For those who were able to attend this summers garden club annual pot luck at Jayne and Keith’s, it was a special treat. What a nice event… Good friends, good food and a beautiful day. It was nice to see the usual group who attend and especially nice to have some new members attend.
The weather was sunny and warm allowing everyone to enjoy their beautiful property during the late afternoon and early evening.
We roamed the gardens, gazed out to sea, shared conversation, laughter and a delicious pot luck meal.
It was hoped that we would experience one of those glorious sunsets that Jayne had told us about.
… and there it was
Jayne says “A special thank you to those who participated in the pot luck social today… A great selection of food and the weather was beyond beautiful. Being able to mingle in the yard made the day complete. Keith and I love being able to share our home and view with you all. The great selection of foods and friends make it very special.“
In light of the upcoming holiday season, which seems to be quickly approaching, Chester Garden Club members and guests were invited to put on their creative hats, give each other inspiration and encouragement and create a seasonal arrangement.
In preparation for Monday evening’s workshop, on a beautiful cool crisp morning with snow flurries in the air, woodland and garden treasures were gathered. Gorgeous greenery such as Fir, Pine, Hemlock, Cedar, Juniper, Euonymus, Boxwood and Holly predominated.
Members also gathered dried garden and roadside perennials and woody stems to share. Ribbons, baubles and glitter helped complete the works of art.
Focusing on enjoying each others company, having a great time choosing materials and of course learning, ( Next you’ll start “Greening it up”) we created together using a mixture of the seasons best greenery, woodland treasures and seasonal accents.
Best of all, we all got to take home our unique designs.
I have been distracted as I have been gardening this fall. Many of the familiar birds are heading to warmer places and stopping for nourishment along the way and the regular fall and winter residents are gathering in old familiar places.
As I ready the gardens for winter I am leaving the perennial seed heads standing, giving the birds the food they are searching for and me the pleasure of their company.
I am reminded that I can help our plants along by giving them a bit more of what they need to survive; water, nourished soil and the optimum placement .
Watering when it is dry, adding high nutrient compost when they are actively growing and pruning all but spring flowering shrubs during the winter when they are defoliated and dormant are good gardening practices.
Mulch, which can be spread at any time, is particularly timely for fall. The garden expects organic material, just like the forest expects fallen leaves. Leaves and debris settle as mulch during the fall rains and winter snowfalls, helping to retain moisture and inhibit weeds.
Our gardens can then do “What Comes Naturally”
Now, I just need to get back to fall gardening chores and stop being so distracted by the birds.
Many gardeners take late winter or early spring vacations in countries where weather is warmer. Cuba is one of those recovering from last falls hurricane. Those who have committed both time and energy deserve congratulations. Resorts were devastated and are now operating as well as completing repairs or reconstruction.
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Birds are returning to their usual habitats
The plant life is also showing how nature copes with unexpected changes and challenges.
Congratulations to all of the Caribbean communities who smile as they continue to pick up their lives.
If your garden appeals to you year round, it probably appeals to your feathered neighbours, too.
Many of the birds people long to see and also help during the winter and early spring are seed eaters. You know them, you love them; northern cardinals, American Goldfinches, chickadees, blue jays woodpeckers – the list goes on and on.
Happily for gardeners, these birds often prefer the seeds of some of the most common backyard plants. Well known favourites are sunflowers, purple coneflowers, zinnias, coreopsis and black-eyed Susan.
Front yard, backyard, container – it doesn’t matter. To entice birds to your place have feeders, flowers, water and trees and shrubs for shelter. Group them all together and you’ll have a winning combination.
Plant these garden favourites in spring. Sunflowers and many other annuals are easy to start from seed at the beginning of the growing season. For perennials you might spend a little extra money on established plants, but they’ll attract birds all year round.
Many of the plants birds enjoy are native which means they offer more than beauty. Most of them provide nectar for hummingbirds and bees, attract butterflies, have fruit for overwintering species and are low maintenance.
Resist the urge to deadhead the spent flower heads as they dry out in the fall. Leave them up, and before you know it the birds will be swooping in for the seeds, especially during hard and unusual winters.
Even in gardens that are full of bird attracting plants, it’s always a good idea to keep a bird feeder well stocked for those times when the snow is deep or the ground is frozen solid. Black oil sunflower seeds are relished by most species, even insect eaters. Hanging out a suet feeder and a tube feeder with Niger seed will cover all the basics. Be sure to check water sources daily in cold weather since ice forms quickly.
Following the annual meeting in November, with the holiday season nearly upon us, members and guests were treated to an evening of seasonal decoration instruction. Svenja Dee, presented a holiday feast for the senses using almost entirely native materials that she collects from field, forest, from her own and friends gardens and yes, even in highway ditches. Some members were thrilled to take one home and others were inspired to create.
A week or so later members gathered to decorate the Chester bandstand for the holidays.
This annual labour of seasonal community spirit was followed by a delicious hot lunch at the home of president Heather.
Athough the weather didn’t cooporate, the annual Christmas Pot Luck was enjoyed by those who were able to attend. Myra commented ” Don’t know who made this feast for the eyes. I didn’t need to taste it; I will enjoy it visually over and over.”
Wishes to all for treasured time with family and friends during this holiday season.
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. 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.
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
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.
A recent tip from a friend introduced me to the beauty of a natural phenomenon commonly known as the frost flower. The following images, first found on Wikipedia, were taken from an interesting blog “kuriositas”, which offers unusual photos and text highlighting relatively obscure features of the planet. The original photos were posted by several Flickr Users, including Mark Adams who signs as markinspecx.
Incredibly beautiful and very rare, these frost flowers are formed on early fall or winter mornings when ice in very thin layers is pushed out from the stems of plants, or sometimes, wood.
The ideal conditions for this formation is a freezing air temperature combined with unfrozen ground, so that water can be sucked up the stem. As the air temperature falls, the sap in the plant expands and under that pressure, microscopic fissures form on the outer layer of the stem. When the pressure finally causes the tissue to split, water seeps through the cracks and freezes. More water following up the stem reaches the cracks and pushes the earlier sliver of ice away from the stem, thus creating the delicate “petals” seen in these images.
The scientific name for these frost flowers is Crystallo-folia, although that is considered by some to be a misnomer because frost is created by water vapour and yet frost flowers are created from liquid water. Whatever the scientific debate, you can see many other lovely photos of frost flowers by checking out the Wikipedia entry or by going to www.kuriositas.com/2012-12, or searching for markinspecx and looking for “Rabbit Frost” (yet another term for frost flowers).
Now that we’ve introduced an autumn topic to the blog, it’s time to remind gardeners in the Chester (NS) area that the first meeting of the new season will take place on September 16th. For details, click on the Current Activities page on the menu above.