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'So much fun': Garden club ready for new season to bloom

'Gardening is therapy. You forget everything and you work the soil … it’s like music or art, you lose yourself in your work,' president says

Spring is when members of the Bond Head/Bradford Garden Club really dig into their passion.

In addition to getting involved in Bradford West Gwillimbury’s butterfly garden initiative, the group with 85 members is preparing for its annual Mother’s Day plant sale as well as presenting more speakers at upcoming monthly meetings at Bradford’s Danube Seniors Leisure Centre from March to June and September to November.

David J. Hawke is scheduled to speak about invasive species on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the centre. The local naturalist combines his writing and photography to teach others about the out-of-doors. He will talk about how invasive species threaten the natural ecosystem and how to combat them.

Another speaker will discuss container gardens later in the spring and another in September will address technology in the garden. Nick Ovington of Bradford West Gwillimbury spoke about Bradford’s butterfly garden initiative during a meeting just before Easter.

“Our main goal is beautification,” says the club’s president, Mikki Nanowski, who explains that club members help maintain public gardens, such as the Bond Head Parkette and Bradford’s Rotary Park and help create new ones, largely through perennial plants.

Club members also plan to put in a heritage garden using indigenous plants like coneflower, Joe-Pye and rudbeckia, the official town flower, at the Auld Kirk Scotch Settlement, a church built in a Scottish settlement in the 1800s. The church, now owned by the town, is maintained by the local history association.

The butterfly garden project, however, would consist of a contiguous or closely located group of pollinator gardens, ensuring the butterflies and other pollinators have a good food source in through the nectar and pollen of the flowering parts of plants, allowing them to easily travel from one to the other.

“We were looking at 14 gardens, those are official gardens,” Nanowski says, adding that people are also encouraged to grow plants from the list of those attractive to butterflies that includes the purple and grey-headed coneflower, cosmos, wild bergamot, New England aster, wild blue lupine and black-eyed Susan.

Nanowski points to the milkweed, once routinely ripped out as a nuisance plant that has been found to be essential to the Monarch butterfly in the growth of their eggs.

Beyond pollinator gardening, club members also like to grow plants that produce seeds they can share, Nanowski adds.

And then there’s the plants themselves. Gardeners often go into their gardens this time of year to divide their perennials. Members of the garden club will take some of their bounty to the club’s annual spring plant sale.

Also later in May the club hosts a plant auction at the Danube Seniors Leisure Centre.

“It’s so much fun. This year Rick Milne is our auctioneer (former New Tecumseth mayor) and he is a genius auctioneer,” Nanowski says.

In June and September there is a people’s choice flower arrangement contest, which allows those who participate to learn about arranging along the way. The fall show often includes wildflowers from the roadside.

In October, group members bring their plant materials and share them to create centrepieces out of pumpkins. Key, Nanowski says, is, after cutting off the top, retain the seeds and contents of the pumpkin to help provide moisture to the flowers, bullrushes, sumac, Japanese firebush leaves and other material that go inside the pumpkin.

At the end of the year the annual general meeting is combined with a Christmas dinner.

The club is also looking for promotion opportunities to help it grow, after seeing its membership numbers fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While all the work and co-ordination might seem daunting, Nanowski says it really isn’t. The club uses  sign-in sheets for all its projects to ensure a healthy rotation of members are involved in the various projects.

“It’s old school, we talk to each other, we meet, we laugh we have a good time,” she says.

“Gardening is therapy. You forget everything and you work the soil … it’s like music or art, you lose yourself in your work.”