Author: spda99

Christmas Greenery Workshop

Christmas Greenery Workshop

Following Chester Garden Club’s recent Annual General Meeting (a brief but informative presentation of reports), members gathered around work tables where evergreens and a variety of decorative ‘add-ons’ were available to one and all for the purpose of creating individual table decorations for the holidays. The next event will take place on November 28th when Club members will turn out to decorate the village Bandstand with evergreen boughs and Christmas lights.

Flower Show and Tea: post-script

Flower Show and Tea: post-script

Now that we’re half-way through August, a new wave of perennials is blooming (hello, Daylilies!), and Chester gardens are changing from early summer’s pinks and blues to late summer’s yellows and oranges. Memories of the Club’s  Flower Show and Tea tend to fade with time but the urge to create our own own designs has not gone away. Perhaps the photos in this second post, showing more highlights of the event, may serve as a wee reminder of some of the arrangements seen at this year’s show and perhaps they will spur viewers on to trying something new.


Flower Show and Tea – 2015 Edition

Flower Show and Tea – 2015 Edition

Despite several days of rain that flattened a few choice blooms just before the event, exhibitors managed to come up with their usual stunning displays for Chester Garden Club’s traditional Flower Show and Tea.  This year’s show, held at the end of July,  inspired exhibitors to be particularly creative in interpreting the theme – The World Around Us.  One of those exhibitors is an inspiration for the rest of us: young Lila entered her creation in an adult design class and, after the votes were counted, she had won the popular People’s Choice award, the first time it has gone to a junior exhibitor.

Winner of the Popular Choice award, eleven-year-old Lila also took home first prize in the children's
Eleven-year-old Lila not only took home a first prize in the Children’s Design Class but also won  the Popular Choice award for her entry Elegance.

Some of the volunteers who made the show a success are pictured in the gallery below.

The following gallery includes a few of the prize-winners who collected ribbons or trophies at the Show, along with examples of the many lovely arrangements entered in the design categories.  A future post will show additional winners and arrangements, along with a few exhibits in the horticultural competition.





Atlantic Coastal Gardening

Atlantic Coastal Gardening

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Denise Adams , guest speaker at Chester Garden Club’s May meeting.

Growing up in northern New Brunswick, Denise Adams was introduced to the pleasures of growing plants for food by her family. As an adult, she combined her love of the sea and coastal land with her interest in growing native plants and she gradually accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the conditions that contribute to a hardy Atlantic coastal garden.

Over many years, she recorded her observations about the effect of various types of soil, salt air, temperature and wind on the plants that she grew in different maritime locations.  Recently, following her retirement from teaching, Denise drew on the material she had recorded in her garden journal to write Atlantic Coastal Gardening, which was published in 2014.Denise Adams scene  The book describes her experience in growing flowers, herbs and vegetables, and includes tables showing optimum conditions and timing for each plant.

Her current oceanfront property features lots of rocks and native plants, which she has incorporated into the landscape for a natural look. Among her tips for a coastal garden is to choose plants with small leaves or needles, which are less susceptible to drying winds;  grasses and succulents are also good because they adjust more easily to harsh climates.

dory and irisyellow loosetrife, honey suckle, campion





Denise noted that she doesn’t try to replicate a manicured English garden on her rugged landscape but she does include a few tall perennials in  areas where she has created micro-climates by using large boulders or thick shrubs as windbreaks.  By drawing on native plants and local artifacts, she creates a natural setting where even a lobster trap can serve as a barrier to foraging deer on the search for her fresh green beans.

Among the hardy plants that she recommends for 91sCxPUdS1L
coastal areas are: Fireweed, Balsam, Bindweed, Lupins, Blue Flag, Beach Pea, Gaillardia, and ferns. A bonus to coastal gardeners is seaweed which, after it has been rained on and dried, is useful as both mulch and “miracle compost.”

In addition to her book on coastal plants,   Denise has also published a small book “Little Book of Sea and Soul”, a collection of recollections and photographs that illustrate her passion for both the sea and its coast.

Following her talk, Denise stayed to autograph books for members of the club who were inspired to put into practice some of the practical tips she had mentioned.

Chester Garden Club Cleans Up

Chester Garden Club Cleans Up

As owners of  the Cove Garden (a small green park in the village),  members of Chester Garden Club are responsible for keeping its lawn and gardens shipshape. To that end, a  small but stalwart group convened recently to rake, weed and edge the beds, prune the roses, and generally tidy up the area.

The first stop was to check the daffodils in beds that will soon be filled with annuals.
This crew tackled the pruning of Rosa rugosas that grow along the seawall.
Betty gets right in the midst of prickly roses to rake up winter debris.
Sheila found some disintegrating old newspapers, which the club members had laid down under bark mulch last year.
Meanwhile, Kay and Heather were filling compostable bags with leaves and cuttings.
Her back to the view of the front harbour, Jayne was focused on pruning deadwood until a photographer called to her.
While Jocelyn is busy edging the bed, Herb sprinkles a little lime around the roses.
Pleased with their progress after two hours, Marion, Dave, Sandy and Brenda took a bow.

Once the work at the Cove Garden was finished, the group moved on to the Parade Square where they undertook the same sort of Spring cleaning. The results of an hour or so of weeding are seen in the photos below.

Clumps of Spring bulbs are tucked in among hardy roses, dogwood and assorted perennials.
Released from winter storage, the club’s well-loved armillary sphere was restored to its rightful place.

Having achieved their goal, the volunteer clean-up crew then wound up the morning’s efforts with a scrumptious pot-luck lunch at Heather’s house.

An Orchid Primer

An Orchid Primer

An array of Phalaenopsis orchids
An array of prize-winning Phalaenopsis orchids

According to the calendar, Spring has arrived in Chester, but a deep blanket of snow still covers gardens in our area so outdoor planting will have to wait.  As impatient gardeners turn their attention to indoor gardens instead, some of the more adventurous are opting to grow a wide variety of indoor container plants, including exotics. This post may serve as a primer for those who have never grown orchids.  Click on the images to bring them up to a larger and sharper focus.

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Orchids lend themselves to charming centrepieces.
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A delicate composition: orchids, coral and seashells.

Information provided by the Canadian Orchid Congress shows that the orchid family contains about 20,000 to 25,000 species;  that is, more species and with more diversification than any other family of plants. Some of the more common species sold by growers are tropical epiphytes, plants that grow upon other plants. Their roots cling to branches of trees and obtain water only in rain or fog, which is why experienced orchid growers follow the old dictum “water weakly, weekly”. Over-watering can be deadly for orchids.

Phalaenopsis description
Phalaenopsis description

Among the genuses available commercially are Phalaenopsis (“moth” orchid, one of the easiest to grow at home); Dendrobium (often used in corsages and bouquets); and Vanda Alliance (often grown in light shade in warm climates).  Cattleya, and Oncidium are also popular. Oncidium are often called “dancing ladies” because of their many small flowers with big skirts that dance in the breeze – well, maybe in Florida!

Care and Feeding of Orchids

Phalaenopsis are ‘low’ light orchids that do beautifully in an east-facing window. According to the American Orchid Society, its leaves should be olive green. Darker green means that the plant is not getting enough light, and redish-tinged leaves means there is too much light.

Plastic orchid liner pot
Plastic orchid liner pot

Orchids require a fast-draining but water-retentive medium. This is usually a bark-based mix but other mediums such as peat may be used. Orchids are usually set in a special plastic orchid pot that is light-weight and perforated for drainage. The orchid pot can then be placed inside a decorative pot.  The roots will search their way out through the slots and over the top of the pot as well. Experienced growers advise re-potting orchid plants about every two or three years.

Orchids do not like wet feet and beginners are warned not to overwater. To learn how to keep the plant “evenly moist”, experts suggest first letting the plant go dry so that you will know the weight of the plant and pot together; then, add a small amount of water and, with some practice, you can estimate the amount of moisture in the pot by judging the added weight.

Dendrobium with bold blooms
Vanda Alliance display
Vanda Alliance display

Orchids should be fed regularly, but only with a weak balanced (20-20-20) fertilizer. Avoid fertilizers containing urea and do not fertilize a dry plant as it may burn the roots.

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Composition seen at the Naples Orchid Society show and sale.
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A variety of Dendrobium with tiny curled flowers.







Orchids enjoy growing in the same temperatures as we keep our houses – above 15°C at night and between 20°C and 25°C during the day. In winter, be sure to keep leaves from touching cold windows.

To whet your appetite as an orchid grower, we’re attaching a gallery that gives just a sample of the many types of orchids that grow from the Arctic to the Equator. Most of the photos in this post were taken at the Naples Orchid Society’s  Show and Sale – Orchids on the Half-Shell – which was held in February this year.

For gardeners of a certain age, the orchid was always considered an exotic plant that belonged to other far-away tropical climes. In recent years, however, orchids have enjoyed a surge of popularity across North America and are now regularly sold in greenhouses and even in supermarkets, at northern latitudes. Their flowers are highly adapted for attracting insects to achieve pollination and, judging from their proliferation, they seem to be successful in attracting humans to assist in their propagation as well.

IMG_0603Much more information on the growing of orchids is available in books and online. Two reliable sites are run by the two national orchid societies: the Canadian Orchid Congress (an association of orchid societies from across the country) and the American Orchid Society.       and

These organizations produce websites that contain a wealth of information on the cultivation of orchids, along with conservation, shows and events, and newsletters. They are also on Facebook (look for Orchid Journal  and American Orchid Society).

A Tale of Two Climates

A Tale of Two Climates

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Snow banks keep growing as the plows return to clear roads after each storm.

Along with our neighbours throughout Atlantic Canada, residents in the Municipality of Chester have been subjected to record-breaking snowfalls and cold temperatures this winter. Most residents were obliged to grin and bear the vagaries of disrupted schedules of work, school, and entertainment, but a few lucky Garden Club members (including Joan and Sylvia) were among those able to head out of the region for a few weeks holiday in more temperate lands. The following photos illustrate the contrast between shoveling/slipping on icy roads at home and enjoying the lush growth of a semi-tropical climate while soaking up the warm rays of Florida sunshine. Although the plot is thin, these photos tell the tale of two very different climates.

Florida driveways are flanked by greenery, including this Bird-of-Paradise plant.
Multi-hued Bromeliads add welcome colour.


Hibiscus blooms in mid-February are a real treat.
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A delicate orchid on rough rock.










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In Nova Scotia, two snowstorms within one week was a bit much.


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A rural mailbox peeks out from a roadside mess left by a plow.










A magnificent old tree, sedate on a green lawn, is entwined by Strangler Vines.


Naples front yards are typically host to a variety of shrubbery.







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Orchids were blooming in Naples Botanical Gardens.
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Orchids come in so many shapes and colours.


A master builder creates a magical sand-castle on the Naples Bay beach.



In early morning, birds and walkers enjoyed an almost empty beach.







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Meanwhile, Chester area residents “enjoyed” yet more snow.
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Looking out from a kitchen was made difficult because of the snow blocking the view.
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The Hibiscus plants were in glorious colour.


This orchid was part of a display at the Naples annual orchid show and sale.




















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The Botanical Gardens has a special corner for orchids.
A palm tree is upstaged by Frangipani blossoms that have leaned into the frame.
house orchid
The Chester gardeners had several orchids to care for in-house!



A peaceful dock in a quiet harbour









A seafood lunch with friends at a “water table”.










Memories are made stronger by sharing, whether it is commiserating about the high snowbanks or reminiscing about warm days on the beach.  In Chester, all evidence to the contrary, Spring has officially arrived.  Soon, even the snow will be a distant memory but, for some, there will also be great memories of  sun-downers and palm trees.


Winter: a time to surf for garden sites

Winter: a time to surf for garden sites

The winter doldrums can be frustrating for any keen gardener. Armed with brilliant new ideas for improving their gardens and anxious to be outside reworking the soil, they are stuck indoors, looking out at a frozen snowscape with no hope of any real garden activities for several months yet. The much-heralded nor’easter that blew into Chester in late January changed the landscape overnight. Until that date, we’d had little snow so, although the ground was frozen, it was also bare and there was little protection for plants except for any mulch laid down by an experienced gardener.

holly berries In Chester, the freeze and thaw cycle is particularly discouraging.  The mercury in the outdoor thermometer is getting a real workout; a constant routine  of falling down and then climbing way back up. To help get us through the winter, we’ve been checking the internet for  interesting gardening blogs and websites. This brief survey offers a few sites with a variety of approaches.

The Atlantic Rhododendron and Horticultural Society hosts a website for members and others:

Rhodo shrubThe ARHS supports and promotes the development and exchange of expertise and material relating to the practice of creating and maintaining year-round garden landscapes featuring rhododendrons and other suitable plants.

The site contains a monthly calendar listing various activities for members, including the deadlines for ordering special tissue culture, as well as dates of plant and seed sales open to the public. Other programs include garden tours, such as the one that will be led by Jenny Sandison in the spring. The site also contains valuable information on growing plants, and members are able to borrow books from the Society’s extensive library.

 Nova Scotia Dahlia Society   (

Alpen Fury
This dahlia “Alpen Fury” is among the photos on the NSDS website.

Formed in 1985 by a small group of gardeners with the objective of promoting the growing of dahlias in Nova Scotia,  the group holds regular meetings with informative programs, dahlia shows, tuber sales, newsletters, and promotional displays at various gardening events. The website contains information about the Society’s programs, tuber sales and shows, along with advice on growing dahlias and a gallery showing some of the many varieties of dahlias.


Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens

Billed as one of the Top 5 North American Gardens, this 17-acre horticultural paradise is well worth an actual visit, but the virtual tour that is offered on the website may help to pass time on a winter’s afternoon. In a beautiful setting overlooking a tidal river valley, these gardens showcase gardening methods, designs and materials representing more than four hundred years of local history.

Laburnum, Ann RoyalPhotos on the website illustrate many of the favourite areas including the rose garden, the laburnum walk and the water features. A touch of whimsy was introduced last year when a local artist created a large number of ceramic birds (native species) that were then hidden in the trees for childrHistoric Gardens, Annapolis Royalen (and others!) to seek out. Among the Fast Facts on the web site: “Cool as a Cucumber? It’s true…the inside of a cucumber on the vine measures as much as 20° cooler than the outside air on a warm day!


The Atlantic Master Gardeners Association

The Master Gardener Training Program at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) brings together gardeners who share a passion for horticulture of all kinds, and are dedicated to learning and growing their knowledge to share with their community. This site provides information on the cultivation of many favourite plants as well as events and links to other sites related to horticulture.

And now, for something completely different…

Mutterings in the Shrubbery – this blog offers an original approach to the gardening world from a horticultural expert who brings his own personal touch to each post. Check it out at:

Some recent posts include musings on his visits to botanic gardens in Singapore, Kew Gardens on a frosty day, and even a video in which Joanna Lumley (yes, the comedic actor) joins an architect and a renowned garden designer in a fascinating talk about the concept and development of London’s delightful Garden Bridge.

This stunning pedestrian bridge over theThames Garden Bridge River Thames, with its meandering paths through plants and woodlands, will link north and south London. The photo on the right, taken from the website of The Garden Bridge Trust, is an artist’s rendering of the proposed “floating garden”. More information is available by searching online.

At this point, in Chester, we’re half-way through winter and beginning to look forward to spring. Seed catalogues are enticing but perhaps this short survey will also be useful, and we hope that you will enjoy searching out lots more garden sites online.


Holiday Greenery in the Village

Holiday Greenery in the Village

The Chester Garden Club’s traditional “hanging of the green” took place on a cold and windy day in late November when about 20 volunteers arrived at the village bandstand to fasten evergreen boughs and strands of coloured lights to its railings.  The chilly weather meant that this year’s holiday decorating was accomplished in record time. Within an hour, tools were put away and the whole crowd retreated to Heather’s, where they warmed up with homemade chowder, tea biscuits, assorted goodies and mulled wine.

Taking a cue from the Christmas decorating theme at the November meeting, two members added their decorative touches to the food table: a “centre-piece” (composed of natural greenery plus festive accessories) and a charming model of the Chester bandstand (made from gingerbread and candy).




This Autumn, Chester Gardeners Are Thinking Spring

This Autumn, Chester Gardeners Are Thinking Spring

The soft days of Indian Summer mean that we have not yet had a hard frost in Chester and the new beds of annuals in the Cove Garden, which were awash with colour all summer, were still blooming in the second week of October. Thus it seemed a trifle ungrateful to think of up-rooting them and consigning them to the compost. Still, like gardeners everywhere, members of Chester Garden Club track the seasons and they know that Mother Nature will not be denied. Jack Frost will find his way here eventually, and it’s much easier to dig in new plantings before the ground is frozen.  Therefore, to complete Phase 2 of the renovation of the Cove Garden, a dozen volunteers recently converged on the property to weed the beds, edge the paths, and lift all the annuals in order to replace them with more permanent plantings.

In sum, the club volunteers planted three pink azaleas (Northern Lights) in each triangular bed, along with a large number of day lilies (burgundy and apricot colours) and rudbeckias. These were under-planted with daffodils, yellow alyssum, ajuga and allium moly. The healthy ornamental cabbages were left in place as an attempt to appease the eye; their soft mauve spheres serve to outline the rather bare earth beds.  The small circular bed around the Ginko tree was filled with over 100 crocuses.  Another proposed bed, which will be developed under the ornamental fruit trees, will be done as part of the next phase.  Now, with all the plantings in place, there’s nothing to be done in this garden but wait for Spring.