Tag: Rhododendrons

Winter: a time to surf for garden sites

Winter: a time to surf for garden sites

The winter doldrums can be frustrating for any keen gardener. Armed with brilliant new ideas for improving their gardens and anxious to be outside reworking the soil, they are stuck indoors, looking out at a frozen snowscape with no hope of any real garden activities for several months yet. The much-heralded nor’easter that blew into Chester in late January changed the landscape overnight. Until that date, we’d had little snow so, although the ground was frozen, it was also bare and there was little protection for plants except for any mulch laid down by an experienced gardener.

holly berries In Chester, the freeze and thaw cycle is particularly discouraging.  The mercury in the outdoor thermometer is getting a real workout; a constant routine  of falling down and then climbing way back up. To help get us through the winter, we’ve been checking the internet for  interesting gardening blogs and websites. This brief survey offers a few sites with a variety of approaches.

The Atlantic Rhododendron and Horticultural Society hosts a website for members and others:   http://atlanticrhodo.org/

Rhodo shrubThe ARHS supports and promotes the development and exchange of expertise and material relating to the practice of creating and maintaining year-round garden landscapes featuring rhododendrons and other suitable plants.

The site contains a monthly calendar listing various activities for members, including the deadlines for ordering special tissue culture, as well as dates of plant and seed sales open to the public. Other programs include garden tours, such as the one that will be led by Jenny Sandison in the spring. The site also contains valuable information on growing plants, and members are able to borrow books from the Society’s extensive library.

 Nova Scotia Dahlia Society   ( https://sites.google.com/site/novascotiadahliasociety/)

Alpen Fury
This dahlia “Alpen Fury” is among the photos on the NSDS website.

Formed in 1985 by a small group of gardeners with the objective of promoting the growing of dahlias in Nova Scotia,  the group holds regular meetings with informative programs, dahlia shows, tuber sales, newsletters, and promotional displays at various gardening events. The website contains information about the Society’s programs, tuber sales and shows, along with advice on growing dahlias and a gallery showing some of the many varieties of dahlias.


Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens


Billed as one of the Top 5 North American Gardens, this 17-acre horticultural paradise is well worth an actual visit, but the virtual tour that is offered on the website may help to pass time on a winter’s afternoon. In a beautiful setting overlooking a tidal river valley, these gardens showcase gardening methods, designs and materials representing more than four hundred years of local history.

Laburnum, Ann RoyalPhotos on the website illustrate many of the favourite areas including the rose garden, the laburnum walk and the water features. A touch of whimsy was introduced last year when a local artist created a large number of ceramic birds (native species) that were then hidden in the trees for childrHistoric Gardens, Annapolis Royalen (and others!) to seek out. Among the Fast Facts on the web site: “Cool as a Cucumber? It’s true…the inside of a cucumber on the vine measures as much as 20° cooler than the outside air on a warm day!


The Atlantic Master Gardeners Association


The Master Gardener Training Program at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) brings together gardeners who share a passion for horticulture of all kinds, and are dedicated to learning and growing their knowledge to share with their community. This site provides information on the cultivation of many favourite plants as well as events and links to other sites related to horticulture.

And now, for something completely different…

Mutterings in the Shrubbery – this blog offers an original approach to the gardening world from a horticultural expert who brings his own personal touch to each post. Check it out at: https://mutteringsintheshrubbery.wordpress.com

Some recent posts include musings on his visits to botanic gardens in Singapore, Kew Gardens on a frosty day, and even a video in which Joanna Lumley (yes, the comedic actor) joins an architect and a renowned garden designer in a fascinating talk about the concept and development of London’s delightful Garden Bridge.

This stunning pedestrian bridge over theThames Garden Bridge River Thames, with its meandering paths through plants and woodlands, will link north and south London. The photo on the right, taken from the website of The Garden Bridge Trust, is an artist’s rendering of the proposed “floating garden”. More information is available by searching online.

At this point, in Chester, we’re half-way through winter and beginning to look forward to spring. Seed catalogues are enticing but perhaps this short survey will also be useful, and we hope that you will enjoy searching out lots more garden sites online.


Rhododendrons 101

Rhododendrons 101

DSCF7719Members and guests of Chester Garden Club’s were recently treated to an informative presentation by Cora Swinamer, president of the Atlantic Rhododendron and Horticultural Society.   Cora, whose firm Under the Arbor has been designing gardens for clients along Nova Scotia’s South Shore for over ten years, has a special fondness for Rhodos, which do particularly well in this climate.

In addition to many colourful slides* used to illustrate her talk, Cora handed out a list of the many varieties of  Rhodendrons and Azaleas that have been proven to be good performers in our province.

Rhodo "Hong Kong"
Rhododendron “Hong Kong”

The 39 rhododendrons listed were classed as either Elepidotes, which are the large-leaf plants, or Lepidotes, the small-leafed varieties;  or as Azaleas – either deciduous or evergreen.   As a tip and memory aid, Cora suggested that the spelling of Lepidote reminds many gardeners of the word “leprechaun”, and someone else chimed in that the initial letters of Elepidote resemble the start of the word “elephant”, so that it should be easy to remember which description fits which category in the future!

Azalea "Chelsea peach"
Azalea “Chelsea Peach”, with a white Azalea “Shanty” in the background

All the plants on the list were characterized as to zone tolerance, height, approximate bloom-time, and colour; qualities that are important considerations when selecting any plant for any garden.

Rhododendron "English roseum"
Rhododendron “English roseum”

Cora pointed out that site conditions are also important when choosing which plant to add to one’s garden. Rhodos require  soil with good drainage, thrive in acidic soil, and do well in some shade, although, in Nova Scotia, full sun exposure is not a problem.  A useful tip is that “the larger the leaf, the more shade the plant can tolerate.” Exposure to cold weather and stiff winds can cause broad-leafed plants to suffer so, in some cases, a deciduous azalea might be a better choice for planting since they drop their leaves in cold weather.

Azalea "Flame"
Azalea “Flame”

Cora’s presentation covered many aspects of tending to rhododendrons, including planting, mulching, dead-heading, pruning, and dealing with the one pest that seems to affect these plants: the Black Vine Weevil.  She also clarified the terms “tomentosum”  and “indumentum” –  the fine or matted wooly hair growing on the upper and under side of leaves of some varieties of rhodos. Several lucky members of the audience took home cuttings from a rhododendron branch that Cora had used in her presentation.

* Note:  The photos used in this post are not Cora’s but come from a Chester garden.

More Rain-splashed Rhododendrons

More Rain-splashed Rhododendrons

Continuing with more photos from Chester gardens on a rainy day, here is a close-up of an Azalea “Chelsea Reach”, which has a captivating perfume, even on a damp day.

Azalea "Chelsea Reach"
Azalea “Chelsea Reach”
A mass planting of three unidentified  rhododendrons
A mass planting of three unidentified rhododendrons

The gardener whose rhodos are shown in the photo above apologized for not remembering  the name of this particularly fragrant variety, and noted that they were bought years ago from the late Captain Dick Steele, who was known in Canada as the Rhododendron King.

An Azalea border
An Azalea border

un-named azaleaThe unidentified azaleas above and below were purchased through the Garden Club and from other local groups as part of fund-raising programs years ago.

azalea lemon colour

A spring garden vista includes an azalea, alliums and even perennial poppies in the distance.
A spring garden vista includes an azalea, alliums and even perennial poppies in the distance.
Rain Can’t Wash Out Spring’s Colours

Rain Can’t Wash Out Spring’s Colours

In our part of the country we may be setting a record for the amount of rainfall this spring but, on the up-side, things have seldom grown so fast.  The plants are taller and the greenery is greener, and we can still find spots of colour under cloudy skies.

Papery-thin petals of a tree paeony slowly unfold.
Papery-thin petals of a tree paeony slowly unfold.
An Azalea “flame” shares a border with a “Bridal Wreath” Spirea.
This peach-coloured Azalea has a lovely fragrance to match its delicate colouring.
As the season moves on, the lilacs are already beginning the transition from blossom to seed pod.
As the season moves on, the lilacs are already beginning the transition from blossom to seed pod.
This Rhododendron with its creamy blossoms is an unidentified specimen from the late Captain Steele's collection.  eye
This rain-spattered Rhododendron is an unidentified variety obtained from the late Captain Steele.
Siberian irises add a bold splash of purple to the ever-present greenery.
Siberian irises add a bold splash of purple to the ever-present greenery.
Kerria japonica produces double buttercup-like flowers, rather like pom-poms.

These plants are a sample of the many varieties now in bloom in Chester gardens despite the unusual weather patterns we’re experiencing this spring.  Anyone looking for more exotic garden species, might do well to attend the next meeting of Chester Garden Club, on June 17th, when the guest speaker will be giving a presentation on Orchids.  For details, check out the poster on the Current Activities page of the blog.

Out-of-Season Blooms

Out-of-Season Blooms

Virginia creeper on birch tree A mild September has meant that a few plants in the Chester area have been tricked into re-blooming.  Although occasional glimpses of red leaves have shown up on selected maples, most gardens are still green. One of the first plants to change colour is the Virginia Creeper, seen here winding around the trunk of  a white birch and offset by the fresh green branches of a pine. Such a scene could tempt a Sunday painter to reach for her acrylic paints and brushes.  That is, if you squint hard enough, it’s almost like looking at a  splendid splash of abstract art.

But on to the out-of-season blooms. Having enjoyed the usual array of rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring, we were pleasantly surprised to find a few of those plants setting out new blooms in the fall.  The next few images (contributed by Sandy) were taken mid to late September.

rhodo rampao
Rhododendron Ramapo
Rhododendron (variety unknown)
Actea Hillside Black Beauty
Silver Lace vine

The Kerria japonica (below),  found in another Chester garden, usually puts out its floral display in May. Although it has produced fewer blooms in September, the out-of-season  display makes a welcome bright addition to the duller colours of the spent blooms and foliage of its neighbours.

Kerria japonica

A honeysuckle vine that was a favourite source of nectar for hummingbirds all summer continues to put forth a few blossoms even though the birds have long since departed for southern climes. Adding their own dash of colour and interesting shapes at this time of year are the various fruits and seeds that appear on trees and shrubs.

Ornamental crab apples
Holly berries
Wisteria seed pods
Asclepia seed pods

The ascelpia photo is included as a nod to our previous posts devoted to Monarch butterflies and their reliance on asclepias (milkweeds).  The thousands of delicate wispy  seeds are released when the hard pod opens.  They drift away on the breeze and those that find fertile ground will be the source of new milkweeds that will nourish and provide egg-laying bases for future Monarch butterflies.

Bloom Day North in May

Bloom Day North in May

To continue our custom of acknowledging plants in bloom on the 15th of the month, we are pleased to include the following varieties on this day in Chester. The first two are small ground covers – a Euphorbia nestled among a few granite rocks and a scattering of violets that have invaded a pebbly path.

a sunny euphorbia nestled among rocksa carpet of violets

lilac buds about to open
Above, we have a cluster of buds of Syringa vul. President Grevy, appearing like miniature grapes, not quite actually in bloom but so full of promise in colour and fragrance that we had to include them.   Below, two clumps of daffodils are nodding in the breeze: (N. Merlin, if my records are correct) on the left,  and N. Cheerfulness on the right.
daffodils N. cheerfulness
PJM rhododendron
The PJM Victor Rhodo, with its delicate blossoms,  is one of the first to brighten the landscape, as is the rhododendron Aglo, seen below. 

yellow primula

Yellow and mauve Primulas, and a thick tapestry of ruby-coloured blooms flowing over a garden wall, add more delightful  spring colours to Chester gardens in mid-May. [thanks to Sandy for her photos]