06 August 2007

Glad gardens of hope

This afternoon on my way back from several other appointments, I stopped in at Murray Salsman’s home in Grafton, NS, behind Berwick. One of the things that makes me particularly happy is when people use their gardening skills to do something that will help others. Murray’s that kind of gardener. His property is home to Marg’s Glad Garden, a memorial garden he built for his late wife Margaret, but also which helps many people every year.

Margaret died of cancer in January of 2004 but she loved to garden, and she and Murray always worked together in their flowerbeds. Her favourite flower was the gladiolus, and Murray decided to plant about 3000 bulbs in her memory, the spring following her death. Then he got the idea to use the glad garden to raise money for the Cancer Care Patient Navigator program, which helps cancer patients and their families when they are dealing with financial difficulties around treatment, etc. And the funds raised go to help patients in Kings and Annapolis Counties—not to fund some research program or some heavily bloated fundraising bureaucracy somewhere else. Marg’s Glad Garden has helped many people since its beginning in the spring of 2004.

This year, Murray and a host of helpers planted around 10,000 glads in early May, and now the garden is open for people to come and visit. If they make a donation to the fund, which is a registered charity, Murray cuts them a bouquet of his gorgeous glads, which come in almost every colour conceivable. Already there has been a steady stream of visitors come to wander through the plantings, make donations, and receive their bouquet of flowers. Murray also has paintings and photographs of glads, taken or painted by Nova Scotian artist Sandy Moser, for sale, and naturally I bought the photo of the hummingbird inside a glad blossom to add to my wall of floral art!

Incidentally, I wrote about Murray and Marg’s Glad Garden last year for Reader’s Digest magazine, (it was in the October or November issue in Canada) and as with anything like this, I always hope that telling the story will spur someone, somewhere, to try something similar. I am a firm believer in helping local people, whether it be purchasing local plants or farm produce or donating to a local charity, so this to me is a good thing to do.

When I got home I went out to the memory garden to look at plants. Since another garden club is coming to visit tomorrow, I thought I should tidy up a bit. But I got as far as the back perennial bed, looked at the Rosy butterfly weed (Asclepias incarnata) and stopped in my tracks.

Remember the other day there were a few little monarch caterpillars having a snack?

Well…I counted about 5 dozen caterpillars in all in the three clumps of asclepias. Most of them are big already, (and the asclepias has taken quite a thumping, but that’s what it’s there for) and will probably be going to pupate in a matter of days. I’ll have to tippy toe around looking for a chrysalis, as I’ve never seen one in the garden.

One of the reasons I have grown to love butterflies so much is because of their remarkable life cycles, and how we can create metaphors for our own lives by watching and learning from them. I never got the weeding done…I spent an hour or more watching the caterpillars munching through the milkweed leaves, and taking photos…and then being visited by this adult female monarch.

She seemed completely oblivious to the caterpillars chewing their way around her—she just probed through the flowers and fluttered around.I think she was just dining on nectar, but maybe she was also getting ready to lay eggs. I haven’t seen a male here yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long now.

Earlier today my longsuffering spouse had asked worriedly about the tussock moth caterpillars, which we don’t care for because last year we had a population boom of them that stripped quite a few plants, and I actually broke out the Bacillis thurengiensis—until I spied monarch caterpillars, at which point all hostilities ceased. This year, I’ve seen maybe a handful of the pesty moth caterpillars, and I think the explosion of them last year—or the cold winter-- meant a bust this year for them. Even if there are a pile of them around, they’re going to get stomped, or snipped in half, or picked and thrown in soapy water, not sprayed, not even with soapy water…don’t want anything to disturb “my” brood of munching monarchs-to-be.

Somehow, after having been to Murray's and making a donation to the Memorial Fund, coming home to monarch butterflies and babies seemed really appropriate. Marg would approve too, I'm sure.


  1. What a sweet story about Murray Salsman - and what a cool way for his wife to be remembered.

    We used to get Monarch cats and chrysales in IL and they usually are here at some point - many times in late summer-early fall.
    I've got the tropical milkweed ready for them if they arrive.

    Have fun with the garden group - maybe you could walk around with scissors in hand to demonstrate your non-chemical insect control method. I myself have special green shears for snipping, and think it's a great idea!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  2. What a great story! That is such a great idea about the Glad Garden. What a wonderful way to honor a gardener.

  3. Watching butterflies for an hour is of far more importance than weeding. ;-)

    What a lovely story about Margs Glad Garden, very inspirational! It is such a wonderful and positive way to pay tribute to someone's life!

    Great post Jodi!

  4. I have never seen so many monarch cats on one plant before in my life!!! Will my plants attract that many eventually instead of the one or two they do now, or do you just have the touch?

  5. Hi all and welcome to bloomingwriter....

    Annie, I was just reading more about monarchs, and they probably drop in your way on their migration south to Mexico. I hope they do stop...they're really a joy to watch.
    I did squish one naughty tussock moth cat this afternoon while the visitors were here, but didn't have my snippers with me. ;-)

    Gina, Yes, Murray is a marvelous man. I might add that he's in his mid seventies and a cancer survivor himself--and had a stroke this winter. He's one of my heros.

    Yolanda Elizabet; I think if more of us hung out with butterflies a little more often, we'd all be a lot healthier.

    Kim, I'm sure your numbers will multiply. Last year we had a couple of dozen monarch cats but this year I'm really excited--and so were my visitors when they saw them. i think it's inspiring others to plant milkweeds, etc.

  6. Glads and caterpillars! Nice story on both. I loved seeing fields of glads when I was young. I did plant a few for cutting but no flowers yet. I will think of Marg's field of flowers now when I see glads. A nice memory and worthy cause. I don't know anyone who has not been touched by cancer. I have yet to see a chrysalis. I guess I am not looking in the right places!

  7. It was said that we all come into this world as butterflies, and many of us leave in cocoons--my goal is to stay that butterfly. Reading your lovely post on Marg's garden helps me achieve that goal--and such a lovely link to the caterpillar and butterfly image. Bravo. No wonder you're a successful writer! Thank you for this.

    BTW, Ben loved the photos of the caterpillars--


  8. WOW!!! While I've seen many Monarchs flitting about in the garden, I have yet to find a caterpillar! I don't know what time last year it was when I saw them, I'll have to check.

    That's just great, Jodi. You've become the Mexico of the north for those Monarchs, I do believe!

  9. I love the pictures of your kitties! I'm glad to know mine isn't the only one to hop in every open suitcase.

    The glad garden is really inspiring. What great a love he must have had for his wife.

  10. Wow -- that is so cool! I've never really seen pictures of monarch caterpillars before from a home gardener. I am hoping that some day I get around to planting some of their favorites so they hang around in my yard. A small sacrifice, but totally worth it! Looking forward to pictures of a chrysalis!

  11. Wonderful story! I"ll bet my mom read it last year, I will have to ask her.
    Keep us posted on those monarch caterpillars! I saw one on my red milkweed plant the other day, but it is mysteriously gone now. I suspect a passing turkey.

  12. Layanee, hope you see a chrysalis soon. You need to have milkweed in your garden (any species) and then the cats move to other plants to pupate. It's quite marvelous.
    Cindy, I'm glad to see you posting again and happy that Ben loved the photos of the caterpillars. I think we all hope to stay butterflies, though some days our wings feel tattered...
    Kylee thanks to you I've gotten our place registered as a monarch waystation too, and have written about it for the provincial paper. So hopefully more of us will be Mexico norths for these beautiful creatures.
    Chicksey, welcome! Our cats love suitcases, they just can't help themselves. OR boxes. Or drawers. Or anywhere else they can fit...

    Katie, I hope you'll have monarchs in your yard too. I'm watching the chrysalis (what IS the plural of chrysalis, anyone?) daily to see what happens.

    Sandy, monarch cats are poisonous same as the adults, but sometimes they do just arbitrarily die. OR it might have moved somewhere else to pupate. I hope so. :-)


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