The Chester Garden Club’s traditional “hanging of the green” took place on a cold and windy November 24th when about 15 garden club friends gathered at the village bandstand.
New members were welcomed to the decoration crew who weathered the sudden drop in temperatures and enjoyed this years holiday decorating. With guidance from those more experienced, volunteers fastened evergreen boughs and strands of coloured lights to its railings, accomplishing the annual bandstand seasonal greening in record time.
Within an hour, tools were put away and the whole crowd retreated to Heather’s to warm up with mulled wine, homemade soup and goodies.
The following pictures show our collective achievement and enjoyment.
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 more often we see the things around us, even the beautiful and wonderful things, the more they tend to become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the sunshine, the rain, the flowers & garden produce, the trees, the animals & birds, even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.
Several garden club members and gardening friends have shared pictures and thoughts of garden gifts in the fall; a reminder to all to STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, SMELL, TOUCH, TASTE AND SHARE.
Jayne: “Love this time of year”
The 8th generation Campbell property today with a bounty of freshness.
Sheila: “AJ researched for the Flower Show Victory Garden and her design later produced these wonderful Cucamelons and Peppers”
Carol:“Yum! My first cantaloupe ever and some squash.”
Myra: “Red from my neighbour’s garden and yellow from my garden.”
Brenda:”A collection for our favourite fall variety of dishes: cucumbers and cream, relish, jams, soups and others.
Sheila: “I was inspired to forage for mushrooms at our September meeting. Pizza tonight”
Shirley: “You can’t eat these but they are lovely” – Jane “Yummy Bundle” – Myra: “My Pickerel Frog”
It’s November and, although we have had two heavy frosts and it is cool now, up until a few days ago gardeners have been amazed by the warm temperatures here in the Chester and surrounding area.
The following are few pictures that were taken during the last couple of weeks, some as late as the 10th of November.
Summer pots still showing off.
The last of the fragile produce, only greens left in the vegetable garden.
Winter arrangements in the near future.
We can now continue preparation for winter in our gardens, enjoy the birds as they make ready for winter and settle in with a good gardening resource for next springs plans. Fall temperatures have arrived.
We all struggled with a very dry summer, many of us saving and recycling water, mulching to conserve moisture in our gardens & setting up water dishes for the birds and other wildlife that were also feeling the stress. We wondered if our wells & rivers would be replenished, and if our gardens would survive.
click on any picture for slide show
In spite of the drought, our gardens, both flower and vegetable produced. Yes, some failures were experienced, some blooms seemed late and some seemed to flower and produce fruit/seed very quickly.
For the last few weeks we have had weather that has been more like late summer. Our gardens have continued to produce. Some plants became confused producing late bloom. Pollinators still roamed the garden, snakes still found warm spots to sun bathe, insects & birds were in their nitches and salamanders continued to be visible when areas common to them were uncovered.
Now we must admit it really is fall. We have had beautiful rainbows following welcome rains, the trees have their fall color, we have had a killing frost and a few snow flakes have been seen. Many gardener’s have been preparing for winter. Some gardener’s fastidiously tidy and mulch in the fall, easing springtime preparation. Others are selective doing fall cleanup, leaving some plant material as cover for wintering critters & seed heads that are a welcome food source for fall and winter birds.
Soon we will be all armchair gardening, planning optimistically for another season. I wonder what challenges await us in the upcoming year ?
You may not have heard about El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, but Syd & Sandy D. know about it firsthand. Syd’s delightful presentation October 26th took us into the world of fantastic architecture and landscapes spread across the 800 km. of this pilgrimage in northern Spain. For two weeks last spring, they alternately bused and walked with pilgrims who were likewise intent on trekking to the shrine of the Apostle James in Santiago where tradition has it that his remains are buried. Quipped Syd about their using a van from time to time, unlike more orthodox pilgrims, “I hope it doesn’t diminish your opinion of us!” as the crowd of at least 60 people erupted in laughter. From picture to picture of crowded buildings on crowded streets, Syd, a prominent Halifax architect himself, extolled the virtues of fabulously designed housing unencumbered by Canadian municipal zoning constraints. “You could almost touch the neighbors across the street from you,” he said. “It was wonderful.” Ah, the romance of such names as Barcelona, Pamplona, Puente la Reina and La Rioja as well as churches with filigreed cement columns, ornate stained glass and gilded altars. Matched with Syd’s laid-back conversational dialogue, the fast-moving presentation kept his audience captivated throughout the hour. And the interest continued with conversations for another 45 minutes as members and visitors enjoyed delicious refreshments and even some Spanish wine donated by guess who.
Club members donned garden gear Monday, November 2nd, to clean up the Cove Garden for the winter season. President Heather M. expressed her thanks to “Herb F., Sheila S. and the CGC gang for working so diligently” to make it look very special. Thanks also goes to Sylvia M. and Jane C. for taking the following pictures.
Well, with the frost now clipping the container plants, it’s probably time to tidy them up for winter. As many of us have observed, Sheila KM displays her award-winning containers to optimum effect. Let’s listen in as she describes her experiences dabbling in this unique gardening specialty.
“I started using pots to provide a barrier to keep people from inadvertently stepping off our patio. However, I may have also been influenced by my mother who always had pots on the doorsteps and lining the driveway, and I always enjoyed them.
“When we moved to Chester, I started planting in pots because I didn’t know anything about gardening. However, I could stick plants in pots and watch them grow. When I went to the nursery, the many beautiful plants were hard to resist. I discovered that you don’t have to worry quite so much about bugs with pots. As well, I like putting different combinations of plants together and seeing what works colour-wise and condition-wise. I can step onto my deck in the morning in summer and check my plants, pick off dead flowers, and just generally admire them.
“Potted plants can be fed more easily as you have to water them almost daily. I do feed with diluted fertilizer with every watering. That could be a down side, but I keep trying to devise a way to self-water for hot days or when I am not here. I am very fortunate to have kind friends to water when I am away.
“For a number of years, I’ve had between 50 and 60 containers, between hanging baskets, window boxes and pots [Can any of us beat that?]. I didn’t have quite so many this year, but, there is always next year!
“At the end of the season, I compost the container plants with their soil. When that compost is ready, I put it on my garden beds. In this way, I use fresh soil for the pots every year, and it is recycled to build up the soil in the beds, which do seem to expand just about every year.
“As for tips, I talk to fellow gardeners, read books and magazines, take pictures and just do it. I try to make notes about what works or not, but I could do better with that.”
Sheila finishes off with this comment, “As I am writing this, I realize again how much I enjoy my plants, gardening and the people I have met through it.” I know that our readers can easily reflect those sentiments as well. We continue to learn so much from each other. Yeah, garden clubs, right?
P.S. Before Sheila got down to business cleaning out her containers, she took the following pictures of her glorious late bloomers (mid-October). Enjoy.
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.
October’s pumpkins and coloured leaves mean that Chester gardeners, however reluctantly, must say farewell to summer and begin to prepare their gardens for winter’s onslaught, especially for our region’s common freeze and thaw cycles. At a recent meeting of the Chester Garden Club, Rosmarie Lohnes passed on some tips to help local gardeners maintain healthy gardens through the off-season.
Her first tip included the benefit of dividing perennials at this time of year because, when many leaves have fallen, it is easier to see the bones of the garden and plan any changes in the placement of plants.
Weeding in the fall also provides a good
opportunity to get down close to the ground and examine plants for disease or damage that may need remedial action.
Rosmarie recommended natural plant-based fertilizers like diluted manure or seaweed tea for fall feeding, especially for plants that have been divided and moved. She noted that synthetic fertilizers and fish emulsions should not to be used at this time of year because they would stimulate above-ground growth rather than feed the roots.
Mulching is an important part of winter preparation because climate changes in recent years have resulted in a lack of snow cover that used to provide a good layer of insulation. Along the south shore of Nova Scotia, winter now brings repeated cycles of freezing and thawing and, in the winter, the lower angle of the sun means that its rays can hit the ground under what would have been summer’s leafy barrier. This constant changing of ground temperature can result in a plant’s being heaved up out of the ground. Despite the chilly air that retards a plant’s growth, its roots remain active (absorbing water and nutrients) until the temperature falls below about 7 ° C, so if any roots have been heaved out of the ground by the freeze-thaw cycle they are vulnerable to dying off. A thick layer of mulch, such as hay or leaves anchored with brush (evergreen cuttings), provides good protection against this damaging cycle.
October is also a good time to prune both shrubs and any dead stalks on perennials. Woody stalks should be cut back only to the rosette. One simple rule of thumb Rosmarie passed on was that any plant that will be “mushy” in the spring can be cut back now. Ever the keen recycler, Rosmarie suggested that all old stalks and leaves be chopped up and sprinkled on garden beds, where they will disintegrate over the winter, gradually being absorbed as nourishment for the soil, or that they be added to a compost. Some old stalks can be left to provide seeds for the birds or just simple eye appeal to the garden.
As for shrubs, another rule of thumb for fall pruning is not to prune any branch that is larger than your finger. If the plant is not dormant, it is advisable to wait until spring to prune any branch larger than your wrist in order to prevent “bleeding” from the cuts.
Despite the advent of cooler weather, some plants continue to defy Mother Nature and are still producing blooms. The next two shots from Myra’s garden illustrate the hardiness of some of the Gaillardias. Although the fall blooms lack the lushness of those in the warmer months, they are still an attractive asset to her garden.
In contrast to the survival of those Gaillardias, tender annuals like New Guinea Impatiens and nasturtiums have been touched by a light frost in some areas. The main colour in many gardens is found in yellowing foliage, ripened apples, and crimson berries like those on these cotoneasters.