Smitten with Succulents


I recently took a good look at the plants that have gained permanent residence inside our home. Other than two violets which belonged to a dear friend, the rest belong to the family referred to as succulents.

Succulents have a supernatural ability to survive in nearly any climate from growing across a rugged terrain to sprouting up inside a dainty teacup on a windowsill. These plants prove their toughness by storing water in fleshy leaves, fighting long periods of drought and producing new roots and rosettes. Today, the popularity of the desert dwellers arise from their resiliency, ease of propagation and exquisite formations.

Succulents grow well together in larger pots, but they are equally admirable in smaller individual vessels. Adding to their secret superpowers they won’t outgrow small containers, making them thoughtful accents for a home or office windowsill.

Succulents, which include cacti, grow both in non draining and draining containers. For pots with no holes you might be tempted to add a layer of rocks to the bottom to create a drainage layer. While this sounds good in theory expert Debra Lee Baldwin , writer of “Succulents Simplified” and “Succulent Container Gardens” advises against this practice saying that a layer of rocks provides an area for bacteria to grow. Under watering is actually a better solution. She says to use well aerated soil designed for succulents and cacti and top the soil with pebbles or gravel for a finished look.

For indoor growing select a bright location, preferably near a south or east window. Windowsills make a lovely perch, but check to make sure the plants aren’t getting too much sun, especially if they are young and newly planted. The concern is that UV rays, magnified by window glass, may sunburn the leaves.

The number 1 secret for succulents is to not over water them. Give them a good soak and wait for them to dry out. And keep in mind non draining containers such as mason jars, stone mugs and tea cups require lighter showers.

Once you start experimenting with the endless style combinations that succulents have to offer don’t be surprised if you start rummaging through garage sales or thrift shops for interesting vessels. It is nothing more than a sign that you, like me have become smitten with succulents.

Posted in Gardening, House Plants, Succlents | 1 Comment

Season’s Greetings

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.

Posted in Community Service, Evergreens, Gardening, Nature's Designs, Seasons | 1 Comment

Another Walk – Public Spaces

During the spring, summer and fall members of our garden club have experienced several beautiful spaces, some in or near our home communities and others further away. Before imgp2386winter sets in let’s take another walk. Perhaps we will make plans for a winter or springtime outing.

Halifax offers several choices for a beauty- filled walk. The following are only two of many opportunities.

Regatta Point:

In the spring Sandy shared these wonderful pictures from a visit to Regatta Point, a development near the Armdale Roundabout and near the intersection of the Herring Cove Rd. and the Purcell’s Cove Rd. There are green spaces owned by the city inside this development. The plants in them have largely been put there by individuals, in particular rhododendrons and azaleas were planted by John Meagher. The Atlantic Rhododendron & Horticulture Society has also done some planting and care over the years. Nearby is a picturesque walk along the Northwest Arm shoreline.

Halifax Public Gardens:

The Halifax Public Garden, officially opened in 1867, is a 16-acre oasis in the heart of downtown Halifax. Thanks to a series of talented people it has retained much of the original Victorian character and, through the efforts of many, the gardens were designated a National Historic Site in 1984.

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens:

Stop and smell the roses and as the invitation says: Escape from the hectic pace of everyday life with a visit to Annapolis Royal’s beautiful Historic Gardens. These gardens won the 2015 Canadian Garden of the Year Award.

In a beautiful setting overlooking a tidal river valley, the Historic Gardens site is a premiere Nova Scotia attraction showcasing gardening methods, designs and materials representing more than 400 years of local history. This is a beautiful garden paradise to explore in person.

Tangled Garden:

Heather shared her delight after her visit to Tangled Garden in Grand Pre, a garden enjoyed by many; it is about one hour’s drive from Chester.

Special herb jellies such as Raspberry, Lavender and Garlic Rosemary are created. Delicious jams, chutneys, mustards, vinegars and liqueurs are also produced, all made using fresh herbs from the gardens and fruit from the surrounding fertile Annapolis Valley. When you visit, make sure to stroll through the garden, take a few minutes to walk the wildflower labyrinth, or pause by the pond to reflect.

Now, for all of us, close to home, two of our own beautiful spaces:

Parade Garden: maintained by Chester Garden Club

Cove Garden: owned and maintained by Chester Garden Club.

Posted in Gardening | 1 Comment

Summer Reflections

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 ?

Posted in Autumn, Birds, Deer, Environmental issues, Gardening, Vegetables, Wildlife | Leave a comment

New Designs

On Monday, October 17th, Myra skillfully presented a workshop on the Crescent Design to members of Chester Garden Club. Preparation of container, oasis and already conditioned and prepared plant material was explained to all as some anxiously, some impatiently, waited to begin.

Myra challenged and assissted as we produced our design that followed the basic form while she also encouraged individual creativity.

The beautiful results were unique to each arranger, each meeting the design requirement.

If participant smiles of achievement and results are any indication of future competition in the Chester Garden Club Flower Show, especially the Crescent Design Class, we can all look forward to many stunning entries.

Posted in Floral arrangements, Flower Show, Gardening | 1 Comment

The Endangered Atlantic Whitefish

The Endangered Atlantic Whitefish, Past, Present and Futureb97595864z-120160731150932000gliea12k-11

On Monday, September 19th, Andrew Breen gave a presentation on the history of the Atlantic Whitefish in the Petite Riviere and work currently being conducted by the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, Inland Fisheries and DFO Science, (Species at Risk) and the potential demise of the species.

Andrew Breen is a graduate of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Program at Malaspina – College, Nanaimo, B.C. A Chester resident for 14 years, Andy is currently employed by Coastal Action as a Fisheries Technician and Project Coordinator for the Atlantic Whitefish Recovery Project.

I did research for this blog & much of the information is from articles by Zack Metcalfe . I would like to give credit to Zack Metcalfe, freelance environmental journalist, author and writer of Shades of Green. He operates out of Halifax.

The Atlantic whitefish species, a member of the salmon family is so rare they can be found in only four lakes in all the world, three of which adjoin one another in Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg County.These three lakes, all near Hebbville, are the Hebb, Milipsigate and Minamkeak.

Andrew spoke to members and guests of Chester Garden Club telling us that the Atlantic whitefish is a beautiful species at first glance, silver on its sides and underbelly, with a back of either dark blue or green, and in these three lakes they grow to 20-25 centimetres. This was the very first species of fish to become formally “endangered” in Canada back in April 1984 and since then their circumstances haven’t improved much.

There was a time when they occupied two separate watersheds in Nova Scotia — the Petite Rivière, of which the above three lakes are a part, and Tusket River, on the province’s southern tip near Yarmouth. But damming and the introduction of invasive species destroyed the Tusket River population, its last confirmed member hooked in 1982. This left only Petite Rivière, an ecological stronghold of sorts, holding out against the growing threat of extinction.

Andrew told us the smallmouth bass, native to the Great Lakes of southern Ontario, have been in Petite Rivière since at least the late 1990s, likely introduced by anglers hoping to bring their favourite game fish closer to home. Since then these bass have multiplied and imposed their considerable appetites on this fragile ecosystem. Andrew’s cut them open in the past and found as many as 20 young-of-the-year gaspereau in a single bass’ stomach, and in one unfortunate case, the half digested body of an Atlantic Whitefish. These bass aren’t just out-competing whitefish for food and habitat; they’ve added whitefish to the menu.

And then there’s the chain pickerel, introduced sometime around 2010, Andrew guesses. While analyzing their stomach contents he’s discovered such oddities as muskrats, ducks, snakes, newts, frogs and in one famous instance, two baby snapping turtles, still alive when cut free from their fleshy prison. Andrew said a pickerel will eat anything that moves and is more than capable of taking an adult whitefish.

Together these invasive fish have grown like a cancer in Petite Rivière, infecting first Hebb Lake, then moving upstream to Milipsigate, somehow surmounting the dams separating these three water-bodies. Andrew said pickerel have recently reached Minamkeak Lake as well, the final link in the chain. But their spread hasn’t gone unchallenged.

In partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the provincial government, Andrew and his team have periodically gone electrofishing, sweeping known bass and pickerel habitat so these invaders can be paralyzed and removed en masse. In this way their populations have been controlled, but it’s doubtful they will ever be entirely done away with.

Andrew told us about an  enormous cage installed halfway up the fish way on the Petite Riviere that traps all ascending fish has allowed Andrew and his team to act as a sort of gatekeepers. The fish are netted, weighed and measured , and  all native species are returned. The  invasive species are are weeded out.whitefish2

Atlantic whitefish are fascinating in that some remain landlocked, living and breeding in the confines of freshwater lakes, while the rest spend their time in the coastal ocean, only travelling upstream to spawn.

Petite Rivière once hosted both, but when Hebb Dam and other obstructions were erected through this watershed the ocean dwellers were cut off from their spawning grounds and left to die downstream without giving rise to the next generation. Year after year, any whitefish foolish enough to fall below these dams was removed from the gene pool, until all courage was finally bred out of them.

Many of these obstructions have since been removed from Petite Rivière, but the urge to head seaward has not been rekindled in the Atlantic whitefish. Only 20 have ever been caught in the fishway, all in its first year of operation, but they were likely the result of captive-bred releases downstream. None have been seen since.

We haven’t seen an adult whitefish in two years,” he told us.

No one knows how many there are. The only evidence we have of their continued existence are the infant whitefish found each year in Hebb Lake at the base of Milipsigate Dam, carried over by the current and separated from their spawning parents.

Milipsigate Dam doesn’t have a fishway of its own, but it does have a rotary screwtrap, a bizarre contraption consisting of an empty metal cone held on its side, its open end facing the dam, kept in place by rafts and rope. In this way it funnels the majority of fish falling over the dam into a small holding tank at its base, where again Andrew and his colleagues take stock.

According to Andrew, people often haul boats into this watershed and fish despite regulations against doing so.

Apart from being the last remaining home of the whitefish these lakes are the water supply for Bridgewater, but people don’t often know that.  The people he’s encountered on these waters mean no harm, knowing no better than those who brought bass and pickerel here in the first place.

We learned that Petite Rivière can only support the Atlantic Whitefish as long as their work continues, removing invasive species and chauffeuring whitefish to safer waters.

All they can do is buy the species time.Andrew told us “Unless we do something fast, the (Atlantic whitefish) will become extinct..

The Mersey Biodiversity Facility in Milton, Queens County, was originally built to benefit local salmon but in 2000 it expanded its hatcheries to accommodate the Atlantic whitefish as well.

That year five adults were taken from Petite Rivière and used to spawn a captive breeding population, the first of its kind, so the life cycle of this animal could be better understood.

It was generally agreed the Atlantic whitefish wouldn’t be safe until they had established themselves outside of Petite Rivière, free from the menace of invasive species, and these captive-bred whitefish were just the pioneers for the job.

So from 2005-2008 nearly 12,000 of them were released in Anderson Lake, the fourth and final lake on Earth containing this uniquely Nova Scotian species. This was a trial run of sorts, to see how captive-bred whitefish fared in the wild.

Another 12,000 were released downstream in Petite Rivière between 2007-2009 in hopes of reviving the seafaring population, but it appears not to have worked. The Anderson Lake population persevered, however, with healthy growth observed among introduced whitefish from 2006-2010. There was yet no evidence they were reproducing on their own but these initial results were promising.

But before a final verdict could be obtained from Anderson Lake the whitefish captive breeding program was cancelled in 2012, a result of the Mersey Biodiversity Facility’s forthcoming closure. The few fish remaining in its tanks were dumped into the lake and this promising experiment in relocating the endangered whitefish was abandoned. There has been no monitoring of Anderson Lake since. Anderson Lake will have its pulse taken this fall, for the first time since 2012.

The Atlantic Whitefish is a species under siege in more ways than one.

Will they fall victim to a lack of funding and public awareness, or are the passions of the people and organizations mentioned enough to rescue them? Only time will tell.

Posted in Endangered Species, Environmental issues, Wildlife | 3 Comments

Garden Club Summer Fun

Garden Club Summer Fun 
Mid – August Jayne and Keith Campbell  kindly hosted the annual pot luck 
get-together for members of Chester Garden Club and their significant others. 
The tasty dishes, attractive garden and ocean views made for a relaxed setting 
and good conversation on a summer’s evening. The following photos certainly 
attest to that.
(thanks to Jocelyn for the pictures

Marion, Heather and Brenda are checked out something special in the beautiful gardens overlooking the spectacular ocean views.

There was no shortage of smiles, tasty dishes, and good conversation.

Thanks to Jayne and Keith for hosting a wonderful evening.

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment