Who’s Who: Carole Donaldson and Howard Williams: Wildflowers of Wolfville

By Mike Butler

Hello Summer!
For days now, the sun has been shining and Facebook has lit up with hundreds of photos of gardens, greenery, walking trails and all things outdoorsy! This is a wonderful time of year to go out and see the beauty of the Valley, tend to your own property, and embrace the landscape and everything nature has to offer. We are so fortunate to have such diverse flora and fauna here, and I am just becoming aware of how vast the interest is in this field. Have you heard of the Blomidon Naturalists Society? Well, we can get to that later. For now, let me introduce you to two of its members: a delightful couple who frequent TAN Coffee who I just adore: Howard Williams and Carole Donaldson.

Carole and Howard have lived in Wolfville for three years. They’re originally from the UK, and have enjoyed living and working in Denmark, Sierra Leone, Canada, and New Zealand.

“We came back to Canada to retire and be closer to family,” Howard says. “We had been told by friends that Wolfville was a pleasant place to retire, with full amenities and a varied landscape. It has more than lived up to expectations. We enjoy the variety of people who live in the eastern part of the Annapolis Valley, the natural environment, especially the birds and wildflowers. Living in Nova Scotia also allows us to visit the coast and enjoy the contrast between the Fundy and South Shores.”

Howard is a retired geoscientist specialising initially in structural geology. He then changed course and became a hydrogeologist. He has worked as an academic, a government researcher and scientist, and a private consultant. Carole is a retired environmental issues analyst and facilitator working for various levels of government and as a private consultant. Her specialty was bridging the gap between communities, scientists, and government to find solutions to environmental and sustainability issues.

In retirement, Carole and Howard have become avid members of the Blomidon Naturalists Society (BNS) and are now the authors of Wildflowers of Nova Scotia, a fascinating pocket field guide to common native flowers and shrubs of our beautiful province. The BNS is a field naturalists club centred around the eastern Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and they’re always looking for new members. The BNS began in 1974 and currently has about 100 family and individual members. They hold lectures, field trips, and other activities to boost interest in the natural beauty of the Valley. For more information on the BNS and how to join, visit blomidonnaturalists.ca

Now, back to Howard and Carole. Besides this new literary adventure, Carole and Howard bask in the joys of retirement in many ways. “We fill our time with a mix of attending talks (now by Zoom), and going for walks in the surrounding area with Douglas, our greyhound,” Carole says. “We enjoy all parts of Nova Scotia and visit other places often (particularly Cape Breton). We read a lot, enjoy the local theatre group productions and films at the Al Whittle, and last, but not least, frequent the Wolfville coffee houses. Obviously we have a special interest in the natural environment and are often seen on the trails photographing birds and wildflowers. Howard is kept busy on the boards of many community organisations and is the editor and a contributor to the Blomidon Naturalists Society quarterly newsletter. I enjoying being a quilter, fibre crafter, and keen gardener, and I volunteer in the herbarium at the university.”

And now back to Wildflowers of Nova Scotia! Carole and Howard lived in Ontario and a naturalist group there had published a series of pocket-sized guides to all sorts of natural things which they found very handy when out walking. The idea was taken to the Blomidon Naturalists Society with the suggestion that they could do something similar for Nova Scotia wildflowers. A well-GUIDED decision!

“We think the book fills a niche,” Howard says. “To our knowledge there are no other pocket-sized guides to native wildflowers and shrubs for Nova Scotia. Non-specialists need to have something they can slip into a pocket and use when they see plants that they cannot recognise. The photographs, along with brief but informative text, are designed to assist in the identification of native wildflowers. Obviously it does not contain all 600+ possibilities – it would not be pocket-sized if it did – but does contain the most commonly seen species.”

Howard and Carole were fortunate to have several organisations and individuals who helped fund the publication of the book. Any profits will be used to fund conservation and education projects that benefit the natural environment. It’s a win-win for naturalists and the organisations! The guide is being launched in early July and is available from the Blomidon Naturalists Society. They anticipate that it will be available mainly through the website at this time but keep an eye out!

The guide costs $20 (plus postage). If you would like to buy a copy, either go to the Blomidon Naturalists website or contact Howard directly at gruncle.howard@gmail.com. To Carole, Howard, and all those who appreciation and promote our beautiful area: thank you!