with goodies provided by two volunteers from the club. 

The extensive list of roses discussed during the talk is available on Peggy-Anne’s website:   Additional information concerning the Explorer and Parkland series can be found at  and at

As a postscript to the Bloom Day photos posted on the 15th, we have a few more images of blooms that were in evidence that day.  The flower of the fragrant star magnolia on the left is one of the last remaining blossoms on this tree, whereas the yellow magnolia (on the right and below, variety unknown) is still sporting many blooms. 

yellow magnolia

the last magnolia


Continuing with the flowering tree theme, the magnificent Amelanchier or serviceberry (right) is covered with stellar white blooms but, on a more humble note, the field under the old apple tree (below) is awash with nature’s own golden stars. Yes, alas, Chester has more than its share of dandelions, especially as an increasing number of areas have established covenants against pesticides. Fresh salad greens, anyone?    

Bloom Day North in May

Bloom Day North in May

To continue our custom of acknowledging plants in bloom on the 15th of the month, we are pleased to include the following varieties on this day in Chester. The first two are small ground covers – a Euphorbia nestled among a few granite rocks and a scattering of violets that have invaded a pebbly path.

a sunny euphorbia nestled among rocksa carpet of violets

lilac buds about to open
Above, we have a cluster of buds of Syringa vul. President Grevy, appearing like miniature grapes, not quite actually in bloom but so full of promise in colour and fragrance that we had to include them.   Below, two clumps of daffodils are nodding in the breeze: (N. Merlin, if my records are correct) on the left,  and N. Cheerfulness on the right.
daffodils N. cheerfulness
PJM rhododendron
The PJM Victor Rhodo, with its delicate blossoms,  is one of the first to brighten the landscape, as is the rhododendron Aglo, seen below. 

yellow primula

Yellow and mauve Primulas, and a thick tapestry of ruby-coloured blooms flowing over a garden wall, add more delightful  spring colours to Chester gardens in mid-May. [thanks to Sandy for her photos]

A Birds-Eye View

A Birds-Eye View

Ever wonder what a mother robin sees as she looks down into her nest once the eggs have hatched?  The four photos here might provide a glimpse of what awaits Mama and Papa  when they return with snacks for their young.   This pictorial record of baby robins, as they developed over a period of four days this month, was sent to us by club member Marion, who played host to a robin family that nested in a Kiwi vine on her property. The nest was spotted only during the process of pruning back the vine. Needless to say, that work is now on hold until the babies fledge. 
newly hatched baby robins

The first photo shows tiny fragile creatures not long out of their robins-egg blue shells and huddled together for warmth. The robin parents appear to be very tidy nest-keepers (where is the evidence of discarded shells?) 

soft down appers on newly hatched robins

The photo above, taken three days later, shows the babies beginning to develop a soft but sparse downy covering.  The next photo, taken merely one day later, is evidence of the start of a thicker downy coat…

baby robins are growing fast

… and suddenly, four days after the first photo, in an “open wide” posture that any dentist would love,  we see three little beaks thrust up in hopes of receiving a juicy morsel of earthworm or whatever is on the daily menu. 

baby robin beaks open wide

The return of migrating birds each spring gives us a lift and we have been seeing lots of robins, several pairs of osprey and occasional goldfinches in the last few weeks. Some birds, however, have difficulty accommodating to human habitation despite years of traveling back to the same site.  One pair of robins with whom I’m quite familiar has made a standard practice over the past few years of savagely attacking their own reflections in windows of the house where I live.   By repeatedly hurtling their bodies at the glass, they leave an opaque smear on the window, which is disconcerting in itself but even more annoying is the steady thump … thump… thump that accompanies these feats of daring-do, beginning just after dawn and continuing at intervals throughout the day. I believe it is just one pair but the practice has been going on over a long time, so perhaps the trait has been passed to the next generation.  Does the phrase “bird brain” come to mind? Does anyone have a comment as to this behaviour?

Spring Cleaning at the Cove Garden

Spring Cleaning at the Cove Garden

After a cloudy start, another warm spring day brought out volunteers to tidy up the Club’s own Cove Garden.  One group set up their tools beside the rosebed that borders the seawall at the head of the harbour.  The photo in the banner above was taken during last year’s spring clean-up, which occurred later in the season when the roses were actually in bloom.

working at edging of rose bed by seawall

Others stopped to catch up on local news before choosing a patch of garden to weed.

Particular care was taken to ensure that the three young fruit trees planted last year were nicely situated and that the bordering grass was neatly trimmed. 

Of course with the warmer weather over the last few days,  a healthy crop of dandelions can be seen on Chester gardens and lawns. As a result,  today some members found themselves on their knees dealing with these invaders as well as re-setting sod where a bench that was recently moved had left a lasting impresssion.

Dates for your calendar

Club members will be meeting a week earlier than usual in May because of the holiday on Monday of the forthcoming “long weekend”. The guest speaker on May 14th  will be Peggy-Anne Pineau, who will talk about her speciality: growing roses in Nova Scotia.  The program committee has also indicated that she will bring some plants from her greenhouse for sale to members. The meeting is slated for its usual time –  6:30 for 7 PM –  at St. Stephen’s Parish Community Centre .

The club’s annual Gardeners Sale will be held on Saturday, May 26th, and will include quality perennials from members’ gardens and commercial growers, plus shrubs and garden accessories. 

Looking farther ahead, the Nova Scotia Daylily Society has announced that it has the honour to be the first Canadian group to hold an Accredited American Hemerocallis Society Exhibition. The event is scheduled for Saturday, July 21st, this summer at the Glooskap Arena in Canning, Nova Scotia. More information on entries, and workshops on how to prepare an exhibit for judging, is available at

Gardening Team Gets to Work

Gardening Team Gets to Work

The arrival of Spring, with its connotation of new life and growth, means that Canadian gardens must be cleared of winter debris and prepped for all the new growth that we hope will follow.  

club members edging garden

Volunteers from Chester Garden Club turned out in the last week of April to begin the annual clean-up of the Parade Square garden, a public space which faces the village cenotaph.

This involves weeding the ubiquitous Sheep’s sorrel that threads its way though flower beds, and edging those beds where grass has invaded the space. 
Cutting back old growth of rosa rugosas

One intrepid volunteer donned protective gear to wade into a thicket of rosa rugosas to prune back unwanted canes and old rose hips.  Meanwhile, tired from his busy rounds as a mascot to the club, Bandit takes a rest while Heather, club president, gives him an encouraging pat. 

the garden club's mascot takes a rest

A few of the early tulips in  the Parade Square garden have just begun to open but a nearby neighbour’s garden already displays a colourful border of bulbs along the street, just outside a picket fence.

daffodils and hyacinths make a bright border

Another work party is scheduled for weeding and pruning at the club’s own Cove Garden next week and, perhaps to encourage club members to volunteer their services again,  Mother Nature recently provided a spectacular rainbow over a nearby cove.

rainbow over a cove