Category: Bulbs

Groaning in the Garden

Groaning in the Garden

Contributed by member: Jocelyn Cameron who says:

“I’ll admit I wrote this”

Sometimes you just have to chill after gardening and think outside the box. Out there, you can tickle your funny bone and watch what happens. Here’s a glimpse:

  1. Any bee can balm.1 Monarda, Bee balm IMGP5675

  2. I sedum before.2 Sedum, Stonecrop 006

  3. I aster but she said no.3 Aster 020

  4. Why don’t trumpet vines make any sound?4 Campsis radicans, Trumpet-ground-cover

  5. Who punched those black-eyed susans?


  6. Why aren’t burning bushes hot?

  7. Globe thistles like to travel. Who knew?7 Echinops, Globe thistle MGP3573

  8. Hollyhocks anything she finds.8 Alcea, Hollyhock 010

  9. Spirea can’t see for looking.9 Spiraea IMGP2521

  10. Why don’t fleece flowers ever get sheared?10 Persicaria affinis, Fleece Flower Jocelyn

  11. Lamb’s ear can’t hear anything.11 Stachys byzantina, Lamb's Ears Jocelyn DSC02329

  12. Ribbon grass never made a bow.12 Phalaris arundinacea, Ribbon Grass

  13. Why is Zebra grass neither black nor white?13 Miscanthus sinensis, ‘Zebrinus Zebra-Grass

  14. Has loosestrife ever caused trouble? (rhetorical question)14 Lysimacha punctata, Yellow Loosestrife

  15. Why doesn’t goutweed affect your feet?15 Aegopodium podagraria, Goutweed 027

  16. Ever see dandelions caged in the zoo?16 Taraxacum, Dandelion IMGP3519

  17. Ever see a weeping willow cry?

    17 Salix babylonica, Weeping Willow

  18. Has crooked willow ever done anything wrong?18 Salix matsudana, Curly Crooked Corkscrew Willow Jocelyn DSC02325

  19. Rosemary won’t answer if you call.19 Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosemary, Hes's

  20. Joe Pie weed makes me hungry.20 Eutrochium, Joe-pye weed IMGP5349

  21. Ever hear a valerian speech at a convocation?

  22. Sit astilbe as you can.22 Astilbe 039

  23. Everyone likes the limelight sometimes.

    23 LadyLimelight

  24. It’s daphne to stop before you finish.24 Daphne 2010 003

  25. He never scratched so much as when he had chives.

  26. Some roses have large hips.26 Rose hips IMGP3992

  27. How can mint hold onto a spear?

    27 Mint

  28. Irises will never open their eyes.28 Irises 035

  29. Hit your head and you’ll be at risk of artemesia.

    29 Artemisia

  30. Take someone hosta and you’ll be in trouble.30 Hosta IMGP3808

  31. Have you heard the Bells of Ireland ringing at weddings?

I know yew can think of more examples, but it’s thyme to quit before we all go daisy!Shasta Daisy

Hope this makes your day a little more holly.Canadian Holly, Ilex vertcillata

Keep sharp!

Thanks to Jocelyn, Jen, Marion & Brenda for pictures.



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.

More Spring Blooms

More Spring Blooms

After delaying its entrance for so long, Spring has really sprung in recent days. The photos in this post were taken in a Chester garden earlier this week.

Creamy hellebores open in the warm sun.
A group of rose-coloured hellebores border a path.

The plants making up the kaleidoscope of colour below are recognizable to gardeners as primroses, daffodils, scillas, tulips and star magnolias.  Spring, at last, is bringing all things bright and beautiful, as the old hymn goes.



IMG_0888magnolia very closeup
Thanks to Herb and Sylvia for the photos.

Volunteers and Bulbs: rewards for long service

Volunteers and Bulbs: rewards for long service

Jane  and town crier
Jane is congratulated by Chester’s Town Crier, Gary Zwicker.

Presentation of Volunteer Awards is a Springtime tradition in Chester, during which nominees from various organizations are honoured for their exemplary service over many years. This year’s Chester Garden Club nominee was Jane Wilkins, a long-standing member who has also been active in a number of other community organizations. Jane’s garden is always a source of delight and, from its blooms, Jane creates many charming floral arrangements for community events.

After a particularly long winter, Chester gardeners feel their patience is being rewarded as warmer weather has spurred lawns and gardens to “green up” almost overnight. Bulbs long dormant are once again serving to brighten up the landscape.

puschkinia crop
This clump of Puschkinia has already attracted a small bee.

Bulbs provide a display of colour in many seasons but are perhaps most welcome in spring.

In Jane’s garden, as the crocuses fade, bright blue hyacinths take the stage.
Adding to the mix is a less familiar variety of yellow hyacinths.

Because most gardeners plant bulbs with the expectation that they will regenerate year by year, it is important that the soil be fertile. Fertilizers that are low in nitrogen, high in potash and phosphate will provide the right mix. That means adding bone meal or rose fertilizer when planting, or sprinkling it on the surface immediately afterwards.

A clump of pink hyacinths pale in contrast to the deep green of spring grass in Joan’s garden.
Jocelyn's hyacinths
A mix of pink and blue hyacinths line the back of a new border in Jocelyn’s garden.

Daffodils and other bulbs are also showing their colours around the area. Most bulbs should be planted when they are dormant, and the usual advice is to plant them at a depth equal to their own in heavy soil, and about twice as deep in sandy soil. Even the smallest bulbs should have at least 5 cm of soil above them.

Daffodils mingled with scillas.


These daffodils were photographed in Chester, where they reign supreme in a street-front bed that changes colour and texture during the year as the plants develop according to their season.

strip lenten rose and spring flowers
A Lenten rose nodding to its reticent neighbours.

Sylvia’s  garden is a treat for visitors at any time of year but Spring provides a glimpse of less-well known plants that add to the colour palette. Many spring-flowering bulbs do well when planted under deciduous trees because the bulbs do most of their growing before the tree has leafed out and also because the roots of trees (and shrubs) absorb moisture and thus help keep the soil from getting soggy, which is beneficial to the bulbs.

Early Spring Blooms

Early Spring Blooms

An Arctic high, sweeping down over our region for the last Golden crocuses few weeks,  continues to affect our temperatures this Spring.  Despite the cold, a number of early bloomers are adding their bright colours to Chester gardens.  On the right, a mass of golden crocuses is nestled at the foot of a rose trellis as a harbinger of what’s to come.

purple crocuses

mauve crocuses

Whether open or closed , these beautiful mauve crocuses, crowded together, add a cheery note to an early spring garden.
Iris reticulata

Broadening the colour range, the next plants to appear in a sunny sheltered Chester garden are the Iris reticulata (on the right). The heavenly blue flowers are not very tall but immensely popular, especially when many neighbouring gardens are without any colour at all. Puschkinia

Another blue favourite in the spring season is the Puschkinia (left). It is sometimes known by its common name of  Striped Squill.

The Hyacinths on the right, make their first appearance as a tightly closed flower bud,  resembling the top of a choir boy’s head surrounded by a stiffly starched wing collar.

more yellow crocuses

All of the photos in this post were taken in Jane’s Chester garden, but for those whose gardens don’t produce the same results so early in the season, there is an alternative.  And, yes, this suggestion also comes from Jane.  Below is a photo of her indoor Spring garden.


Thanks to Sylvia for the photos in this post taken on April 2nd.

Spring Groundcovers

Spring Groundcovers

Chester gardeners usually watch for the delicate drooping blossoms of snowdrops to herald the arrival of Spring.  This year, on March 20th, they were surprised to wake up to a freak snowstorm instead. The snowdrops and crocuses in this post were photographed just days before that snowfall and we can’t guarantee that the blooms will look as good when the snow melts!


Among the first plants to pop up, snowdrops are part of the genus Galanthus,  a word that comes from the Greek gala  meaning milk and anthos meaning flower.Although a superficial glance would lead you to believe that snowdrops are all alike, a white flower on a slight but sturdy stem, according to a knowledgeable source in England there are in fact over 500 named cultivars.


The flower is made up of three outer and three inner petals, all white but with a fleck or small green mark on the inner petal.  The clearly defined green lines on these petals, a blossom picked on March 11 from a local garden, makes it identical to a cultivar named “Rosie” that can be seen on a marvelous website  “”.  The website, which is run by a grower in  the UK, carries lots of information and illustrations of these lovely spring flowers. Check out the Galanthus Gallery. The website also contains a warning about buying Galanthus bulbs on the net. Apparently some unscrupulous dealers have been misrepresenting their wares on eBay and buyers have been burned.

As a follow-up to our own confusion in identifying the sky-blue flowers that appeared in a recent post (March 9), we’re presenting a few other suggestions for spring ground covers.

Phlox subulata
Photo credit: Robert E. Lyons, Ohio State University website

One of the candidates for consideration was Phlox sublata (known as creeping phlox or moss phlox). This plant is native to North America  and is hardy from zones 3 to 9.  It belongs to the family Polemonioideae and forms a mound of about 15 cms in height. This plant produces mostly pink flowers, however, and even the blue hues are more nearly mauve.  So, after further input from other viewers, this plant was discounted as not fitting the specs, but it is certainly a worthy choice for any spring garden. It is particularly effective in rock gardens or along the edge of a path or a low wall.

The mystery plant would thus seem most likely to be Veronica chamaedrys (also known as Birds-eye Speedwell), a native to Europe Veronica chamaedrys but certainly well adapted to life in Nova Scotia. It is a herbaceous perennial that grows to be about 12 cm tall. It creeps along the ground, forming a dense mat and sending down roots at the stem nodes. It belongs to the family Plantaginaceae.

The Veronica’s colour is similar to that of the blue Myositis arvensis (Forget-me-nots), widely known as self-seeding annuals in our area.  In addition to adding (often unbidden) charm to our landscapes, Forget-me-nots are useful as food plants to the larvae of some moths. They come in pinks and whites as well as shades of blue.

Shoots from Crocus bulbs sprang up in mid-March and these flowers opened the day before another light snowfall covered the ground.

And, although not strictly speaking a “ground cover”, another early spring favourite is the crocus, which comes in many hues.  This photo was taken in a Chester garden guarded by very active kittens who take it as their mission to protect the bulbs from predatory squirrels.

More on Autumn Leaves

More on Autumn Leaves

Having observed a rather rapid transition in the “red to dead” leaves in our area this year, one that resulted in a shorter period to enjoy nature’s autumn tapestry, I was intrigued by a couple of related articles in a recent issue of Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter. This is an excellent compendium of information, with contributions from professionals and amateurs many parts of North America.  If you haven’t yet come across this site, you can find it at  If you register (i.e. create an account, which is free) you will automatically receive the weekly newsletter.

Soft colours form a muted tapestry in early November

The November 12 edition contains Carrie Lamont’s account as to Why Trees Lose their Leaves in the Fall.  Her spritely approach combines clear information with clever illustrations, and provides a refresher course in the annual phenomenon that we all learned long ago in elementary school but are now hard-pressed to explain to another adult. Her basic thesis is that all plants first evolved in tropical climes when stems and fern-like leaves were sufficient to do the photosynthesis job. Later, evolution produced different plants which had broad flat leaves that were good for absorbing sunlight and for evaporation in warm air.  As temperatures cooled, those leaves were eventually adapted to be disposable in times of cold and dry air (as in our winter conditions). That’s why, in our climate, leaves fall in the fall; and round out the cycle of life by enriching the soil where they fall, with nutrients for the very tree or shrub from which they had been cast off.

A century-old apple tree still puts forth fruit, which is enjoyed mainly by local wildlife

By scrolling down Dave’s newsletter you can find articles from previous days of the week.  In this edition, they include other articles related to fall, like Gloria Cole’s “Fall and Winter Gardening ” (and, here,  a reminder that our own Niki Jabbour  published a comprehensive book entitled “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener” last winter).

Pumpkins and fall flowers take pride of place when one has missed an opportunity to photograph a true vegetable market

Another entry entitled “Bulbs – a year in bloom” provides a primer on growing a wide selection of “bulbs” throughout the year.  But first, author Toni Leland clarifies the terminology used to differentiate the many plants that are commonly thought of as growing from bulbs.  Ms. Leland states that bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes all belong in the category of geophyte. They have fat underground roots or stems that keep the plant alive during cold or drought. A true bulb is actually a short stem and packed scales that contain nutrition and embryonic leaves and flowers; corms are enlarged stems containing a bud on top and covered with dry leaf bases; tubers are swollen with food reserves and have several “eyes”; while rhizomes are horizontal stems from which the stalk and leaves develop.   Whatever the term, in the Chester region it is not too late to plant geophytes now for “flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la”.  In fact this month is also a time to start potting up narcissus, hyacinth and amaryllis geophytes for forcing indoor blooms.

An article entitled “Are Falls Getting Shorter?” caught my eye because it seemed to reinforce my perception that the season was briefer this year.  In fact, I believe the author,  Adina Dosan,  was merely nostalgic for the past and lamenting the fact that as we age time appears to move more quickly.  Nevertheless, she included some lovely images of fall colours.

As a contrast, to show how the camera can sometimes fool the eye, I’m including a photo below that appears to be snow-covered branches sheltering two deer. In fact, the “snow” is lichen that is growing on some very old apple trees that were part of a local farm well over 100 years ago. I was standing on a raised deck at quite a distance from the animals (the closest I could get before they bounded away) when I took the photo and it was only later, when cropping and thus zooming in on the subject, that the lichen forms looked different.

Thanks for the windfalls. Sorry we gotta eat and run…

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]

Volunteer Week: Another Harbinger of Spring

Volunteer Week: Another Harbinger of Spring

From the left, Hon. Gerald Keddy, MP, Maggie Copas, Allen Webber, Warden of Chester Municipality, Denise Peterson-Rafuse, MLA

Volunteer Week in Nova Scotia is a spring-time tradition by which communities honor the many volunteers who give of their time and talent to support a wide variety of causes. From small town Volunteer Fire Departments,  to sports organizations for youth, to artisan groups that teach heritage crafts,  the motivation is:  “Volunteers Make It Happen”.  

Among those recognized for dedicated service by the Municipality of Chester last week was Maggie Copas, nominated by Chester Garden Club. Maggie, age 86, has been an active member of the club for over 50 years, serving for over a decade as correspondence secretary and later as a loyal volunteer for many club activities, including maintenance of the two public gardens in the village, planning and working at the annual flower show, and many other events.  She has also been a keen supporter of the arts and is a long-time member of her church choir. [photo submitted by an anonymous CGC member]

Star magnolia in bloom
Spring also brings a welcome flood of blossoms, such as this Star magnolia pushing its way up between two  houses in the village and, below,  a clump of Primulas after a light rain.  In a curious anomaly, rain has been in short supply this spring; not something expected in a maritime climate. 
Primula blossoms after the rain

The tulips in the bottom  photo add a bright spark of colour, heralding spring in Herb’s garden. [Thanks to Sandy and Herb for the photos.]

In other news this Spring, club members are preparing for their Annual Gardeners Sale, to take place on May 26 (see the menu  bar above for information).  Before that date, however, it’s “all hands on deck” for a weeding and pruning session at the Parade Square garden on April 30, and a second work party at the Cove garden on May 5.  In early June, many members will travel to Wolfville, for the annual convention of the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs (NSAGC). Each member of registered garden clubs will be eligible to receive a rhizome of a Siberian Iris “Ruffled Velvet” (see below) courtesy of the NSAGC. 

Iris Meanwhile, members are busy catching up on spring chores in their own gardens. Unwanted weeds have quickly sprouted as a result of a couple of days of light rain, and winter debris must be cleared away, but  compensation comes in the form of glorious colours of plants currently in bloom –  Daffodils, Scilla, Tulips and Primulas.  Forsythia and Star Magnolias are also in full regalia this week. They are all forerunners of the many delights awaiting Chester gardeners in the coming months.

Our Fickle Spring

Our Fickle Spring

As has been recorded in this blog and elsewhere, the winter just past has been remarkable for the variety of weather conditions it has produced. The spring which followed three weeks ago has already shown a tendency to similar fluctuations. 

Just a day or so ago, as a gardener was busy clearing away bits of winter debris, she noted a clump of Scilla emerging from under a cover of oak leaves. Delighted with the discovery, the gardener also noted that the plants now needed a good dose of moisture to grow to their full potential, but her silent plea was for rain, not snow!

What with Easter and Passover arriving on the same weekend this year, we’d rather hoped that, in the spirit of coming together, Mother Nature would be onside too. Alas, Spring went AWOL as a freak snowstorm blanketed much of Atlantic Canada overnight  Saturday and into Sunday morning. The lovely deep blue flowers of a Dutch iris are struggling to stay above the snow cover in the photo above (thanks, Sylvia). This particular variety, “Eye of the Tiger”, is a deciduous hybrid that flowers early in April and is tolerant of dry soil conditions.

Next we see the pink blooms of a heather that has been almost buried under the recent snow.

Although many parts of Eastern Canada were walloped with snow and high winds, Chester’s gardens received only about 4 cms of the white stuff. Then, in keeping with its fickle nature, Spring reversed the trend. Within 24 hours the ephemeral  snowstorm was history. By Sunday evening, hardly a trace of snow remained.  Unfazed by the fickle weather, Chester gardeners paid homage to the season in the time-honoured tradition of enjoying bouquets of colourful tulips indoors.