Monthly Archives: September 2014

September Newsletter

*** Please note: This beautiful newsletter created by our own Celia Godkin has been heavily modified to fit within the parameters of this website. To view the original document, please click here. – Christopher

Over the Garden Fence

Athens Garden Club and Horticultural Society Newsletter September 2014


As it’s all too easy, over the summer, to lose those bits of paper listing the upcoming Athens Garden Club program. Here’s a reminder of what’s coming up this fall.

Garden Planning & Design
Master Gardener Mary Reid is back by popular demand. She will review the principles and elements of garden design, suggest solutions to permanent challenges such as sun and wind exposure, the shape of the lot, telephone poles etc. and she’ll talk about plant selection.

Winter Gardens
Many of us don’t realize what joy and good results we can have from gardening all year long. Maria Breton will speak about gardening in the winter and creating beautiful winter gardens.
Results of the on-line member survey

We received 31 responses (including 6 from our second email request for your input). To reach members who do not have email access, we’ve decided that copies of the survey will be handed out at two of the Spring meetings in 2015, as well as being distributed via email.

The survey results indicated that the great majority of respondants prefer a variety of presentation formats and most preferred to continue the current practice of serving refreshments before the presentation.

Many members would like a microphone to be used, so we will be purchasing one.

With regard to the bus trip, the most popular destination was the Experimental Farm in Ottawa. We will be planning a trip there for late June, when the rose and peony collections are in bloom. The trip will also include the display gardens, the Arboretum and hosta collection, the Fletcher Wildflower Garden and lunch at a restaurant.

We asked you what topics and speakers you’d like to hear from at Garden Club meetings and received many excellent suggestions. We have compiled a program for next year based on this list. Pat will be contacting speakers to confirm their availability over the next few months, and we will let you know the results by the New Year, if not sooner.

We received more suggestions than we can accommodate in one year, so please don’t be disappointed if your suggestion isn’t in next year’s program – it will be kept for future consideration. One topic that was especially popular but which we’ve already presented several times in the last few years, was vegetable gardening. Instead of holding another meeting on this extensive subject, we are planning to hold a series of workshops on vegetable gardening.

Community Garden:
Student Survey Results

At the end of their course, the 19 students who participated in the gardening course were surveyed about their experience. Here are the results: 18 surveys were returned, 2 surveys were not completed.

Q. What was one thing you liked about working on the vegetable garden?

A. Twelve said they liked being outside /working outside/getting out of class or school. Two liked the hands-on farming/work. Other responses (one each) were: seeing everyone working together, good easy work, weeding, knowing the food was going to a good cause, seeing the progress from before & after, seeing the plants grow, planting the seeds, learning how to plant & grow crops, trying different veggies, helping the community.

Q. What was one thing you did NOT like about working on the vegetable garden?

A. Six did not like the heat; two did not like the far walk to the garden, two did not like the layout of the garden (space wasting). Other responses were (one each): it’s over, working in the sun, putting down the newspaper, putting down the woodchips, hard work, digging and bending over, rototilling, working with a large group, weeding.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for next year’s garden?

A. Seven would like to make the garden bigger or use more space for vegetables (as opposed to mulch pathways). Five had no suggestions for improvements, but one added it will be better each year and it is needed. Two would like to add some fruit. Others (one each) would like to add more vegetables or more flowers or more pictures. One would like fewer tomatoes. One student commented: “Do it again! It’s a great opportunity for the students.”

Given the positive responses this project seems like a very worthwhile endeavour.

AGM & Wonderful Winter Displays
Following our Annual General Meeting, there will be social time and refreshments. Please bring a few goodies to share. After this, Karen DeJong will demonstrate how to create beautiful displays from readily available items. To join in the fun, bring a basket or container, pine boughs, birch branches and artificial decorative items.


The Athens Garden Club Executive met this summer to plan the program of events for 2015. To ensure that the AGC program is responsive to our membership’s interests, Program Coordinator, Pat Halbert, brought the results of the on-line member survey we conducted earlier in the year to the meeting.


In the last Garden Club newsletter we provided an extensive report on our latest project; the Athens Community Garden. It’s located beside the Municipal Works Garage Site on Elgin Street and it’s truly a community effort, involving not only Garden Club members, but also local volunteers from many walks of life and students from Athens District High School.

In May and June of this year, 19 high school students worked in the garden as part of a Natural Resources & Outdoor Studies Class. Led by two teachers, they fenced the plot,
prepared beds, and planted and tended vegetables. In June, the garden was handed over to volunteers for the remainder of the season. Each volunteer (individual or family) undertook to care for the garden for one week.

Every Monday morning throughout the gardening season, our President, Mary Slade, and Secretary, Jean Brassington, harvested whatever crops were in season from the garden and delivered them to the Athens Food Bank. Mary and Jean have been instrumental in getting this project up and running, working tirelessly to make it a success and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.


Garden clubs and conservation groups have been promoting the idea of planting pollinator gardens, but a survey conducted by Friends of the Earth has revealed some of the plants we’re buying at garden centres contain pesticide residues. These may be doing more harm to bees than good. Friends of the Earth purchased plants at Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart stores in Canada and the United States. They found that more than half of the plants sampled had neonicotinoid pesticides in them, some at levels that could be harmful to pollinators.

Neonicotinoids are extremely toxic to insects, even in very small amounts. (See the article in this newsletter from one year ago.) They have been linked with declines in bee populations and, according to an article published July 2014 in the journal Nature, they may also be responsible for declines in insect-eating birds.
CTV News asked a number of Canadian retailers, including Canadian Tire, Rona, and Loblaws for their comments regarding the sale of nursery plants on which neonicotinoid pesticides have been used. Home Depot replied: “We will require all of our live goods suppliers to label plants that they have treated with neonicotinoids.” Lowes didn’t respond to their requests for comments, and Walmart referred them to the Retail Council of Canada. The RCC says all of its members comply with current regulations and says it is monitoring Health Canada’s review of pesticides and will work with suppliers if changes need to be made.
Bottom line: if you wish to purchase plants that aren’t contaminated with pesticides your best option is to ask the grower what they’ve used on the product.
To read the full CTV report, go to:


Every year, monarch butterflies undertake the longest migration of all insect species, from their overwintering grounds in Mexico all the way to our gardens here in Eastern Ontario. Already facing natural high mortality during migration, from causes that range from predators to storms, the monarch now struggles against its greatest threat: the consequences of human behavior.
In the past 15 years, the number of monarch butterflies has dropped by 80% or more. Many losses are attributed to habitat destruction from illegal logging in the Mexican forests, where they spend the winter. Well-meaning but misguided ecotourism that brings visitors to witness their massive gathering further disturbs these butterflies. In the US and Canada, herbicides are destroying a vital part of monarch ecology, and this is where we gardeners can help.
Monarchs are critically dependent on milkweed. It’s the only plant they lay their eggs on and the only plant that their caterpillars will eat. The caterpillars acquire a bitter taste from the milky sap of the milkweed plant that protects them from predators. As milkweed plants disappear, so do the monarchs.
Planting nectar rich (preferably native) flowers is always good for encouraging butterflies of all kinds, but if you really want to help monarchs, consider collecting seeds from the ripening seed pods of milkweed this fall and planting them in your garden. There’s lots of milkweed growing along the road verges in this area. I’ll be collecting some myself and bringing them to the garden club meetings to share. I hope you will, too.
– Celia Godkin

The Athens Garden Club newsletter is produced three times a year, in January, May and September. For comments or submissions, please contact the Editor, Celia Godkin at 613- 275-7204 or

To learn more about creating wildlife-friendly gardens, visit these sites:

Monarch Butterflies are Vanishing, Here’s How You Can Help Them From Your Own Home

Use Your Summer Gardening to Help Butterflies and Bees

Your Bee-Friendly Garden Might be Killing Pollinators

6 Ways to Celebrate the Birds and the Bees for National Pollinator Week