History of Basin Gardeners Association

by Christine Boardman and Nancy Fitch, 2010

A community group dedicated to education, propagation of beauty and a naturally good life.’  Jim Furness, 1992.

            The first known formal garden club was formed in Athens, Georgia, U.S.A. in 1891* by twelve women with the help of Dr. Edwin Newton, a physician and horticulturalist.  This movement spread quickly through the East Coast of the U.S. and Texas and in 1913 the Garden Club of America was founded with twelve member clubs in Philadelphia, Penn.  In 1929 the National Council of State Garden Clubs was founded and both these groups continue to flourish across the U.S.A.

            Basin Gardeners Association was founded just over a century later than that in Athens, in 1992!  In 2005 our banner was designed by Nancy Guest and hooked by Hazel Hatt.  It was exhibited for the first time at NSAGC*** convention in Sherbrooke in 2005.

            Around 1898 Delbert Webber built his blacksmith shop on a triangle by a stream, at the foot of Corn Hill, where it meets Route 3.  He shoed horses and oxen over many years, as well as making other iron work.  Shortly after he closed his smithy, the Dept. of Transportation removed the building to improve visibility for vehicles.  In 1987, Warden Allan Webber donated his grandfather’s anvil to the community placing it on a stone base, and the area became known as the Anvil Park.

            Barry Bower and Molly Hurd then lived on Corn Hill.  They conceived the idea of starting a Garden Club in the Basin for the mutual sharing of knowledge about horticulture between members, and in order to enhance the beauty of the area for all in the Basin to enjoy.  Founding members were the Hurd/Bowers, Jim Furness, Nancy Fitch, Caron Demont, Fran Orstein, Fred and Emma Wendt, Pat Croft and Christine Boardman.  In 1996 the BGA was registered as a Joint Stock Company under the Societies Act.. By-laws were developed and then revised in 1997.   Our Association is a member of the NSAGC.***

            Our first beautification project, started in 1992, was Anvil Park.  The goal was to provide a quiet oasis in the midst of our community.  The Webber family, financial contributions from the Municipality, and other members of the Chester Basin community, as well as members of our new garden club, contributed to the development.  The stream was bridged, flowerbeds were dug and planted with annuals, perennials and bulbs, hedges trimmed and the stream tidied.  In 1993 major improvements were made.  A slate path was built, benches placed and ground level lighting installed.  Sadly, from both snow clearing damage and vandalism, the lighting and benches were ruined and had to be removed for a time.   This left more space for us to garden!  Work crews from our club continue to care for the gardens, and individuals can often be seen weeding and pruning there as needed.  Now, each December, Santa knows where to find community members, when a Christmas tree is lighted and carols sung.
            In 1995 our next new beautification project became the Triangle Park, at the foot of  New Ross Road where it joins Route 3.  This had been an unattractive patch of scrub.  The soil is poor and shallow; underneath is asphalt.  No depth, no drainage!  It has full sun in summer and bears the brunt of winter snow removal and salting.  Luckily, gardeners are tough!  We decided to install barrels planted with a variety of annuals and a watering/weeding rotation was developed.  We did this for two hot, dry summers!  In 1997 we bought in several loads of good topsoil and compost and built up a central flowerbed and again a rotation of members, plus work parties, cared for it. That year we were awarded second place in the Lunenburg County Community Enhancement program!  We continued to work on this space until, in 2002, a snow plough drove right over the garden, removing all our precious topsoil!  Our club reluctantly decided to discontinue the struggle, but now Levy Property Maintenance, as a donation to the Community, has taken over, built a retaining stonewall and does a wonderful job!

Chester Basin Elementary School closed in the mid-1980s and shortly after BGA’s founding, our members tendered a proposal to Chester Municipal Council.  This suggested that if the Municipality were to purchase the property, and with a little financial help the Basin Gardeners would beautify and care for the area, making a pleasant park in which community members could stroll, picnic, and play.  However, the property was sold and nothing came of this.

            In keeping with our club’s desire to continue our horticultural education, we have speakers at each meeting to discuss various topics.  Each meeting starts with a brief social time when snacks, tea and coffee are served, provided by a rotation of members. This is followed by the presentation after which a brief meeting is conducted.  Our on-line journal, The Gardener’s Grapevine was founded in 2005 by Myra Knight with Nancy Guest as the first editor, followed by Myra Knight and Marion Daniels.  Jocelyn Cameron has edited it since 2007.  This journal has proven to be an enjoyable and informative asset for our members who can contribute if they wish.

            Also regarding further education, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College** started a Master Gardeners program in 2004.  Sylvia McNeil, Brenda Hiltz, and Christine Boardman immediately enrolled!  BGA has been kind enough to reimburse all students for the first course, once successfully completed. This four section on-line program proved most interesting.  Most of us completed one section per winter. The course also comprises a five day compulsory Summer School where gardening skills are demonstrated and practiced by students.  Sylvia, Brenda and Christine graduated in 2008. In 2005 Donna Bennett enrolled and graduated in 2009.  Nicole Levy and Tanya Wohlsclagel and are now in their 3rd. year.  Brenda, Sylvia, Donna and Christine are now Master Gardeners. An annual summer school is available to Master Gardeners to hone our skills.  We share our knowledge by giving presentations, writing articles and there is a master Gardener’s Table at our annual Spring Plant Sale where the public may bring any gardening questions.

            Another important further education project was Myra Knight’s and Joanne Jellett’s participation in programs to become Certified Horticultural Judges.  The program is given by the NSAGC.***  Myra graduated in 2000 and renewed her skills in 2009, and Joanne graduated in 2008. As well as judging many shows both in and outside our district, both now teach and willingly share their skills with club members and others in the community.

            Our major fundraiser each year is our annual Strawberry Tea.  This is held in July in a member’s garden.  Delicious biscuits, strawberries and cream are served, with copious cups of tea!  Several other gardens are opened to our visitors, both by our club members, and by other members of the Chester and Chester Basin communities.  For many years, Brenda Hiltz headed up a project selling gardening gloves, which was a great success. Our Spring Plant Sale is held each June, recently in conjunction with the Open House at the East River Louisiana-Pacific Composting Facility, when a variety of plants are on sale. Another fundraiser is our participation in the Lucky Duck Lotto.   These accumulated funds support our various endeavors in the community as well as club expenses.

            In September of 2005 we held our first Basin Floral Arts Show and this is now an annual event. All members of NSAGC may enter.  Categories include horticultural specimens, and twelve possible arrangements with various themes.  Several awards are given: The Scallop Bay Award for Best in Show, Peoples’ Choice 1 from the Bloomin’ Art compositions (a popular category), Peoples’ Choice 2 from all compositions except Bloomin’ Art, Best Novice Award and the Donald Guest Memorial Award which is selected by the current Chair of the Association.

Another popular summer event is our Container Contest when BGA members can exhibit beautiful container gardens.  These are judged by a small, rotating panel of BGA members who select first, second, and third place winners.

            Our Association has entered floats in several parades.  Chester Basin’s Santa Claus Parade has seen our floats with themes ranging from a traditional sleigh scene to Christmas throughout the world, where we entered a scene of Christmas in Japan.  The Western Shore Parade has been held during the summer.  This has given us an opportunity to showcase the flowers from our gardens.  In 2005 we won the Judges Choice Award for our float in this parade.

            In February this year, still in pursuit of ‘a naturally good life’, we shared a ‘Prune Out the Blues’ dinner before our meeting.  An excellent meal was prepared by Robert Leblanc and Myra Knight, with contributions from other club members.  This was a huge success and we hope it will become an annual event!

            This year we plan to host the District meeting of the NSAGC, and in 2011 we look forward to assisting Chester Garden Club when they host the NSAGC Convention.

            All members participate in the success of our club, bringing different skills.  Some organize and or prepare snacks for our meetings, others help at Strawberry teas and/ or have participated or helped organize our Basin Floral Arts shows in various capacities.  In addition, Brenda Hiltz is our District Representative for the NSAGC.

            At present  Basin Gardeners has over 40 members.  Nancy Guest is our Chair, Christine Boardman our Vice Chair, Gwen Slipp our Treasurer, Myra Knight our Recording Secretary and Nicole Levy our Corresponding Secretary.  Our meetings are held from 7pm. every 4th Monday of most months at Forest Heights Community School.  No formal meetings are held in July, August or December. We welcome visitors and new members!      

 References and Sources of further information:

*   The Oxford Companion to Gardens.  Jellicoe, Goode and Lancaster.  Oxford  University Press

       **  See website of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College www.nsac.ns.ca/cde

       ***  NSAGC.  Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs

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