Category: Perennials



Robins having a meal in the Pyracantha ( Firethorne)


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.

The Secret Life of Plants

The Secret Life of Plants


How Plants Work



At our 1st meeting of 2018, held Monday evening, March 19th, we were treated to an entertaining and very informative presentation by horticluturalist and member Dave Adams on the secret life of plants. 



He distributed tree cores and various leaves that added considerable punch to his presentation. To some of the 18 members present, he sparked memories reminiscent of happy high-school biology classes.



Dave taught or reminded us how plants work, reminding us that what we do makes a difference.

If we over fertilize there is a greater concentration of salts around the roots and we have x osmosis.

If we leave our plants root laying in the sun the root hairs die and the plant must replace them before the plant can provide food for growth.

If we ring bark a stem our plant can no longer feed itself.

If we want to move our plant in warm weather we can temporally block the stomatal pores with an anti transparent until the roots and stem are back in balance.

Cambium heals pruning wounds if we cut around the abscission layer.




In closing, we were reminded that our garden plants are wonderful structures that take these basic principles and adjust and modify them to help them tolerate all kinds of climates and conditions.


Thanks Dave…

I Need My Garden More Than My Garden Needs Me

I Need My Garden More Than My Garden Needs Me

Contributed By Jocelyn Cameron

Some people say that having a garden is too much work. After all, you need to plant it, weed it, water it, and prune it. Who has time for that?

Well, to be honest, I do. In fact, I need to make time for it because of the benefits. How else could I know that spring is here? The crocuses tell me, the forsythia announces it with the quince trees to back them up. Before long, I know its mid-July as the ditch daylilies raise their heads and other cultivars display their ravishing colors. Who would want to miss that? As the mint creeps through the beds, my taste buds come to life. Ever had an outdoor shower with climbing roses scenting the air? Then fall dares to rival the summer’s displays as tri-color leaves wave in the cooling breezes.

I would be remiss not to mention the exercise my garden provides all season. If I don’t manage to get all the weeds in the spring, they greet me almost under every plant all summer. I must dive in and remedy the situation, my arms and legs thanking me for the stretches required. (Well, sometimes they do complain!) Without this activity, I must confess I would miss much of the beauty that lies hidden among the bushes. Never would I notice that anemone standing tall all alone or catch a rosebud about to open. Of course, you don’t want to miss the daylily blooms—you’ve only got a day to do it before they close up their glory in deference to another.

Ah, summer. Now I can create floral designs using my carefully selected (unless they happened to be on sale and could still work for me) garden plants as inspiration. Will I pair my cool greens with white Shasta daisies or should I match yellow and green limelight with my common yellow daylilies? Don’t forget to add some ribbon or zebra grass to help define the shape. I can rely on moss or creeping oregano to cover up the bald spots. If featuring burgundy, euphorbia makes an excellent filler. You see, the possibilities are stunning. And feeling the plant material through my fingers adds pleasure hard to define. Serendipitously at the finish, I may discover a perfect shape, that offers a whimsical finale to the whole design. Even in cleaning up, I get to “re-enjoy” the process as I toss unused bits into the compost. Now that’s what I call an pleasurable afternoon. You can, no doubt, imagine the buzz that comes from repeating this process all day in preparation for a flower show. Exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time.

Then, after garden chores, its time to find an Adirondack chair with its wide-open, comforting arms.

DSC_1377 - editRemember to get a glass of cool lemonade first, though, so that it can cool your insides as much as a shady spot cools the outside—a perfect time to give thanks for both garden and good health. Yes, I need that. In fact, I planned for it—much of the winter. Winter gives me time to anticipate next spring’s resurrection. Even in those short, dark days,

I can still take delight in those seedy-headed grasses that escaped fall pruning as they bow down in deference to the inevitable nor’easters.

Yes, my garden can take up much of my time. As you read between the lines of this article, however, did you catch the psychological benefits it has provided? Consider these: peace (nothing like solitude under the pines to make this happen); calm (the rustling grass sure trumps the sound of a cell phone); decompression (with bare hands, get those lumps out of the soil); confidence (that seedling finally sprouted roots or I guess I really can grow orchids); provides opportunities to make friends and share experiences (join a garden club); rest (drop into a garden swing when finished weeding that stubborn patch), satisfaction (you got rid of that goutweed!); gratification from not overspending (check out those spring plant sales), hope for the future (next year I’ll plant something different in those containers); anticipation (will that freshly planted annual survive?); appreciation of beauty (hard to beat the Stargazer lily); growth in patience (next year don’t plant pansies in a hot location), perseverance (so what if the deer got those bulbs, plant daffodils next time), faithfulness (water those containers!) and finally, confidence (my garden is ready for the garden-tour crowd. OK, that may be pushing it a little, but you get my point).


By now, you can see that I really do need my garden. And, it has always responded amiably to my attention, so I plan to continue seeking out its companionship. For me, garden time surpasses screen time like fresh flowers surpass silks. Best of all, perhaps, gardens require no apps—at least for now.


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.



Heather on the Heights

Heather on the Heights

Jill Colville from the Annapolis Valley (www.bunchberry charmed us all Monday June 15th with pictures of rolling hills of heather located both in Scotland and its namesake Nova Scotia (New Scotland). She spoke of heaths as well. Do you know the difference? Most heaths bloom in the spring and heathers do the same in summer. At Bunchberry Nurseries in Upper Clements, she handles 50-60 cultivars of the over 600 varieties.

Heaths have the distinction of providing the first flowers for pollinators—even earlier than crocuses! Why plant heaths and heathers? She explained that they can provide diversity, bloom from February to October with foliage that weaves a tapestry of colour.

She proved it in pictures. We saw burgundy, salmon, purple, orange, white and various shades of pink or almost red.   Varieties can fit into any size garden with minimal maintenance. You can’t beat that. As a relative of the blueberry, they prefer full to half sun as well as acidic soil–perfect for Nova Scotia, right? Jill suggested companion plantings of conifers, rhododendrons and junipers, among others. Ornamental grasses, such as blue fescue, add soft texture to heather landscapes.

Jill cautioned that heathers newly planted can lose moisture in March with the hotter sun. Once wilted, they won’t recover. Be sure to keep them watered and covered with boughs. Don’t be afraid to prune them in April to sheer off last year’s flowers. She capped off her remarks by directing the members to three tables with heathers for sale. Irresistible!

Iris on Irises

Iris on Irises

Not Just Irises 003
Iris and her props at the ready

Drawing on her 30 years of experience in operating a local nursery, the Club’s recent guest speaker Iris Burke provided a wide-range of tips on better ways to treat our garden treasures and to protect them from their foes (we’re talking slugs and deer!).

As proprietor of “Not Just Iris’s Greenhouses Inc”, Iris grows a wide selection of annuals, perennials and shrubbery, and has a wealth of  knowledge about their care and nurture. She has, for example, a strong belief in using a little slow-release fertilizer for perennials from spring through to at least mid-summer. She has observed that many gardeners neglect their perennials once they have given them a spring dose to get started.  She also noted that perennials often become stressed during August’s dry spells and that they need to be given water just as the annuals do.

Iris bloom (cultivar unknown)

As her name implies, she is also partial to irises and she reminded her listeners of the need to divide these plants about every three years, when the centre of the clump has stopped producing new blooms.  She suggested that irises are easy to grow in almost any kind of soil and that they should not be over-fertilized.

In a discussion of pruning methods and timing, she was adamant about the need to cut back certain shrubs to promote more growth and blooms, but cautioned listeners to be sure of the particular characteristics of each bush or tree. A smokebush, for example, blooms on old wood so should not be pruned until after it has “produced” its smoke, whereas a butterfly bush blooms on new wood and should be cut back to about 15 cms above ground in early spring to ensure healthy growth and blooms for the coming season. (our post of August 27, 2012, shows butterflies enjoying the nectar on a butterfly bush).

A Cotinus (smokebush) in full “smoke” mode

In addition to advice on pruning fruit trees, lilacs and flowering vines, Iris gave a few tips on dealing with slugs (broken eggshells spread around the base of hostas, for example), deer (blood meal, urine, or soap shavings in pantyhose), and earwigs (her own recipe of dish soap and a hose-spray bottle).  In keeping with the  slogan of her greenhouse – “Where things are budding out!”, Iris branched out into a vast array of garden topics and also answered questions from the audience.

Winter Weary or What

Winter Weary or What

Confessions of a spring riser…

If you look closely, you’ll see me on the left highlighting both the sedum and yarrow.

I don’t know about you, but this continuous cycle of snow, rain, melt, then heavy snow with more rain and more melt makes me shun my outside world.  And it happens every spring.  The rain gets my hopes up and then overnight it morphs into snow and I wake up to a white blanket that I thought I’d already discarded.  I mean we Hostas have nothing against white blankets, but after a while they get soiled and need replacing with a green version, if you know what I mean.
Now back to spring.  I can’t wait to peek out from under this soggy blanket. I’m usually among the first to emerge.  You might say we hostas make a point of it even if we vary in size. Some of us,  like my colleague  “Sum and Substance”, can get to be over two metres wide.  The more diminutive among us—dare I mention “Baby Bunting”— has a diameter of mere centimetres.  No worries, though, we’re all the same really.  We all covet the balmier temperatures of spring, right?   My roots (which some prefer to call a family tree) go back to the Orient where temperatures were far less extreme.  Since then, however, we’ve learned to flourish in a variety of climates—especially here in Nova Scotia.

When the days grow longer, we plan to rise, unfurl and revive our perennial lease on life, donning our blue, green, or yellow robes. Our blue coat is actually green with wax on top that makes it appear blue.  Bet you didn’t know that!  The wax tends to “melt” from the leaf following exposure to sun and heat. Our wardrobe may include combinations of lighter and darker shades.  We may be dressed with “medio variegated” leaves that show a light color in the center of the leaf, which may be white, gold, yellow, or light green. Our “marginally variegated” leaves show only a light color on the edge of the leaf.  Mind you, our colors may also be affected by the amount of sun we get.

family or flowers 2012 028
Give us hostas a little more time and we’ll have this ground covered.

Some of us prefer to make seasonal changes as well.  A hosta that exhibits “viridiscence” will change from light colors in the leaf early in the growing season to all green leaves as the season progresses. “Lutescent” leaves will change from green to yellow, and “albescent” leaves will turn from yellow to white. If you can remember those terms, I’d tip my hat to you if I had one.  The only toppings I can claim are slugs.   And they don’t garner any praise—at least from the plants I know! Only those of us with thick and stiff leaves, termed “rugose,”see less of them. All these kinds of versatile leaves help us maintain a reputation for wrapping landscape with dependable, almost indestructible, foliage.  And to boot, we can beautify a riverbank even under ubiquitous maritime evergreens.  How would you look after months in the shade?

Home floral arrangments misc. 009
Notice how our yellow edges feature this lily. Not bad, eh?

And if our roots get a little closer with time, don’t everyone’s?  Yes, we do tend to stand our ground when it comes to moving.  How would you feel?  Who wants to start all over again? On the other hand, gardeners appreciate our steadfast character.  What other plants would endure whip-snipping or being crushed to emerge as healthy as ever?

garden and arrangements 013
This design shows off our colors. We enjoy getting together as much as anyone.

Landscapers hail this kind of hardiness, and floral designers delight in our curves as we swirl inside the confines of glass cages they call vases.  So this spring, we’ll expect the usual, enthusiastic welcome. See you soon!

–submitted by Jocelyn Cameron,

Chester Garden Club Member

With information from Ohio State University:
Strawberry Tea: a local tradition

Strawberry Tea: a local tradition

Continuing a pleasant summer tradition, our neighbouring garden club (Basin Gardeners) held a successful afternoon garden tour combined with a strawberry tea in early July. Ticket holders were invited to visit four private gardens  and then to enjoy a delicious strawberry shortcake and cup of tea, under sunny skies on one of the  properties.  Visitors saw a variety of landscapes, including perennial borders, shrubbery beds and vegetable gardens.

With the temperature hovering around 27 ° C, the shady canopies that had been erected over the tea tables were much appreciated by all garden visitors.

Despite the heat and lack of rain in recent days, several gardens had a good display of roses such as Navy lady and the New Dawn roses below, and the American Pillar roses climbing on the trellis. 
Rosa Navy lady
Rose New Dawn

American pillar rose

An informal approach to the touring and the tea made for a relaxing afternoon and a chance to catch up on the news with friends.

ASweet William and Heuchera Palace PurpleAlthough the roses were a special attraction,  more modest flowers such as Sweet William and Heuchera Purple Palace were also on display. As for the participants, a strong sun and high temperature brought out a variety of hats.

[Thanks to Myra and Sylvia for all the photos]
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.