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05/03/2017 08:30 AM

Janice Meinsen: Gardening with a Sense of Pride

Gardening is more than a passion for Janice Meinsen, it’s a way to help shape her community. Photo by Matthew DaCorte/The Courier

For Janice Meinsen, being a member of the Daytime Gardeners of North Haven isn’t just about having a way to fulfill a hobby. It also gives her a sense of civic pride by making the town look good.

Janice has always been interested in flowers and gardening, noting that her parents always had flowers planted outside their house. She first noticed the Daytime Gardeners group after attending a standard flower show in 2011.

“It was very interesting what they had shown there,” says Janice, “I asked if I could join, and did.”

If someone drives past the intersection of Clintonville Road and Washington Avenue, they might notice a patch of land on each side that has a flowers planted. That work was done by the Daytime Gardeners, and Janice had a hand in helping get those plots of land set up.

That portion of land is actually owned by the state, and Janice detailed the process of how the group was able to get access to it.

“We had to get a permit through the town Public Works Department, and we had to meet certain criteria for the plants that were proposed there,” Janice says, “They had to be height restricted and not interfere with the site line, and we had to provide a schematic of the plants as we saw fit to do them.”

Don’t put a sign up in front of the area, though.

“We were told no signage is permitted on state owned property,” says Janice.

Janice says she is impressed with the accessibility and follow-through of elected officials in town, and gave an example of State Representative Dave Yaccarino as someone who has helped the club.

“He actually came down and helped dig holes for the initial planting,” Janice says, “He continues to be our go-to man when the grass surrounding the garden gets too high. He makes a few phone calls and in a few days it’s mowed.”

While a lot of hard work went into getting the garden started, such as taking out weeds and raking, the response from town residents helps with the satisfaction.

“Sometimes motorists go by and they’ll toot the horn and give us thumbs up and say ‘thank you,’ and that makes it all worthwhile,” Janice says.

Janice says the group gets a satisfying feeling and a sense of civic pride for doing the work, but it’s always nice to get a thank you for the hard work they do. She said that one of the tellers at the bank near the garden tells her that she admires the work the group has done, and would occasionally go out to water the plants.

Janice says each member of the group has different talents, in addition to gardening, that help benefit the group. Having a background in sales, Janice says she enjoys talking with people who are in a position to make things happen to benefit the club in a good way.

She says that the group’s holiday and Christmas wreath project is its main fundraiser, and she helps with selling those wreaths.

“We create door wreaths from fresh greens, decorate, and we can custom design,” Janice says, “So we use that money to buy the bulbs, the flowers, and the shrubs that we plant around the town.”

The initial costs for plants and materials for the intersection garden was $1,125, and Janice helped raise funds by talking to local business, organizations, and nurseries for donations.

She also likes to take pictures and write, so that made her a perfect fit for the publicity committee, where she will take pictures and write articles to submit to newspapers to get publicity for the group.

In 2014, the club received The Sears Civic Beautification Award, a regional award open to garden clubs in New England, for their work on the intersection garden.

They also received a Civic Development Award of Excellence for the same project from The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, which the group is a member of.

When not helping with Daytime Gardeners activities, one can find Janice taking aerobic swimming classes at the town’s Recreation Center, or playing bocce at the senior center on Pool Road. She also vacations to California every winter, where she likes to get involved in competitive team lawn bowling.

The Daytime Gardeners currently has 13 members, and is always looking for new ones. Janice encourages anyone interested to come as a guest to one of their meetings, which are held every fourth Tuesday of the month at the Parks & Recreation Department.

“We have lecturers who come in and fill us in on wildlife, birdlife, floral plantings—anything to do with gardening that would be a pertinent subject,” Janice says, “The camaraderie is great and you learn lots of things from other members.”