Category Archives: It’s Still Just Dirt

Heirloom Seeds – Old is New


It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – February 2018
by Angela Lassam

Gardening has gone full circle and renewed interest is rising especially with the millennials. They are looking to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Knowledge through social media has made it easy to find out where food comes from and its content. They are looking to their childhood memories and this is where heirloom seeds can take a part. The seed companies are offering more of these seeds every year making it easier for gardeners both old and new to grow them.

Gardeners who know heirloom seeds know they are valuable to them for their hardiness, disease and pest resistance and there is no need for chemicals making them organic too. Heirloom produce appears to be more flavourful, and colourful (grocery store produce is dull and plastic-like in comparison). It is also a fact they have a higher nutritional value.

As the word indicates they must originate from 1950 or before to get this title. Many originate much earlier and some go back as far as biblical times where it is said grape vines were found on the walls of the city of Babylon. Many people had a pastime of gardening years ago. People today are returning to experimenting growing their own fruit and vegetables and in turn helping the environment by encouraging the natural diversity our planet needs A garden can be at least two degrees cooler than any paved area so why not grow food and not grass to reap other benefits.

Heirloom seeds are generally open-pollinated by nature through birds, insects and weather. Seeds can be saved for the following year but may not replicate the same due to some cross pollination. This could be an interesting task to encourage children to go forward in gardening.

There is a Millennium Seed Bank Partnership ( also known as the International Conservation Project) which in 1996 was established for the insurance against extinction of plants by storing seeds for future use. Over a billion seeds had been secured by 2007 and by 2015 13 per cent of the world species had been saved. The program grew quickly and became international in 2001 and is ongoing.

Colour is one attribute for heirloom varieties with tomatoes being a good example. There is even a striped green tomato called Green Zebra. Many heirloom vegetables are bright making any table presentation more pleasing to the eye. Chefs are using them more now as they become popular and easier to source.

Another reason to plant heirlooms is they are GMO free and generally organic. The growing time to maturity is normally longer giving gardeners more time to enjoy them.

The seed catalogues are a good source for specific names to look for. Here are just a few with the reason behind their name. In depression times (1920s) a gardener grew tomatoes for sale when he became unemployed. He made enough money to pay off his mortgage and subsequently the name of that tomato was Mortgage Lifter and is still available today. Carrots came from the Netherlands in the 17th century. A common variety is the Nantes Coreless. Queen Victoria named a potato after Prince Albert when potatoes arrived in England. Cabbage (Copenhagen Market and Danish Ballhead) commonly used for sauerkraut and coleslaw came to America from Europe. Captain Cook’s ship doctor used sauerkraut for wounds and as a preventive for gangrene. Cucumber, a member of the gourd family came with Christopher Columbus from Spain in the 16th century. A most famous pickling cucumber is the Chicago Pickling.

Heirloom seeds have been proven for their ease to grow without all the downfalls of newer hybrids and the value of the biodiversity the world needs.

I hope everyone can attend at least one of the upcoming garden shows to jumpstart Spring. Stratford Garden Festival is March 1st-4th and Canada Blooms in Toronto is March 9th-18th. The theme this year is ‘ Let’s go to the Movies’.

The next monthly meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society will be on Tuesday March 6th @ 7.30pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium Tillsonburg Community Complex. The speaker is Farlee See from Moores Water Gardens Port Stanley talking all about water gardening. Everyone welcome. Non-members $2 per meeting or join for extra benefits. Visit us at or Facebook Tillsonburghorticultural for more information.


Entrepreneurs with a Gardening Passion

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – January 2018
by Angela Lassam

It came to my notice that we do not need to go very far to meet people with a gardening flair who have used their interest to create a small thriving business. There are two families locally whom I would like to introduce to you and hope to talk about others at another time.

Hilde Makkink of Sunflower Farm Tillsonburg and her family are successfully running a business where they offer many products and workshops on a regular basis. Hilde and her family came from the Netherlands in 2009, started a family and opened their flower business at their farm in 2011.

The farm is aptly named Sunflower Farm and borders the Trans Canada Trail north east of Tillsonburg. Every year they plant over 2000 seeds – 35 varieties of flowers which are cut twice daily for freshness in season. There is a farm store where cut flowers and rustic craft can be purchased. It is also the pickup spot for ordered arrangements for occasions like weddings, anniversaries and similar occasions. Besides this you can have the experience of pick your own. She attends the Tillsonburg farmers market on Saturdays in the summer.

Hilde has extended her floral interest into giving workshops on the farm appropriate to the season. She can accommodate small groups (maybe a sisters day out or a mothers day gift) which are all personally arranged.

Her husband works with her on the land work and makes the bases for her creations. He builds wooden frames, boxes and any other piece for the projects Hilde requires for her designs. These materials are also for sale in the farm store. Hilde is easy to find on or on facebook .

Jane Magri of Wildflowers Tea is another local small farming enthusiast whom along with her family has created a small business on their organic 9 acre farm south of St Thomas. They grow herbs, perennials and wild flowers and her husband’s interest compliments this with his bees and beekeeping. Teas are made from herbs, roots, spices and other plants. Nettle, dandelion and burdock are among the wild plants used. There is no caffeine or additives. There is also a line of natural products that have materialized from the demand for natural ingredients. Soaps, ointments, syrups and oils are all for sale at the farm store.

Jane spent time in university studying herbal medicine and has travelled extensively. She realized where there was poverty herbal medicine was widely used successfully. During this time she met her husband. They returned to St Thomas (her husband’s hometown) where they purchased the farm and have since realized their dream. She now uses her knowledge and skills to help people who are running out of traditional health solutions and she can produce a tea, salve or oil to suit individuals upon consultation.

Jane also has yoga sessions on the farm for adults and children in the shop/barn. This is a great addition to the products available there. Tea tasting, herb walks, and see the bees enterprise are offered. Now she is branching out to weddings and dinners. More on Jane can be found at or on facebook.

We have many more interesting people locally but both of these young people include their families in their endeavors and they are raising their children to appreciate the land around them and the return it gives them. I hope to profile more families like this in the future.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society will be on Tuesday February 6th @ 7.30pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Speaker will be Suzanne Steed talking all about lavender.  Everyone welcome. $2 per meeting or join and become a member for added benefits. More information or on facebook.

Christmas Cactus

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – December 2017
by Angela Lassam

22519 christmas cactus

Christmas cactus has no real connection to Christmas except the flowering time and the original bloom colour. It is easy to grow as an indoor plant. You can start new ones from a mature plant and give as an inexpensive gift if you are a good ‘potter’. For colour at Christmas time they are as popular as poinsettias.

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is not a true cactus but a forest cactus – a tropical plant native to the mountains in Southeastern Brazil. It was discovered by a French botanist named Charles Lemaire and named after horticulturalist Frederic Schlumberger. The native plant is actually an epiphyte – grows on a tree and takes its moisture from the rain and air.

The plant comes in many colours (red, white, peach and pink).The leaves consist of flat round segments with serrated edges on a stem. The flower comes from the top of the leaf and is a tubular shape. The double structure shows the outer flower curled back and the inner flower protecting the stamen. It blooms for an average of eight weeks from November to January. A mature plant will produce a beautiful display and last for many years with the correct care.

Care of these plants as an indoor plant is a little different as it does not like to be placed near opening doors (drafts) or in a warm location. It prefers a temperature of 20C during bloom season and a sunny location. Misting frequently is necessary as it likes humidity. Fertilize as you would any other houseplant. This cactus also likes a regular dose of magnesium for growth and it can be done by using one teaspoon of Epsom salts in one gallon of water.

In November you can encourage a mature cactus to flower in time for Christmas. You will need to place it in a dark cool cupboard for at least 12 hours a day. Do not overwater just keep soil surface moist. It will take six to eight weeks for buds to form on the end of the leaf segments and these will be the new blooms.

After flowering is the best time to repot the cactus although it does prefer to be a little pot- bound. When not in flower it needs to be placed in a cooler spot and indirect light. Summertime it can be easily set outdoors in a shady area. Direct sunlight will cause yellowing at this stage in its cycle.

Propagation is quite easy using the cutting method and it is best done in late spring. The soil medium to use should consist of 60 per cent potting soil and 40 per cent perlite (well draining). You will need to take leaf segments and allow them to dry off at the end – leave for at least two days. Then press four of these leaf segments upright in a pot. Mist regularly but do not water too heavily or stand in water.

I hope you will consider one of these unusual Christmas time plants. Merry Christmas and a happy healthy prosperous New Year to you all.

Our regular monthly meetings will resume Tuesday January 2nd 2018 @ 7.30 p.m. in the Senior Centre at the Tillsonburg Community Complex. The speaker will be Jane Magri from Wildflowers Teas. The topic is Tea and Remedies for Well Being. For members it is time to renew your membership. Non-members welcome $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out or join us on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.



Winter Garden

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – November 2017


We are now going into a slow time for any gardener. When the snow comes, the ice rain or just a good frost our garden takes on a very different view. With a little ingenuity it can be made to come alive and interesting. We have a variety of shrubs, trees and plants that add both colour and structure to the landscape outside our windows. It is a time to take notice where there is an uninteresting spot and plan a future purchase for a new focal point. Maybe you can place a floodlight to highlight an unusual planting. Perhaps think of an item of steel, wood or cast concrete to add to the appearance of your own garden.

For colour there are many shrubs which keep their red color. We all know the dogwoods, holly (newer varieties do not need two bushes), burning bush and barberry. There is a yellow dogwood which would stand proud in the snow. Consider a yew that has yellow tips that can peak through the snow. Many evergreens can be trimmed to form shapes for year round interest.

Euonymus is an easy shrub to grow and keeps its variegation over the winter. It can be used to add interest to Christmas arrangements. There are spiky plants that are variegated like iris and yucca.

Trees that show well in winter are the weeping branch type and usually grafted (I have a lilac). Just to name a few that we are familiar with – Weeping Alaska Cedar (Nootka False Cypress), weeping copper beech for both leaves and draping appearance and Japanese larch. Snow looks great on all weeping trees as does an ice storm. Japanese maples seem to hold snow on them and look great at night under floodlights.

Some trees keep their fruit throughout the winter giving us a different view to summertime. A corkscrew witch hazel tree is both interesting in structure and also keeps some tassel-like flowers. Honey locust has long flat pods. A crabapple tree holds its tiny apples. One named Harvest Gold has clusters of small yellow apples. A viburnum called American Cranberry Bush is very showy. Winterberry  ‘Winter Red’ has branches with many red berries. Cotoneaster has many red berries and can be a shrub or groundcover. All of these feed the birds and give us life to watch in our gardens.

Many ornamental grasses left with their feather tops add interest to the winter garden as do the dead heads of many perennials. Sea holly and echinacea both look interesting poking up through the snow. You can leave the dead heads of allium as they can also look attractive.

There is no monthly meeting for December. The Christmas Potluck Supper (for members only) is on Tuesday December 5th @ 6 p.m. in the Lions Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. The next monthly meeting will be Tuesday January 2, 2018 @ 7.30 p.m. in the Senior Centre. Speaker will be Jane Magri from Wildflowers Teas. Topic is Tea and Remedies for Wellbeing. Remember it is time to renew your membership to get all benefits the society has to offer. For more information follow us on facebook – tillsonburghorticultural or online

Thanksgiving Relative to the Garden

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – October 2017

Thanksgiving has been celebrated here in Canada and yet to come in America ever since the pilgrims in Boston. All countries have a celebration when their major crops have been harvested successfully. For most people it is just another long weekend and the real reason seems to be forgotten. It is a celebration for the end of another gardening year when we can gather and collect food we have grown for the wintertime.  Sometimes it is called harvest festival which seems appropriate. Vegetables and fruit that we grow in our own gardens are still similar to back then and most are grown in the same way. Some of them are native although the ways we garden have changed. The traditional dinner has origins from many sources, some having evolved into different dishes but most of them are connected to the settlers from Europe.

Vegetables are primarily squash, sweet potatoes, root vegetables and corn. Also we must not forget the pumpkin for both Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en. Fruit includes apples, cranberries and grapes.

Root vegetables were stored dry like potatoes but they were dried before storing in sacks. Carrots and parsnip could be stored in dry sand if available. All squash need to be placed where they are dry and well aired. Corn could be canned although in days past it was dried and the corn was ground for cornmeal and used as flour for cooking. The settlers learned this from the Indians to replace flour in the early days. Pumpkin was used as a vegetable and in desserts.

When the settlers arrived they had no way to make pies so they made a dessert by removing the seedy center. They probably dried the seeds for the next year or cooked them and ate them as what we would call nowadays a snack. The original dessert made with pumpkin was a custard within the pumpkin called a Pie in a pumpkin. They filled the centre with a mixture of milk, honey and eggs and cooked it whole. I found a recipe online and wish to share it with you . Of course the pumpkin is also used for Hallowe’en and can be found in all shapes, colours and sizes.

Fruits that were readily available in early settlers’ time were apples, cranberries and grapes. They used them just to eat as a fruit. Apples came with the settlers and the first orchard according to history was established in Boston but not as we grow them today as cordoned but as regular trees. They made cider as a main drink which was fermented apple juice and used as the drink for Thanksgiving. They also dried them in rings for winter use. In later years they preserved them as apple sauce and butter in jars.

The early German settlers found cranberries in the bogs and marshes and introduced the cranberry sauce for meat accompaniment. Grapes, native to America were used as a juice or made into jelly. The grapes used in the wine industry today is not from the native grapes but an import from Europe.

Corn, pumpkins, squash and ornamental gourds have all the colors depicting the end of the growing season and are being used as natural decorations with dried leaves both inside and outside of our homes for fall and Thanksgiving. Most of these fruit and vegetables can be found in or around our gardens making the connection with Thanksgiving.

Next meeting will be on Tuesday, November 7th @7.30 pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. This month there will be Hilde Makkink from Makkink Sunflower Farm, Tillsonburg demonstrating decorating ideas. There will be three draws for her creations!  Members remember this meeting is the Photo Competition results and tour sign up.  Non-members welcome $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out or join us on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.



Grass Needs Fall Attention

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – September 2017

It has suddenly become Fall where the garden chores become very different. It is a time for reflection and maybe reorganization. Grass seems to be something we rarely consider this time of year but to get a good appearance next year there are a few things we can do now.

Bare patches in the lawn are easier to repair in the fall as the ground will not dry out and germination will come easily. A scattering of topsoil over the seeds will keep them in place and encourage growth. The last mowing of the lawn needs to be a little higher than summer cutting for protection. It will also allow the chopped leaves to give it a mulching for the winter.

When it seems as if the grass is no longer growing it is time to apply a fall fertilizer. It will sustain the roots throughout the winter and will allow the uptake in the early spring for growth as soon as the temperature is right. If it is done in the fall you can delay application again until May.

In the flower beds you can divide many of the perennials to encourage more blooms. There are several common plants that thrive after this and it also allows us to share with fellow gardeners or to reorganize a tired bed. Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, Siberian iris all grow extra bulbs attached to the original planted one. Division is a way of expanding your garden colour. Peonies can be lifted and divided in the fall. Astilbe, Veronica and Bleeding Heart will all bloom better after being divided.

Strawberry runners can be transplanted to either tidy up an existing bed or enlarge it. Careful lifting is necessary as they are tender with small roots but snip the runner and plant it as you would any annual.

There is always the task of planting some of the new varieties of spring bulbs and maybe invest in some of the more unusual ones. After browsing through a new catalogue I found some interesting bulbs. Fritillaria is an old spring bulb but worth a mention. There are many to choose from either as a crown of colour or a bells formation. I also saw a Camassia Blue Melody which is a violet blue flower with variegated foliage. Eremurus commonly called foxtail lily has a spiked flower and is available in various colours. It is deer resistant and drought tolerant. I found a Muscari Golden Fragrance. Its common name is Grape Hyacinth but not typical in appearance. The flowers are a novelty to see with golden tubular florets and a topping of purple tubes.

Lastly leaves can be used as mulch for the winter on the flower beds and will encourage early growth to all perennials. If there is an abundance of leaves on the lawn in late fall it is advisable to rake them up as the snow and rain will create a mat which will stifle new growth next year.

Next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 3rd @ 7.30 pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Speaker for this meeting will be Larry Peterson, Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph. He will talk about fungi and what lies beneath the soil.  Members remember this meeting is the Photo Competition. For details check the Tillogram. Non-members welcome for $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out or on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.


Leaf Eaters in our Gardens

by Angela Lassam
It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – August 2017

We all know about aphids especially on roses, the slugs on hostas, and the tent caterpillars that are very noticeable on the trees this time of year. But what do we really know about Japanese beetles?

The Japanese beetle, as the name implies, originated in Japan and was first detected in the U.S. in 1916, and has since become a big nuisance for the gardener and horticulturalist. It is a big problem in the Niagara farming belt. It is a colourful beetle with a metallic green head and copper hard shelled body only measuring ½” but is very destructive. It does not discriminate on what it eats – just about anything leafy, fruit leaves, vegetables, ornamentals and even weeds.

Their life cycle starts mid-summer as eggs dropped into any open soil. Then as grubs they eat any roots and go deep into the soil for the winter. The following year as soon as the soil warms up they rise to the surface devouring all roots in their path and mature to the Japanese beetle.

As soon as it gets warm and sunny you will see the beetles flying around. It is said that a ‘scout’ beetle will precede a swarm and they will continue to invade your garden everywhere. This will last up to six weeks and is the time you will see the skeletal destruction on large leaves. They only survive one generation but they are very prolific laying many eggs.

When they are grubs moles will eat them underground. Raccoons and skunks will dig them up for food and the bigger birds will pick them up.

There are a few methods to control them. Early in the season you can actually pick them off plants into a bucket of water and dispose later. They are sleepy at this time and also they do not see well which helps us catch them. The normal insecticidal soap will work but needs to be repeated often.

A home-made solution of soap, water, garlic powder and cayenne pepper applied with a garden sprayer will leave a gross taste as a good deterrent but also a tedious daily chore.

There are beetle traps available at any nursery which will catch them easily. They work on the principle of a pad with pheromones on it which will attract them and a bag attached below it to catch them. They fly into a plastic fin (remember they do not have good eyes) and drop into the bag. Empty the bag daily. The trap needs to be hung away from all vegetation to be effective.

There is new information which shows that geraniums have a toxic effect on the Japanese beetle. Many were found dead underneath some plants suggesting this to be true.

I hope that many of you have taken the time to admire the gardens in town tended by the Horticultural Society volunteers. They can be seen outside the Senior Centre at the Community Complex. A colourful sight is outside the Livingstone Centre. The Station Arts Centre is a popular place to visit as we’ll as the market that is there on Saturday. Many events happen at the Royal Canadian Legion especially for the 150th Anniversary. Annandale House was one of the venues on Canada Day and the gardens have had a rejuvenation there. Woodingford Lodge is an ongoing challenge but the residents and visitors enjoy beautiful gardens there. Library Lane has also been added recently to this list of locations. On a final note the large urns everywhere and the smaller ones outside businesses downtown have added colour and life to our town.

Regular monthly meetings will resume on Tuesday Sept 5th @ 7.30 pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Speaker for this meeting will be Mitchell Hewson, Registered Horticultural Therapist.The topic is Power of Nature – living healthy using remedies through horticulture. Members remember this meeting is the Grow and Show Flower Competition. Non-members are welcome with a $2 per meeting or become a member and get extra benefits.

For further information check out or on Facebook – tillsonburghorticultural.

Take a minute to look at these photographs of the beautiful urns at Annandale National Historic Site where Horticultural Society members design, plant and nurture the gardens each year.

100_6486A 100_6482A 100_6480 100_6478 100_6477A


Who is Eating My Garden

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – June 2017
by Angela Lassam

Do you have unknown overnight creatures eating your new plantings like I do? I have spent many hours labouring in my flower and vegetable garden to wake up one morning and find there has been an overnight feast. Many gardeners spend a great deal of money on plants only to have them desecrated by wildlife of some form. I have searched to find a simple, environmental and economic way to stop this from continuing. I thought that my answers to this would maybe help some of the many gardening enthusiasts, hence the following:

Rabbits which are my particular problem at this time will eat any new sprouts of most plants overnight. They do not like any plant that has a strong odor so it is advisable to incorporate herbs such as garlic, chives, oregano and lavender throughout your garden. Annuals that are strong smelling look nice and act as a deterrent like Marigold.

Sprays are available at most nurseries but can prove expensive so after some research I found some suggestions which I am going to try using. Ammonia sprayed around beds leaves a strong smell. There is a mixture of hot red pepper, garlic and dish soap which can be mixed and sprayed on plants but needs to be repeated often. If all fails and your “bunnies” are like mine you will have to put a low netting up to keep them out.

Deer will eat Hostas in an unfenced garden so the same mixes will work for them according to most of my research. Chipmunks and squirrels like to eat strawberries and small tomatoes and raccoons will raid your mature corn overnight.

Other wildlife may be munching on your garden but most do not like strong smells or bitter plants. Skunks will dig small holes in your lawn for food, primarily for the grubs which we try to eliminate. Toads will keep many insects under control. Therefore wildlife is not all bad and makes for an interesting outlook but also a challenge for gardeners.

There are many plants that are resistant to rabbits and deer. An interesting list can be found at

Many thanks to all the businesses who have purchased the urn/planters under the recent venture for the 150th Anniversary and we hope to continue in the future to see more participation to improve the appearance of our town, especially to visitors.

The large planters of which there were eight last year are back with the addition of more so please take the time to admire them.

During the summer recess there are two planned events for everyone to enjoy. The first one is a Garden Tour named “Beyond the Garden Gate” – a tour in conjunction with the Station Arts Centre on July 8th  from 12:30 – 4 pm featuring five gardens with three artists, Annandale House (discount to view the museum) , Tillsonburg Garden Gate where there is a 10% discount on purchases for ticket holders and Station Arts Centre where you can view an exhibit ”True North-Strong & Free” and 150 posters along with refreshments. Tickets available @ Station Arts Centre, at the gardens on the tour and Tillsonburg Garden Gate – $10 advance $12 at the gardens on the tour.

The other event will be on August 8th at Whistling Gardens in Wilsonville, a unique and very interesting venue. There will be a barbecue and entertainment – the Gentleman of Harmony from Simcoe plus a 150th Anniversary cake. Also it is the 35th Anniversary of the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society. Cost is $30 (including admission to the Gardens). For more information contact Barb Hunter @

Both events are open to anyone. If you are looking for ideas for your garden these events will certainly be of interest and a great encouragement to start gardening and maybe become a member of the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society. Hope to see you at both as it should be a great time for all.

Regular monthly meetings resume Tuesday Sept. 5th in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. To keep up to date look at the website or join us on Facebook – Tillsonburghorticultural.

Trees Give Us Many Benefits

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – May 2017
by Angela Lassam

We have lost many trees due to storm damage and disease and we should consider replacing them. The next question is, “What do we plant?” and “What do we expect from that tree?”.

There are many attributes to trees. They provide shade to keep our homes cool in summer and protection from winds in winter. The roots absorb water to save runoff during storms. They naturally clean the air by absorbing pollutants and convert CO2 into oxygen (one acre of trees equates to 26,000 miles driving or oxygen for 18 people). Trees help erosion when the roots hold soil in place. The roots also act as filters for water before it reaches our natural streams and drinking water.

There are benefits we cannot see but are all around us daily. They tell us the seasons and weather. Trees in towns can create a focal point, a meeting place, muffle sounds, reduce glare, and will encourage new businesses by creating a more pleasant community. People seem to be happier and more serene when trees are around them. Trees can cool a city by 10 per cent and also add some humidity by evaporation.

We are fortunate to live within the Carolinian Zone and have the ability to grow deciduous trees that will thrive naturally. Backus Woods is a great example and there are many of the species to be found there. We also have local nurseries who specialize in these trees.

I have selected a few to enlarge upon:

Tulip tree – also called wild magnolia is a hardwood with large unusual shaped leaves and a cupped green/orange open flower.

Sycamore – also called Buttonball has an unusual camouflage bark and the fruit is an inch size ball. Leaves are similar to a Maple tree.

Honey Locust – an open tree with leaves that are pinnate and the fruit is a long pod. The natural tree has long thorns but trees in nurseries are grafted or hybridized to eliminate the thorns.

Eastern Cottonwood – also known as necklace poplar is a fast growing tree (can grow 6’ a year) and can be used as a windbreak and for shade. Wildlife like the twigs and bark. This tree has various uses in the cosmetic industry (ie lip balm) also good for building canoes and other wood products. It can be a bad choice for people with allergies.

There are some diseases which will decimate trees but some are only cosmetic. Most diseases are hard on the tree but it is the following fungus that will kill it.

Magnolia scale is a disease where large insects kill entire branches by feeding on the tree sap. This looks like mold but it is scale waste (honeydew). The only thing to do is to remove the limb to keep the tree airy.

Tent caterpillar is the larvae of moths and butterflies. The web acts as protection whilst they are eating. Although it is unsightly it is not a killer.

Tar spot is a fungus which is very noticeable on Maple trees but it also affects many others. It is advisable to rake and burn leaves. Do not compost them.

Asian long-horned beetle tunnels into trees making 20mm holes. Then the tree becomes weakened and gets fungal growth and ultimately dies.

The Emerald ash borer is an insect that has eradicated almost all the ash trees in Ontario. The insect feeds off the inner bark cutting the water supply. It may take up to 2 years to detect cracked bark and small holes. In the meantime the foliage will become smaller.

There has been a breakthrough in research in Canada. The Great Lakes Forestry in Sault St Marie have discovered a “made in Canada” parasitic wasp (Tetrastichus) that they are releasing in various locations. The wasp inserts its eggs through the bark onto the borer grub to kill it. It is selective and will only eat these grubs. This wasp is similar to the natural enemy wasp found in China where the borer originated. It is smaller than an ant, and will not bite or sting humans.

100_6456 tulips

Some of the Canada 150 Tulips planted by Horticultural Society members at various gardens in the community.

The recent Garden Auction held by the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society was once again an outstanding success. This will allow the Society to brighten our town and allows us to do the many things that all the members enjoy. Thanks go out to all who contributed or participated to make this a tremendous day. Special thanks go to all the donors – a full list can be found on the website

Please remember to plant some wildflower seeds for the bees and butterflies. They need our help. Many Monarch butterflies died in Mexico this past winter.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on Tuesday June 6th @ 7.30pm in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Nadia Cavallin, Field Botanist from the Royal Botanical Gardens will present Wild Flowers of Southwestern Ontario just in time for a more knowledgeable country walk. Non-members welcome, come and make some new friends. Membership $15 per year.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit online. Also find us on Facebook – Tillsonburg Horticultural.



New for 2017

It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – April 2017
Angela Lassam

Terrys succulent winnings

Terry’s succulent winnings

A great meeting was enjoyed by members where Matt Fenn of Garden Gate demonstrated how to do a succulent bowl for indoors although it could also be a base for a miniature garden. See photo at left.

He said there is a trend for air plants. They are known as epiphytes and have no soil generally and they are attached to host plants/branches using thread or wire (even hot glue). They feed through trichomes (hairs or prickles). The offsets are called “pups” and when 2/3 of the mother plant in size will make a new plant. They are easy, need very little care just misting. Orchids are in a similar category and he warned failure is usually too much watering – an ounce of water a week is all they need. Both like sunny locations.

Garden Gate has some new products with the usual tried and true ones. There is Stump Remover which is easy to apply and this year we have many damaged trees to cut down. Super Hunter is a new wild animal repellant. Wilson’s Weedout is a new lawn weed killer but it is available only in a limited supply. Japanese beetles are common in all our gardens and this year there is available a larger catcher bag which is re-useable. The Safers kit and accessories is available as usual at Garden Gate.

New vegetable seeds are GMO free from OSC. They have leaf lettuce which is slower to bolt, a spinach that is a hybrid also bolt resistant and disease resistant. Cumin has been added to the herb section.

The flower section has new varieties of Marigold that are dwarf, lemon and orange color. Cosmos appears as some new names. Cupcake (a white/pale pink) looks like a paper cupcake case. A pale yellow one named Xanthos and a white one called Mini Click.

A new rose has come onto the market from the Vineland Research Centre but started its life in Manitoba – the Canadian Shield Rose (vibrant red), the first of a series called 49th Parallel.  A limited supply will be in selected nurseries. Most nurseries are already preordered and out of stock.

Perennial of the year is Echinacea Puff Vanilla which is an ivory flower with double anemone type blooms.

The Annual Plant Auction is set to take place once again in the Lions Auditorium in Tillsonburg Community Complex. There will be the usual live auction of plants, trees and garden decor at 6.30 p.m. Tuesday May 16th. Doors will be open at 5.30 p.m. for the Toonie table, $5 table and Bake table. Also the Draw table with many donated items for you to try your luck.

I hope that members have started seeds, maybe potted up some perennials or bulbs (lilies are popular). The crafter members always do great garden décor so hopefully we will see some this time. Then the bakers usually contribute to the bake table, so anyone can help make this a great event.

Funds raised at this important event allow the society to do various ventures in town – Annandale House, Station Arts Centre, Livingstone Centre, Royal Canadian Legion, Woodingford Lodge and Seniors Centre gardens. There is also the Junior Gardeners Competition where volunteers take a large interest in encouraging the young gardeners of tomorrow.

The newest fundraiser called the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society Town-wide Commercial Urn Beautification Project has been started with advertising by both the local radio and newspaper and members have now distributed the information sheets. We hope the local businesses will come together and participate in this. It is a new venture and now we need the support necessary to make a statement throughout the town. Please everyone give this your consideration, deadline is April 20th.

The next meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society is on Tuesday May 2nd @ 7.30 p.m. in the Seniors Centre Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Complex. Stephen Douglas, an expert on Hostas will tell us all about new varieties and bring some samples to be given away. There will be sign-up for the Spring Buying tour. Non-members welcome, come and make some new friends. Membership $15 per year.

For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society visit online. Also find us on Facebook – Tillsonburg Horticultural.