Category: Weather

Storms Bring Challenges & Blessings

Storms Bring Challenges & Blessings

Gardeners everywhere are sometimes challenged and other times blessed by what nature and the environment delivers.

The South shore of Nova Scotia experienced an intense storm on January 4th that left not only coastal damage but also what many refer to as “ Gardeners Gold”. As we were in “Storm watch Mode”,  I thought of all the seaweed that would be torn, tossed and piled on our shorelines.

In May 2017, Betsy and Bob from Bear Cove Resources explained the Storm-cast process and production of an excellent, odour free fertilizer/soil conditioner to use in our gardens and on our indoor plants.

The following are a few shots of the ocean and coastline the day following the storm. The piles of “Storm-Cast Seaweed Mix” along the coast was impressive as were the pounding seas that created the impressive views and results.

Gardens that receive a gift of seaweed compost will flourish this coming gardening season.

Click on picture for slide show:

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.


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.

Witch-hazel – Welcome in Winter

Witch-hazel – Welcome in Winter

Witch-hazel, more formally known as Hamamelis, is a deciduous shrub that produces blooms over the autumn-to-early-spring period, depending on the variety.  The Hamamelis Jelena seen below adds a welcome spot of colour to a winter woodland garden in February.

February 16 Hamamelis Jelena (1)
Witch-hazel branches frame a wintry garden scene in Chester
February 16 Hamamelis Jelena (2)
Hamamelis Jelena

The spidery tendrils of this Hamamelis shrub form clusters of fragrant flowers on bare branches, a brave appearance when temperatures hover around -6° C.  Like last year, our temperatures have been fluctuating for most of the winter but this year we have received far more snow.  In fact, we’ve experienced a series of blizzards blowing through the area about once a week during February; and each week, mere days afterward, when much of the snow has melted and the roads are clear again, the next cycle begins.  Another symptom of climate change, perhaps?

February 16 Hamamelis Jelena (3)
The most recent “blizzard” was a freak storm that prevented the club’s guest speaker from reaching Chester for the February 18th meeting. Gamely rising to the challenge, however, about 15 club members sallied forth to engage in a planning session instead, and were rewarded by hearing an interesting update on the work of the committee that is organizing this summer’s Flower Show and Tea.  The full schedule of the Show’s competitive classes will be published on the blog in March.

Another note of interest to many local gardeners is the annual plant sale curated by the Atlantic  Rhododendron and Horticultural Society. The sale includes a wide variety of rhodos and azaleas,  plus magnolias and other shrubs. Advance sale orders are available only to members but the public is invited to attend the May 11 sale in Halifax.   Details are available on the  group’s website:   http//

Changing Winter Light

Changing Winter Light

Like much of the north-east sector of our continent, Nova Scotia has been subjected to extremely cold weather in the past week. In fact January has seen a continuation of the fluctuating temperatures that have produced alternating periods of freezing and thawing.  The variable skies and the difference in light due to the lower angle of the sun at this time of year both influence the photos taken in winter; they have a different look from those of summer. The photo below was taken three weeks ago, during a crisp clear January day when even a saltwater cove was  iced over.

Ice-covered cove in February
An ice-covered inlet on a clear cold day

A week later, rain and milder temperatures had resulted in a massive thaw that produced interesting changes as thin ice pans floated on the still water.

Overcast winter light
Overcast winter light
Reflections on a cloudy day

The mosaic patterns created by tidal changes affecting the ice pans continued to shift after the clouds cleared and the sun had brightened the landscape.

The same scene after the sun has broken through the clouds

Last week’s milder temperatures and sunny skies brought a temporary end to the ice but now we are back to snowy roads and an ice-covered cove.  Such is winter along the coast of rural Nova Scotia. Gardening will have to wait.

Snow-covered bushes

Fall Weather Has Gardeners Looking to House Plants

Fall Weather Has Gardeners Looking to House Plants

A cold north wind and much lower temperatures have arrived, following the warm wet weather that we had experienced when the fringes of Hurricane Sandy blew past Chester. Now that a hard frost has finished off most of the annuals in the garden and fall’s colourful foliage is no more than a memory, some gardeners are turning once again to indoor plants.

A novice’s experiment with orchids has resulted in a growth spurt of large leaves emerging from a repotted mystery plant, along with a corresponding gradual loss of blooms from a lovely fuschia Phalaenopsis.  When the latter was bought in May, it sported a single stalk of blooms and later developed another stalk without help from the owner! Now that the flowers are dropping off (six months later) it is time to seek advice concerning the care and feeding of orchids. The next step will be to contact the local orchid society and, as usual, surf the net.

Christmas cacti are now beginning to add their exotic floral contributions to this indoor display. Somehow, early November seems a little early for a plant tagged “Christmas” but mine always appear about the same time every year.

The orchid on the right, seen against the background of a snow-covered lawn, was photographed in a past winter. There hasn’t been a snow-fall here yet!

One of the less common house plants in this community is the Anthurium, a tropical plant that does best in medium light. Having recently received one of these plants as a gift, it seemed appropriate to find out how to care for it, which is why I turned once again to the internet.  There, I found the site, a comprehensive source of information devoted to several species of tropical plants including Anthuriums as well as Spathiphyllums and Orchids.

Anthurium, variety unknown

Written by Steve Lucas, with credits to professional botanists, the site provides detailed information on the basic factors to consider when growing any of those tropical plants. Sections describing the best soil composition, preferred light conditions and considerations re humidity and watering are clear and consistent. Botanical terms are provided in a lengthy glossary; photographs illustrate the varying species; and, throughout the different sections, one basic theme concerning the feeding and caring for these tropical plants is repeated : “Listen to Mother Nature. Her advice is best.”

I learned that the “flower” of the Anthurium pictured above,  is more like a “flower holder” since it is a modified leaf, or bract, known as the spathe. Together,  the spadix (a sort of tongue that grows up from the spathe) and the spathe form a collective structure called the inflorescence.  Actually, the spadix at its centre can grow a group of very tiny flowers but, as Steve Lucas writes,  most people need a magnifying glass to see them.

There is a wealth of information on this site, which owes much of its photography to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis although the author’s own botanical garden is in Arkansas. The information ranges from helpful hints for creating an ideal composition of loose soil, to the importance of avoiding limestone for the pebble base underneath plants that are sitting in a water-tray, to tips on building your own rainforest habitat.  The site covers so much material that I felt I was studying for a Master’s course but it also provides other useful (if more mundane) content, such as the simple definitions that clarify the difference between a “stem”  – which is the plant’s base or axis –  and a “petiole”  – which is the stalk that connects the leaf blade to the stem.

The site also includes the option of a virtual tour through a private botanical garden, complete with the sounds of tree frogs and a waterfall.  And once you’ve come back to reality, ready to face Chester’s grey November landscape, remember to hightail it to the club’s Annual General Meeting on Monday, November 19, where Brenda Hiltz will discuss some of the native and imported species of flora in our area.  As for the fauna, we hope those deer hightail it out of our yards too!

White-tailed deer dash away from under your blogger’s apple trees
More Autumn Colours, in advance of a storm

More Autumn Colours, in advance of a storm

Sedum in autumn colours

As friends along the USA’s eastern seaboard are battening down the hatches, gardeners in Nova Scotia are still enjoying beautiful fall days but keeping a weather eye out for the possibility that Hurricane Sandy may veer our way.  Although the forecast is for nothing more than several days of rain in our area, the weather has already begun to change. In fact, since I took photos for this post, about an hour ago, the sunny day has turned cloudy in advance of what is predicted to be our brush with the edge of the storm.

Rain or shine, at this time of year, many gardeners rely on chrysanthemums to brighten up their gardens, but many other plants provide a lovely palette as well.  Most of the pale yellow leaves of birches have fallen but red maples, scarlet oaks and the crimson leaves of burning bushes can be seen throughout the area. Even low-growing sedums have their place in the overall scheme of things autumnal.

Japanese maple leaves catch the afternoon sun

Some plants show fascinating variations of colour as their individual leaves progress through the biochemical changes that produce the beautiful autumn shades.  The Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) above exhibits clear brilliant red foliage, whereas the Cotinus coggygria (Smoke bush) below has many leaves of different shades and some with lovely patterns where the veins stand out as striations on the main leaf.

Colour variations of foliage on a smoke bush

Followers of this blog may notice that one of the menus at the top has changed. The new heading Current Activities is what is termed a “static page” but it will not be static for long. We hope to be changing the information on that page whenever monthly meetings or other activities are on the horizon.  This week the page has a poster advertising the Club’s November 19th meeting, with information as to the speaker and time. That gathering will also include the Annual General Meeting, at which members receive reports from the officers and committee chairs of the Club. All members are encouraged to attend. 

Fountain grass tossed by the breeze in advance of a storm cloud
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. 

Spring Bounces In

Spring Bounces In

Spring sprang into Chester last week, bringing with it unprecedented hot weather. For two days the mercury soared to record-breaking highs of 24° and 27°C, before backing off to 14° C and then , just as quickly,  dropping to more normal readings of 4° to 7° C.   Another case of Arctic oscillation?

Whatever the cause,  gardeners found themselves digging out their shorts and tee-shirts and tackling the business of digging out the weeds that seemed to have sprouted overnight.  A more welcome sight were the clumps of heaths (Erica carnea Springwood pink, above and below) that suddenly put forth a wealth of blossoms.

The spring-cleaning of local gardens included removing winter’s debris from lawns and beds, such as those hosting the crocus blooms in the next photo. Behind the crocuses are the emerging stalks of budding daffodils that have also been given a boost from the unusually warm weather.

Echoing the traditional Easter colours of purple and white, the crocus blooms herald the approach of Spring, seemingly unaware that it has already arrived. Chester gardeners are hoping that, this year, after its early but brief appearance Spring will soon return.

In case it has escaped the notice of readers familiar with the usual layout of this blog, a new item has been added to the menu running across the top of the screen.  Information about the Chester Garden Club’s annual Flower Show and Tea , a popular summer event, can be found by clicking on the link. The information will be updated regularly as details are confirmed.