Lilacs Need Their Flowers Cut

This is the week when I’ll be cutting flowers off my lilac bush daily.

Though this idea seems like rough treatment, it isn’t. I assure you that the lilac bush I have is at least 40 years old. The monster has been thriving since we moved into our house 23 years ago. This year its blooming with more flowers than ever before.

All plants should be pruned after they have flowered. In the case of lilacs and tulips, the plant will grow stronger if you cut off flowers before  seeds set.

Old-fashioned lilacs have the best scent, but they also sucker terribly. Those have to be trimmed also.

You can also prune long lilac branches to keep bushes low. If you have a lilac that’s trained as a standard (ie one main trunk so that it looks like a tree), aggressive annual pruning keeps the tree looking good.

Be sure to cut no more than one-third of the tree branches to keep the beast in shape. More than that, and you could kill a wonderful bloomer.

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Charlotte and Arthur’s War-Time Wedding

I never asked my great granny Charlotte about her wedding, but the records I’ve found hint at lots of intrigue.

Did they plan a summer wedding and then rush things to avoid conscription? Had they initially hoped to marry in the church next to her home but lost the opportunity due to community infighting?

Probably, but not yet proven.

What I do know is that my great grandparents—then 23-year-old groom Arthur Johnson and his 22-year-old bride Charlotte Charbonneau—chose to marry on Friday, February 9, 1917 in an unfinished church basement blocks away from her home instead of in the church right next door.

The direct information I have about that day appears in an affidavit filled out by Arthur on January 22, signed by the witnesses and solemniser, and turned in to the Registrar on February 17.[1]

When looking at it, I couldn’t help wondering two things: why then and why there?

Why February?

She wasn’t pregnant—their first son wouldn’t be born for another two years.

Money would be tight later, but at that point both had jobs. Arthur worked as a machinist and Charlotte served as a fore-lady, probably supervising women at a factory producing something for the war.

Did the impetus to marry early in 2017 have something to do with federal government musings about conscription at that time? Prime Minister Robert Borden promised publicly that he’d send 500,000 Canadian soldiers to Europe by the end of 1916. Only 300,000 men volunteered by December 2016, and numbers dwindled as horrific details about the Battle of the Somme reached Canada.

Borden passed conscription in August the summer after Arthur and Charlotte wed. Had they married after July 6, 2017, Arthur might have been conscripted. I might not exist.

I’m not sure why Arthur didn’t serve. He certainly had close ties with Europe having immigrated to Canada from Lancashire England ten years earlier. He came to Canada with his brother Albert and his parents, Mary Young and William Johnson.

Neither Arthur nor Albert volunteered for the Armed Forces and the family remained close. Albert and his wife Amie served as witnesses at Arthur and Charlotte’s wedding.

I also wonder how they selected the location of their marriage.

Both families worshipped in the Presbyterian faith. At the time, Charlotte still lived with her parents on Cross Street in Weston, right next to a Presbyterian Church called the Old Kirk at 11 Cross Street.

Why didn’t the couple get married in the Old Kirk?

Turns out that the building couldn’t offer a legally-sanctioned marriage between March 2013 and June 2017, despite more than 200 of the 247 congregation members working hard to keep the place open.

The problem began in March 2013, when fewer than 38 people voted to close the facilities and sell the Cross Street building. Given that the snow kept 209 people at home that day, I suspect that the meeting in question took place in the Main Street building purchased for Sunday School services a year earlier.

The sordid affair appears in a wonderful history of the Church in Weston called “From Then to Now.”

At a congregational meeting in March 1913, bad weather kept attendance to 38 out of 245 members. A majority of the 38 voted to hold all future services at the new facility and to sell the Cross Street site. Westminster Presbyterian Church was then fully established on the new site and the Cross Street site was sold.

The church on Cross Street was then re-purchased by some of the old members and services resumed on January 18th, 1914. Presbytery refused to recognize this congregation though, so it operated as an independent Presbyterian Church known as The Old Kirk The group continued to worship steadfastly and endured three failed petitions to Toronto Presbytery asking to be recognized as a second Presbyterian congregation in Weston (one petition was signed by 259 members). They appealed to the General Assembly, held in Montreal in June 1917, and the appeal was sustained. The church was then named The Old Presbyterian Church. From June 1917 to 1925 there were two official Presbyterian Churches in Weston.

In 1925 Westminster Presbyterian voted for church union and The Old Presbyterian Church opted to remain Presbyterian. It was then named Weston Presbyterian Church and Westminster became Westminster United Church. [2]

I haven’t yet found definitive proof that Charlotte and her family took part in the purchase or petitions of the Cross Street building. Given that Arthur and Charlotte married within a completely different congregation, however, it’s likely that they did.

Perhaps the couple hoped to be the first marriage in the renewed building, but then chose to wed rapidly so Arthur could avoid conscription. They needed a legally-sanctioned marriage.

They Chose St. David’s Church in Toronto

Arthur’s affidavit provides the address. It indicates that Reverend Charles A. Mustard presided over Charlotte and Arthur’s wedding ceremony at 38 Harvie Avenue, a building at the corner of St. Clair Avenue.

Information contained within a Presbyterian Museum article[3] about the Church after it was torn down in 1999 gives context. The St. David’s Church congregation purchasing the Harvie site in 1911. They began operations by moving an original frame church from the south side of St. Clair Avenue opposite McRoberts to the new site. That building opened in 1912.

The community grew rapidly. By 1914, they hired Toronto architect Herbert George Paul to incorporate their original wood frame structure into a new larger building. He finished constructing only the basement, however, when the bank pulled the Church loan due to World War I.

A speech by John Barron in June 1918 describes what happened.

In the year 1911 the present site was secured. Seventy-two feet of the frontage being presented by Westminster Church, to which the Church building was moved and alterations made. This building was opened on Nov. 12, 1912.

The congregation outgrew this accommodation, and in the year 1914 plans were prepared and the present building was commenced, but owing to conditions brought about by the war, the basement only was finished and used for services to the present time.

So, instead of getting married in a perfectly good building on Charlotte’s street, community infighting and a war forced the couple to wed in an unfinished basement in St. David’s Presbyterian Church.

[1] Johnson, Arthur. Affadavid, 022461, loose paper, Office of the Registar General Ontario. Rec. Date: Jan 22, 2019. Ontario Canada Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario. Toronto. MS932, Reel 440, Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Ancestry. www.ancestry.ca : 2010.

[2] From Then to Now, 1847 to 2007, a history by the Weston Presbyterian Congregation, http://westonpresbyterian.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/WestonPCHistory.pdf

[3] http://presbyterianmuseum.ca/files/2014/09/PCC-National-Presbyterian-Museum-Museum-Musings-St-Davids-cornerstone_revised.pdf

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When to sow seeds in Montreal

Are you wondering when to sow seeds in Montreal?

Here’s my guide to when you should sow seeds indoors before the season begins and outdoors when you see common plants blooming.

Date Bloom Sow inside Sow outside Other info
February 18, 2019 peppers, zinnias
February 25, 2019 datura, delphiniums, nicotiana
March 4, 2019 cabbage, tomatoes
March 11, 2019 brussel sprouts, celeriac
March 18, 2019 marigolds, green cauliflower
April 15, 2019
Spring 2012

April in the garden

daffodil, forsythia Cold hardy seeds such as: allysum, baby’s breath, chard, calendula, carrots, cornflower, hollyhock, impatiens, lovage, peas, poppies, radishes, rudbeckia, spinach, sweet pea flowers
lilac, dogwood Cold hardy seedlings such as: cabbage, broccoli, dusty miller, feathertop grass, larkspur, leek, onion, pansy, penstemon, salvia and snapdragon
May 20, 2019 summer savory
May 27, 2019 nicotiana
May 31, 2019 average last frost
June 3, 2019 datura, delphinium, brussel sprouts
spirea (all the pink types) Cold tender seeds such as: basil, beans, beets, borage, catnip, cilantro, corn, chervil, cucumber, dandelion, delphinium, green manures, lavatera, lettuce, okra, melon, marigold, mint, morning glory, nasturtiums, nicotiana, parsley, petunia, savory, sunflower, thyme, zinnia
black locust trees, Vanhoutte spirea (the white one) Cold tender plants, such as anise, datura, dahlia, dematis, grapes, ladies mantle, lavender, peppers, tomatoes
Mock orange, catalpa Fall seeds, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, celeriac, cauliflower, fennel

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Seven Hardy Fruits for Montreal Gardeners

If you’re a gardener in Montreal, you’ll want to plant seven fruits that are hardy in our northern climate and make for great eating.

Crabapple (Malus ‘Lollizam’)

Lollipop crabapples grow 10ft-high and get white flowers in spring. Small yellow fruit appears in the fall.

Pear (Pyrus communis ‘Savignac’)

One of the three varieties I love is Savignac, a small round easy eating pear named after Brother Armand Savignac, a Joliette priest who got the then un-named cultivar from the Canada Experimental Farm in 1947.

Raspberries (rubus)

Yellow, red and black are available.

Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

The tiny blue berries this plant produces in mid-June aren’t quite as sweet as the woodland bush berries they resemble, but the plant grows easily because it’s so hardy and contains thousands of berries. The Saskatchewan city of the same name was named after the native plant. White flowers cover the plant in the spring, right after Magnolias and Forsythias.

Grape (Maréchal Foch)

These red grapes are a hybrid from Alcace and were originally called Kuhlmann 188-2 (one of whose parents was Goldriesling). The grape gets its name from a General who served in the French army during World War I.

Plum

Get some trees from Stefan Sobkowiak, one of Quebec’s permiculture experts and the owner of Miracle Farms in Cazaville if you can.

Strawberries

Who can deny strawberries. These ground-covering plants are so tasty and easy to grow as long as you move the patch every three or four years. I like the traditional June-bearing variety, because I find the berries taste much better.

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Spring Temperatures

The weather remains unpredictable this spring, but despite that, I highly recommend taking lots of photographs beginning this week. Things are beginning to bud, and perhaps as early as this weekend, you’ll be taking some of the prettiest shots possible.

Historical weather trends appear in the chart below.

Spring National Temperature Departures and Long-term Trend, 1948 – 2011

The national temperature departures table shows the full list of spring values in the order from warmest to coolest. It shows that 3 of the ten warmest springs occurred within the last decade, and 9 of the last 20 years are listed among the 20 warmest.

Source, Environment Canada,

http://www.ec.gc.ca/adsc-cmda/default.asp?lang=En&n=4CC724DA-1

 

Nature’s Spring Flower Show

 

Daffodils, magnolia, forsythia and hyacinth are just beginning to bud and I expect they’ll bloom together in my garden in the next week or so for a joy-bringing concert of colour and a pleasant break from the computer.

This glorious show appears regularly every spring on its own with very little help from me. I’ll need to spend an hour cutting down the grasses and raking some leaves off the carpets of purple crocus, and that’s it.

The wildlife in my region are also quite active at this time of year, as you can see in Jean-Marc Lacoste’s superb video. Lacoste took this footage along LaSalle, Verdun and Nun’s Island waterfront and in Angrignon Park between April 1 and 17, 2012, but it’s still well worth checking out. You can see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0sTQjGd7P4.

 

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