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The Old Saybrook Garden Club’s May Market, its only fundraiser held each year, will be on May 10 and 11 on the town green. (Photo by Susan Lambert/Zip06.com )
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Driving along Route 1, spring flowers are popping up everywhere: in the median strips, on the town greens. If you've seen them, you've likely appreciated the work of your local garden club. The clubs are an offshoot of early 20th century women's clubs—think white gloves and tea parties. Most are members of the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut. The club's goals are to maintain high garden club standards, protect natural resources, preserve local heritage, and promote civic beauty. If you're interested in getting your hands a little dirty, here's a list of local garden clubs in the area:
The Arbor Garden Club of Clinton sponsors its Festival of Trees and Wreaths silent auction as part of Christmas in Clinton; proceeds support a scholarship. During the Clinton Art Society's annual summer exhibit, members create floral designs inspired by the paintings. The club provides centerpieces for the opening receptions of the Art Show and the Opera Theater of Connecticut, says club president Virginia Casanova. It maintains the planters along Main Street and Indian River Landing in Clinton, and presents gardening talks on various subjects. For info, call 203-710-0133.
The Branford Garden Club maintains two public gardens at the Harrison House, along with the Mae McCabe Daylily Garden and the Veterans' Memorial Garden on the Town Green. "We also help maintain Rosenthal Gardens, which surrounds the affordable housing in the town of Branford," says Nancy Iannotti. The club plants flower baskets at the Town Green and the Blackstone Library, and last fall hosted a flower show in Stony Creek. For info, contact email@example.com.
"The Chester Garden Club gets involved in town beautification projects, including planting and maintaining several gardens and planters," says Margo Novak. Recent projects include planting daffodils and replacing shrubs at the cemetery downtown, partnering with the Chester War Memorial Committee to replace planters, and working with garden centers and Rotarians to plant new shrubs around the gazebo at the Chester Meeting House. The club offers a scholarship, too. For info, call 860-526-9929.
The Daytime Gardeners of North Haven has helped girl scouts document seedling growth and redesign a garden at Clintonville Elementary School. "You have to think about the soil and sun exposure, and think about the size of the mature plants," says Sally Brockett. The club co-sponsored a Blue Star Memorial with red, white, and blue flowers on the Town Green, and installed a xeriscape garden (which requires little to no watering). Each spring, members plant flowers at the library and assemble a recommended reading list. For info, call 203-239-1557.
The Deep River Garden Club has been in existence for more than 100 years. It holds annual plantings at Veterans' Memorial Green, Devitt Field, the Deep River Library, and other locations. "We also plant daffodils to all areas of Deep River, so make sure you drive by in late March and see Deep River blooming with yellow," says Lori Gregan. The group holds its Pretty Pansy Sale the day before Easter, and again at Family Day. The club holds its Mad Hatter event on Friday, July 26. "We wear fabulous hats, and dance on the library lawn," says Gregan. For info, visit facebook.com/deeprivergardenclub.
The Essex Garden Club holds its May Market on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 at Essex Town Park. "Any of the revenue that comes from that we give back to scholarships and other civic projects we do," says Augie Pampel. The club will be selling garlic salt and 1,200 perennial plants from members' gardens. "This year we'll also have a couple local artists painting at the event," Pampel added. In addition to town decorations, "I have a special little project that's kind of close to my heart: a garden at the Essex Vets Club," says Pampel. For info, call 203-640-9606 or visit essexgardenclubct.org.
The Evergreen Garden Club of Killingworth cares for the Killingworth traffic circle, a garden at the Black Rock Schoolhouse, and a veterans' garden at Town Hall. The club's main fundraiser is a plant sale held the Saturday before Mother's Day at Parmelee Farm. "We have a variety of plants from members' gardens, terrariums and dish gardens, as well as some commercially grown hanging plants," says Trin Walton. The club holds an annual meeting with a speaker that is free to the public, and it offers an annual scholarship. For info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Guilford Garden Club is celebrating its 80th anniversary. "Over the last 10 years, in conjunction with Greening of Guilford, we have sponsored the planting of 184 trees," says Donna Boivin. The club maintains planters at City Hall, the Town Green, and the Post Office. It provides flowers for the Hyland House, Griswold House, and hospice therapy. At the holiday tree lighting, it holds a Christmas Boutique as well as the Broad Street Candlelight Walk. "We place wreaths on each door, and lights and garlands along the street," says Boivin. For info, contact email@example.com.
Established in 1924, the Garden Club of Madison plants daffodils at East Wharf Beach and at Salt Meadow Park. Another project is repositioning gravestones at the West Cemetery. "There is an ongoing project to repair the antique historic tablets there," says Marilyn Shaw. "We have also planted pin oaks to shade picnic tables at Salt Meadow." The club maintains civic gardens at the Deacon John Grave House, the Wildflower Walk, East Wharf Beach, the Veterans' Memorial Garden, and the Allis-Bushnell House. For info, visit gcmct.org.
The North Haven Garden Club recently expanded the Todd's Pond Perennial Pollinator Garden and added a xeriscape with more than 35 varieties of perennials. This spring, the club is launching a Junior Gardening program, and members will install more than 30 planters in town. You can spot their work at Green Acres School, Montowese School, and Ridge Road School. "Every year we plant a tree somewhere in town for Arbor Day," says Cindy Golia. For info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Old Saybrook Garden Club was founded in 1952. "Our one and only fundraiser is the May Gardeners' Market," says Sue Loiselle. "We sell flowers, herbs, vegetables, member plants, baked items, and much more." Proceeds help maintain the Main Street median gardens, Constitution Garden, Firehouse Garden, Police Department planters, and Acton Library planters. The club also holds a Street Garden Program, which encourages local businesses to beautify their exteriors. Currently, more than 70 businesses participate. The club awards an annual scholarship. For info, call 860-395-1268 or visit facebook.com/oldsaybrookgardenclub.
The Shoreline Community Garden Club works to beautify and improve East Haven, including the fountain on Main Street, the front of Town Hall, the memorials on the Town Green and the Beach House, and a garden at the Town Animal Shelter. "Suggestions for new locations for improvement and beautification are always welcome, as well as new members," says Sue Lowe. For info, call 203-507-2095.
The Westbrook Garden Club's focus is its Spot Minder Program, maintaining more than 40 planters. The club holds educational programs and two fundraisers: the May Market held on the Saturday after Mother's Day, and the Fall Garden Market. Proceeds support a local scholarship. "We have one additional project we have begun working on and that is our 60th anniversary community project to create a meadow at the Westbrook Salt Island Overlook," added Rachel McNellis. For info, visit westbrookct.us/244/westbrook-garden-club.
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