Month: June 2012

Summer Gardens: Pretty in Pink

Summer Gardens: Pretty in Pink

Climbing roses and pinkspink poppyAs we enter the lazy hazy days of summer, the temperature in Chester has been fluctuating from warm to hot to cool again but  gardens are flourishing. The ring of climbing roses  above (a mix of  “old moss” and the paler cuisses de nymphe)  surround an old well and are anchored by a healthy crop of pinks.  The pale pink poppy on the left has opened to the max.

Gardens that appeal to humans entice other critters too. Here, a chickadee hops into a birdbath for a refreshing shower.  Even the face carved into the stand of the bath seems to be sporting a shy smile.

Chickadee in birdbath

A full border of perennials including Peonies, Delphiniums and Campanulas, is set off by more pinks set among garden stones that define the edge of the bed.


The colour pink dominates many gardens here at this time of year. These tall foxgloves are mixed in with blue corydalis and pink campion.   Another pink “beauty”, Kolkwitzia amabilis (commonly known as Beauty Bush),  is shown bent over almost to the ground following a torrential rainstorm that weighed down its branches.

beauty bush

A much paler shade of pink emerged with the flowering of a clematis (Nelly Mosher) on a nearby fence. Clematis, Nelly Mosherclematis close-up


The peonies in Chester gardens vary in the intensity of their colours. This shot shows one of the deeper pink blooms just after a shower. The photo below, showing the head of the harbour at low tide, was taken on an overcast morning, from the small park known as the Cove Garden.  A row of pink rosa rugosas runs along the edge of the garden above the sea wall.

head of harbour
The Cove Garden is owned and maintained by the Chester Garden Club,  whose members volunteer their time and energy to weeding and pruning the plantings.  The Parade Square garden, shown below, is also maintained by volunteers from the club but, in recent years, as members aged and the weeds proliferated, the  struggle to keep it in good shape has been more difficult.  As seen below, the weeds appear to be winning. Brenda and Chenda are standing on what used to be a wide gravel path.

armillary sphere and weedy park
The good news is that Chenda will soon be embarking on a mission to rehabilitate the path – flagstones and wooly thyme to replace the gravel and the weeds.  We’ll be delighted to post photos of the results when the work is done.

A Garden Tour

A Garden Tour

Stealthily peeking over a hedge into a stranger’s garden is sometimes a guilty pleasure for city gardeners. Here in our rural setting, where many residents know one another, we’re a little less formal and can drop by a friend’s garden for new ideas or advice almost any time. Occasionally, however, a club member has welcomed a whole group of visitors and the following photos were taken during one such tour in the Chester area. 

Spring, this year, has brought us an abundance of blooms on rhododendrons and azaleas in a wide range of colours. The gentler-than-usual weather has encouraged many perennials to bloom earlier than usual (and the weeds to grow faster) and these changes have taken a few Chester gardeners by surprise.

Broom, paeonies, and lupins

In the photo above, we see low-growing broom, used as a ground cover, and backed by peonies and lupins. These plants form a border that slopes up from the entranceway, where several members of the club stopped to chat with a neighbourly pet.

Covering about an acre, the extensive gardens appear to flow seamlessly from sector to sector. Many of the perennials in this garden are well established and, over the years, the landscape has been shaped into attractive focal points.  In the next photo, the large heads on the Alliums tower over a clump of Jacob’s ladder.

Alliums and Jacob's Ladder

Every garden needs a shed or shelter to use as a workplace for starting seeds and storing tools. This one is attractively decorated with fishing floats in a touch of “down-home”  whimsy.

garden shed

The property is situated on the edge of a woodland, with its many tall trees serving as a backdrop to the gardens.   

In addition to the perennials and shrubs that form the bones of the garden, the property owners, Diana and Bill, have carved out an extensive set of garden spaces over the years. Among the features are a series of vegetable beds and a pond.   
Diana gained much of her gardening knowledge from from her mother, who has received compliments for her own exquisite garden. Here, in a sort of optical illusion, Diana appears to be feeding the heron (which, being inanimate, is not hungry!). 

water garden

Among the several magnolias on the property (both white and yellow) only a few still retained their blooms at the time of our visit.  The close-up below on the left shows the handsome flower of an M. sieboldii with its strong simple lines; on the right, for comparison, is a different white bloom from a neighbouring garden, this one a Blanc double de Coubert with its ruffled layers of petals.  Both blooms are lovely and appealing in their own way. Vive la difference!






An arbour provides shade for a secluded bench near the border between the cultivated landscape and the natural forest.

woodland path

A stand of tall straight spruce forms a colonnade, as if in a cathedral, and the sunlight falling on the grassy path creates a chiaroscuro effect that beckons a visitor to enter the tranquil space.

A Garden Club Convention

A Garden Club Convention

A spring weekend in the beautiful Annapolis Valley drew over 260 registrants to this year’s annual convention of Nova Scotia garden clubs.  The Valley is noted for its distinctive red clay soil which supports a variety of agricultural enterprises, including fruit trees and soft fruits, as well as many types of vegetables. The vista below shows the view from a farmer’s field partway up the south mountain, looking across the tidal river flats toward Cape Blomidon.


The Bay of Fundy, which extends north beyond Blomidon’s headland is famous for its extreme tidal swings, which are some of the highest in the world. The particular soil and climate of the region have made it an increasingly popular location for wineries and a growing number of vineyards have sprung up in the last decade. 

It was therefore quite fitting for the convention organizers to include outings to vineyards as a pre-convention activity to introduce visitors to this local attraction. 

Visitors were attentive to the charming hostesses who described the processes of tending to the vines and producing the different types of wines. The sampling of various wines was also appreciated.

 Back at the convention centre, vendors were setting out their wares and organizers were arranging displays of  floral arrangements, photographs and other items that had been entered into competition among clubs. 

The opening ceremonies featured the local Town Crier and, after the usual words of welcome from several dignitaries, the delegates heard an illustrated talk on the intricacies of seed collecting and selling, which Kristl Walek has developed into an international business.  

The topics presented by eight speakers on Saturday ranged from the importance of preserving and nurturing native plants, to growing organically in a changing climate, to attracting birds in the garden, and overviews of new perennials and woody plants.  The development of a large rock garden at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College was one of the most interesting because of the vast scope of the project.  The following shots provide a hint as to the structural changes that occurred as the team re-made the landscape from placid lawn into dynamic rockery and walkways. 

Massive red granite boulders were trucked to the college and carefully placed in a pre-determined plan that was to completely transform the half-acre site .

Cut limestone was used to create a courtyard that serves as the entrance to the garden. Hardy cactuses are among the many dry-land plants that are now growing in the garden,  and students who are involved as part of their course work occasionally refer to the need for “experienced cactus weeders” to join them.

The project has been underway for about ten years and it is estimated that about 750 tons of rock have gone into the garden.  Although the garden is still a work in progress, the public is welcome to visit.   

 Entertainment, an awards banquet and another guest speaker closed off the convention day’s events for members of the 57 clubs that belong to the NSAGC. The following day, many of the registrants planned to visit yet more garden centres and wineries as they wended their way back home after a very pleasant few days spent with fellow gardeners.   

Colourful and Fragrant Blooms

Colourful and Fragrant Blooms

Perhaps inspired by the proliferation of blooms around them, Chester gardeners took advantage of warm weather last week to devote themselves to garden chores and to invest in yet another season’s worth of new plantings.  Some new plantings along with a few old favourites are featured in this post.   

Blue salvia

The first blossoms of a few blue Salvia plants (above) hold the promise of fuller blooms once the new plantings become established. Below, an Azalea (Brazil flame) was just beginning to open on May 31st and then, four days later it was in full bloom. 

Flame azalea


Rhododendrons and azaleas do very well in our climate. The white flowers below are on an Azalea named Chelsea Reach, which has a lovely fragrance.

Azalea (Shanty)

The name of the peach-coloured azalea below is lost in the mists of time but it too gives off a heavenly perfume as one walks by.


Although many lilacs are past their “best before” date, the pale pink variety seen below is just coming into its own and continues the scent-filled tradition of its mauve cousins. 

light pink lilac

Water gardens are sometimes overlooked in our area, perhaps because our daily lives are so marked by the vast ocean at our side. Instead, it is earthy garden beds, orchards and farms that dominate the landscape in our county.  There are, however, many ponds, marshes and lakes in the surrounding area and some gardeners have started to take an interest in water features for their gardens. The Iris pseudacorus (below) is an early bloomer, followed later in the summer by waterlilies.  (The fish are resident in the pond year-round.)

Iris pseudacorus (yellow)

Another yellow beauty in full bloom now is the unidentified shrub below. It started as merely a few cuttings from a friend’s garden. They took root, thrived, and developed into the exuberant plant we see below. The yellow flower heads are like pom-poms and I can’t find its likeness in my plant encyclopedia. If anyone can advise me of its botanical name I would be grateful.

Many gardeners of all interests and specialties will gather next weekend in the Annapolis Valley for the annual convention of the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs. Guest speakers, tours of gardens and vineyards, as well as the opportunity to brouse vendors’ displays, will make for a busy program.