The History on the Pictou Garden Club was written in Two Parts; the first in 1979 by C.L. Andrews and the second in 1997 by Anne Mac Isaac.
Pictou, N.S. February 1979
C.L. Andrews, Compiler
Pictou Horticultural Society cam into being in the early forties when Malcolm D. Mac Charles, County Agricultural Representative, invited a few people interested in gardening to meet and discuss the formation of a Garden Club. After learning of the aims and objectives of garden clubs, it was decided to organize. The exact date and some particulars in the club's activities cannot be given as the earliest records have been lost.
Officers elected at this first meeting were Mr. Donald R. Gilchrist as President and Miss Hazel MacDonald as Secretary-Treasurer. Other charter members included Mrs. V.A. Barnwell, Mrs. Don Gilchrist. Inasmuch as encouragement of community the members first gave attention to their own properties, believing that example is better than precept, and unconsciously accepted the adage
"Go work in thy garden as thou wilt Thou worketh never alone; Perhaps he whose plot is next to thine May see and mend his own."
For the meetings, programs covered a variety of subjects associated with gardening; including demonstrations, slides, guessing contest, question and answer periods, etc. Members submitted their gardening problems, and helpful advice was given by Mr. Mac Charles and others. Speakers were frequently invited who presented interesting topics, and a question and answer period usually flowed. Among the special speakers were Mr. J. N. Jankov, Mr. R.S. Morton, Mrs. Thomas Noonan, Mr. Clare Ferguson, Miss Jean MacDonald and Mrs. J.J. Ross. Other quest speakers in their capacity as District Directors were Mr. Olding Murray, Mr. Jack Tomkinson, Mrs. Donald Mac Innis and Mr. Carl Levo.
Members of the Society have had a prominent place in the programs for regular meetings, especially in showing of slides which covered many interesting areas ranging from Iceland in the north to Trinidad and Africa in the south; from California and British Columbia on the west coast to the Maritimes and Newfoundland in the east, and may from different parts of Europe.
Among the early activities of the club was the exchange of plants which was of special benefit to new gardeners, helping them to get flower plots established much more quickly.
Another early activity was an annual tour of the gardens of club members. These outing were both pleasant and profitable and members were often introduced to new plants. Efforts were mad to encourage the growing of new varieties. The excellence of several of the gardens was an inspiration to many of the members who were in the primary classes of flower knowledge and practice.
Another of the club's practices was the purchasing of bulbs, rose bushes and shrubs co-operatively. For several years surplus shrubs were being sold by the Department of Agriculture from their Truro nursery; and Pictou club members purchased a large quantity at reduced prices. This gave an opportunity fro many to get a good start on flowering shrubs or hedges without a great outlay of funds.
As time went on, participation in projects of town interest became an important part of the club's program. Prominent i the list of events in which the club took part was the annual Pictou and North Colchester Exhibition held in Pictou each September. For several years an artistically arranged floral display at the entrance to the main building attracted the attention of all visitors. The Society was always represented on the flower committee and one of our members usually accompanied the judge to enter records when he inspected exhibits in competition. Garden clubbers were regular contributors in these events.
Another involvement by the Society in connection with this popular event was the donation of sufficient funds by the Society to provide for a third prize in each of the amateur classes of flowers. Previously prizes had been awarded only to first and second place winners. The objective in this move was to encourage more people to participate in the showing of flowers, and this was very successful, and this has been carried on by the Exhibition committee. Prizes are also awarded by the Society each year for entries of flowers grown by school children.
Probably one of the most important and long lasting efforts of the Horticultural Society in public matters was in connection with monuments. In 1947 Mrs. V.A. Barnwell, one of the club's charter and active members, volunteered to accept responsibility for the proper care of the lot and monument marking the site of the first Pictou Academy, forerunner of Dalhousie University. Her energetic action regarding this was suitable recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Branch of the Department of Natural Resources. Other members of the club gave voluntary service in work on the plot.
By 1948 the club had fulfilled provincial requirements for becoming a Horticultural Society/ A charter was granted by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture on January 19th, 1948. This recognition brought renewed interest in the organization and the activities of the society were extended. membership greatly increased and meetings wee held more frequently. A full slate of officers was elected as regulations for a Horticultural Society required. Mr. Gilchrist and Miss MacDonald continued as president and secretary of the re-named Society, with Mrs. A.S. Stalker elected as treasurer. In 1952 new officers were elected; Mrs. Murdock Mac Cuish president, C.L. Andrews secretary and Mrs. Max Russell treasurer.
Others who have served as president were Miss Hazel MacDonald, Dr. A.M. Arbuckle, D.B. Angus, Bert Crockett, Lester Andrews, A.D. Grant , Mrs. Raymond Wilkie, Mrs. William Mac Kinnon, Mrs. Alastair MacDonald and Mrs. John Borkwood.
In 1955 Mrs. Gordon Beattie was appointed secretary and Mrs. Max Russell treasurer, positions they held for more than a decade. By their faithful and efficient services these officers made a valuable contribution towards the success of the organization. On retirement, their services were recognized by the presentation of emblems of the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs. At the same time Mr. Andrews' service for twelve years, on term as president and two as secretary, was similarly recognized. Of late years new officers have been elected more frequently with one or two exceptions.
In 1955 with the approval and support of the Town Council, the Society undertook t create a beauty spot at the junction of Denoon and Pleasant streets.
In 1955 the Horticultural Society again became interested in memorials. For many years the birthplace of Sir William Dawson had been marked by a small plague on the house. When the house was demolished this plaque disappeared for several years but was finally located. Motivated by the conviction that the site of the birthplace of this noted scientist should be marked by a permanent memorial, Mrs. Barnwell initiated a movement touring this about. At the May meeting of the Society, Mrs. Barnwell reported that in correspondence with the Nova Scotia branch of the Historic Site and Monuments Board of Canada, she was assured that they were interested. At the August meeting, Mrs. Barnwell reported that on her invitation, Mr. Bruce Ferguson, representing the Sites and Monuments Board had visited Pictou, inspected the site and had stated that work would proceed as soon as title to the lot could be obtained.
In the meantime, while negotiations were going on, the Horticultural Society with permission of Pictou Town Council, accepted responsibility for clearing the lot and caring for it. Mr. J.N. Jankov landscape director for the provincial Department of Agriculture, was asked to prepare a plan for landscaping the lot. This was submitted to the Council and approved. Deed to the lot and other details were finally completed and a suitable cut stone monument was erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board. This was unveiled at a ceremony sponsored by Pictou Academy Educational Foundation on October 30th, 1957. Later an iron fence was erected as was suggested in the landscape plan, and the Horticultural Society planted rose bushes at the rear of the monument. For the past few years, town Workmen have been responsible for care of this plot.
Starting in 1960, competitive flower shows were held annually for several years and a great variety of exhibits was displayed. These were judged by a representative from the provincial Department of Agriculture and first, second and third places awarded. Acceding to requests from the Lobster Carnival committee, flower shows were held in the years 1963, 1964 and 1965 as one of the features of the Carnival. A Visitor’s book was kept and the records show between five and six hundred visitors attended each year. Although the large majority were local and provincial residents, there were visitors from every province of Canada, and from many of the American states, and included one from England and another from Australia. Thee shows were discontinued on account of the scarcity of flowers at Lobster Carnival time, and the lack of suitable show place near the centre of activities.
For two successive years in 1962 and 1963, Pictou Horticultural Society co-operated with the other clubs in the district in staging a mammoth flower show at Tatamagouche as a special feature of the Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts. Flowers were contributed by club members and other gardeners of the town. These were taken to the festival site where a committee of members arranged the exhibits. Many expressions of appreciation were heard from the large number of visitors who attended the event. They represented not only Nova Scotia but came from other provinces of Canada and from the United States. When the Festival was moved to Halifax, this participation by local societies had to be discontinued.
Interest in home beautification was heightened by a home improvement campaign sponsored by Pictou Board of Trade. Starting in 1964 and continuing for several years this live organization offered cash prizes to residents whose properties showed the greatest improvement during the ear. In this movement, Pictou Horticultural Society took part by having two of its civic committee members make preliminary inspections in each district. A small list of properties was submitted to an official of the provincial Department of Agriculture for final inspection and determination of winners.
One of the most satisfactory projects engaged in by Pictou Horticultural Society was the organization in 1965 of a flower growing contest among grade five school pupils. First seeds were supplied, demonstrations for planting and instructions given for care of the gardens. Inspections were made in late August and prizes awarded for the best gardens. Excellent co-operation was received from the teachers of all pupils so participated. The competition started in 1965 has been held each year since and interest among the pupils maintained. In 1972 grade six pupils also participated and a new high level of excellence reached so that eighteen first prizes had to be awarded. An indication of the interest taken by the students was shown when in the fall, they and their teachers requested the Horticultural Society to supervise the planting of a large quantity of bulbs in a plot at Patterson School, The bulbs having been purchased by the pupils.
In 1965 on Arbour Day, a silver fir tree was planted at Hector Centre in memory of Mrs. Thomas Collier who had been instrumental in organizing this school garden program.
For two years, attractive floats were entered in the Lobster Carnival parade. The first one in 1965 featured roses, and a small truck body was completely covered with beautiful roses in full bloom. Altogether hundreds of roses were used and before the task was completed the society’s supply of roses was exhausted. However the problem was solved by the help of generous friends who willingly donated blooms from their gardens.
The second float, in the 1966 parade, built on a small trailer, exhibited a model plot with a neat house properly placed on the lot and surrounded by appropriate trees, shrubs and flowers; the whole conforming to the experts’ ideas of perfect landscaping.
Both years the floats received favourable comments but it was found impossible to continue the practice with so few members available to assist, most of them being involved in other Carnival duties.
The most outstanding and pleasing events in the history of flower shows by the Society were Floral Teas held in 1967 and 1968. These were non-competitive and largely featured arrangements. Many ingenious as well as artistic displays were in evidence. Some beautiful arrangements presented each year by Mr. and Mrs. Everett Goodall from Pictou Flower Shop were much appreciated by club members and visitors alike. Many visitors from Pictou and outside points attended and were very complimentary in their remarks.
In the fall of 1965 Pictou town and vicinity was invaded by an army of Winter Moths which were attacking the foliage of shade trees and proving very destructive, especially in the areas along Prince and Faulkland Streets. The Horticultural Society organized a movement to combat the moth. The town council co-operated by purchasing a sprayer and spraying materials and the society carried out details of the spraying. Early the next year the Department of Agriculture imported a parasite from Ontario which proved quite effective in destroying the moth. In 1966 the spraying by the Horticultural society was again carried out on a much smaller scale.
The next year Pictou was marked by the prevalence of another imported pest, the European Earwig. While not injurious to flowers, it is most objectionable in and about houses. Again the Horticultural Society went into action. The sponsored a public meeting at which Mr. C.L. Ellis of the provincial Department of Agriculture spoke on control of earwigs. Pamphlets were obtained for distribution to the public, and information given through the press on the procedure to check the pests. With ceaseless efforts being made, the insects were brought under control and soon were no longer a big problem.
In 1967 as a Centennial project, the Horticultural Society through a Ontario Rotary club, purchase about twelve dozen Centennial rose bushes which were sold to club members and others interested in growing roses. All profits from this venture went to the Retarded Children’s’ Fund. A number of the Society members also planted Almey Crab trees which had been chosen as the national Centennial tree.
In 1969 he Society gave its attention to the condition of the MacLean lot at the corner of Front and Coleraine Streets which presented a rather disreputable appearance. Contact with town council disclosed the fact that the town was leasing the lot and was unable to effect any permanent improvement. Permission was obtained for the Society to plant vines and shrubs at the north and east ends; two dozen rose bushes were planted and several vines started. The town work crew completed the cleanup, seeded the plot and built benches.
Another project was started in 1971 when the Horticultural Society had hanging flower baskets placed on telephone poles along Water and Front Streets. These created a favorable impression and led to a movement to increase the size and number in 1973. A small grant from town council enabled additional baskets to be placed on other streets. This grant was increased and for the past three years about fifty attractive baskets have been hung each year along several downtown streets. During the summer months these pleasing bright bouquets add greatly to the general appearance of the streets and the co-operation of the town workmen in watering them is much appreciated.
There has always been a close relationship between Pictou and the other three clubs in Pictou District; Lyons Brook, New Glasgow and Hopewell-Eureka. Friendly visits between clubs were a part of the programs. In late years this contact has been mostly through district rallies held annually, the clubs being hosts in turn. Al these rallies the district director presides and each club participates in the program, which always includes a competitive quiz. The winning club represents the district in the annual Provincial Convention quiz.
Pictou Society appointed delegates to attend the conventions when they were held at Halifax and Weymouth. More recently these annual functions have been held in Truro, and Pictou Members have served on arrangement and other committees and have also contributed to t he programs. Each year Pictou Society has been in the winning class for competitive floral displays and has also qualified for an award fro activities as narrated in the year book submitted by each club.
The Hector Centre opened in 1973. It has been of special interest to Pictou Horticultural Society. Each year club members kept a constant supply of fresh flowers at Hector Centre and a McCulloch House during the summer months. Flowers have also been supplied for special functions on many occasions. Five ornamental trees were plated on the property. At the request of the Hector Centre Trust in 1977, under the guidance of Mr. Everett Goodall, a perennial garden of old fashioned flowers was established. Many plants were contributed fro his own gardens and more were added by club members. This was enlarged and improved in 1978.
In addition to carrying on the major projects in which the Horticultural Society has been engaged for a decade or more, activities of a lesser degree have been undertaken. Some of these can be mentioned.
In observance of their fiftieth anniversary, the
branches of the Canadian Legion throughout Canada planted Golden Tulip bulbs.
The Horticultural Society purchased on hundred bulbs and planted them at
the Dawson Monument plot.
In 1977 in co-operation with the town council, landscaping of the lot at corner of St. Andrews and Coleraine Streets was undertaken with pleasing results. Town workmen prepared the ground and the Horticultural Society continued the work. A large bed of lowers was planted, rose bushes wee placed at the rear as a background and two maple trees added.
On request, Society members supervised and assisted pupils in planning lowers, bulbs and shrubs at the McCulloch Junior High School.
Four Society members volunteered to work as a landscape committee for one of the town churches.
A request by the town council in 1978 to supply flowers for window boxes and hanging baskets at Pictou Recreation Centre was willingly agreed to.
Always conscious that one of the basic principles of a Horticultural Society is improvement of the environment, Pictou society has endeavored to encourage others by sharing plants, shrubs and small trees with individuals interested in property beautification. Trees have also been planted a Mortimer Place and other areas on Arbor Days.
Financing has always been a concern of the Horticultural Society. Funds were raised by membership dues, food and plant sales and other means. For the past several years, the Town Council had made a substantial grant to assist the Society in its expanded program of town beautification.
The Horticultural Society is indebted to a large number of special speakers who through the years have brought useful information on a wide variety of subjects to regular meetings making programs more interesting. It would be impractical to attempt to name all those who have contributed in this way. During the past few years talks on the following topics have been given.
Mrs. Hilda Long spoke on shrubs and evergreens; Mr. Allison MacKenzie spoke on companion planting of vegetables; Mr. Cor Lakenman told the group how he grew prize glads; Mr. Clare Ferguson introduced the Society to new varieties of flowers showing slides from his own gardens; Mr. Carl Levo informed members on the proper procedure for success with lilies. Topics of a different nature were dealt with by Mr. John Allanson who spoke on organic gardening; Mr. Everett Goodall who informed the group on weed control; by R. S. Morton who had as his subject “Growing Plants under lights”.
Another interesting topic was dealt with by Mr. F.C. MacNaughton of Oliver, B.C. who spoke on desert flowers in his region. And also showed slides of flowers from several European countries which he had visited. Pictou Society, with the other clubs in the district as guests, had the privilege of attending a meeting held at Hector Centre when Mr. Alex Wilson, Curator of Botany at the Nova Scotia Museum, gave an interesting talk on “Ferns-Fossils to Fashion”.
Looking back nearly forty years into the life of Pictou Horticultural society it appears that early efforts were largely expended by members in landscaping their own properties. Later the outlook broadened and much more attention was given to community enterprises to aid in making Pictou a more attractive place in witch to live. Whatever success that has been achieved during the years of its existence has been due to the untiring, faithful efforts of its members who have willingly given of their time and knowledge to promote the aims and objectives of a horticultural society.
Some of the major projects herein narrated could not have been carried on without financial help received from the town, and the co-operation of the Superintendents of Works and their work crews.
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