VALLEY – Spring could not come fast enough for Valley resident Peter MacNeil.
The gardening enthusiast and his wife Shirley are members of the Bible Hill Garden Club and have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to again hone their green thumb skills.
“He’s been counting down the days to spring,” said Shirley.
The duo has been gardening for many years but they are always willing to learn new skills, which is a continuing process, they said.
“I first got started when I was about seven and I found a package of pansy seeds in a cereal box,” said Peter. “My father got me a tire and I planted the seeds … and I’ve been interested ever since.”
Shirley’s mother was a gardener and it rubbed off on her while Eva Rifai, another club member from Valley, said growing up in the vegetable garden was a way of life.
“Mom said we couldn’t play until the weeds were taken care of,” said Rifai. “It was an occasional punishment but it teaches you to work with nature and responsibility.”
It’s those types of stories, as well as tips on what they’ve learned, that makes coming together in a garden club so beneficial, they said.
One tip heading into a new gardening season, for example, is educating yourself on the plant and its needs beforehand, said Peter.
“A lot of people don’t know that there’s always something in bloom from April right to December. It’s just knowing what it is. People also make mistakes by putting the wrong plant in the wrong place like planting something in the shade that needs sun.”
Eva added reading packages is a must before digging in.
“Know your zones … you need to make sure you get a plant that is good for this climate.”
Other suggestions include: fertilizing bulbs right after they bloom; adding compost, ground up leaves or peat moss to soil; controlling weeds by spraying them with horticultural vinegar; and planting roses in full sun away from trees and draining its soil.
Another tip for a new gardening season is to gather with other gardeners, such as in a local garden club.
Shirley said there is one misconception about garden clubs that must be addressed.
“Some think that we are all good gardeners and they can’t come if they don’t know a lot. We are all learning and people show ideas to each other,” she noted. “And it keeps you physically and mentally fit. You meet so many people that you become close with. We exchange plants as well as lasting friendships.”
“There’s a lot of stress in the world. It’s a nice place to just relax and enjoy,” added Peter. “And people notice gardens in a community. It’s good to work together and take pride in the community.”
The Bible Hill Garden Club has about 60 members between the ages of 20 and 90 plus. It meets the second Monday of the month at the Bible Hill fire hall from 7 to 9 p.m. Memberships are available for $10 a year. Everyone is welcome to attend.
A brief look at the history of the Bible Hill Garden Club:
- In 1947, 17 members started the group to improve properties, learn about growing methods, exchange plant material, and assist with the beautification of the community.
- Meetings were held in homes for many years and then in meeting rooms at senior citizen complexes in the village before moving to the village’s fire hall.
- In the beginning, memberships cost 50 cents.
- In 1972, the club began planting trees and flower beds at the Holy Well Park.
- In 1975, about 200 trees were planed in the community’s cemetery.
- More and more shrubs and trees were planted throughout the community and nearby areas as the group grew.
- The goal of promotion and education continues and is achieved in many ways including providing flower kits to children, garden tours and guest speakers at regular meetings.
- Other current events include centrepriece workshops, community beautification, and the presentation of a bursary to a Dalhousie Agricultural College horticulture student, to name only a few.
* Other area garden clubs include – Cobequid, Economy/Five Islands, Debert and area, Great Village and Wentworth Valley.