NCGC's Ramble through the Archives notes that as long ago as 1960 the Garden Club made Christmas Wreaths for the Elm Street light poles and a giant wreath for the Post Office. By 1976, the effort had expanded to include a wreath for the Library. The Garden Club and Garden Center of New Canaan - now the New Canaan Beautification League - joined forces in 1997 to make the town holiday decorations. While we no longer decorate the light poles, volunteers from both groups still gather for one early December morning, bringing tools and cut greens, to assemble the wreaths. The clubs also decorate the potted evergreens on either side of the Town Hall front doors. At least 30 volunteers participate each year in this spirit-lifting start to the holiday season.
As a member club of the Garden Club of America, we are committed to its purpose of civic improvement. In our local club's Constitution, it is our goal that “active” members regularly participate in monthly meetings, workshops, at least one administrative or civic committee and at least one civic project. Below is a summary of the history and current commitments of our civic projects.
The Holiday Arrangements for Meals on Wheels and the New Canaan Inn developed three years ago as a natural extension of the annual Christmas Wreath Making workshop. Using the small greens pieces left from the large wreaths made for public Town Buildings, we create miniature arrangements for Meals on Wheels trays and centerpieces for dining tables at the New Canaan Inn. Simple floral arrangements made with greens combined with flowers bring holiday cheer early in the season to many senior and homebound citizens.
Each year Garden Club members decorate trees and wreaths for the annual Holiday Stroll held in downtown New Canaan prior to the holiday season. The trees surround the stage for Santa's arrival and the wreaths decorate the New Canaan Playhouse windows. After the Stroll, the trees are donated to the town’s Social Services for New Canaan families in need.
The Horticultural Therapy Program at Waveny Care Center is in its 41st year. Established when Waveny opened in 1975, professionally trained volunteers, including several New Canaan Garden Club members, eatablished a weekly routine with residents to work on plant-related activities. The original program won several awards, including in 1981 a Certificate of Achievement from the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut.
Today, NCGC volunteers continue to meet once a month from September through June at Waveny Care Center. They assist WCC rescidents in the creation of floral centerpieces for the dining room as well as guide the Adult Day Care participants in a variety of gardening, flower arranging and related activities. Over the years seniors have created pave floral arrangements, propagated jade and coleus plants, crafted miniature terrariums and forced narcissus bulbs as well as decorated wreaths for the holidays. Great joy is found in both the activity and the item to take home!
The small Horticultural Therapy Committee functions well with 4-6 dedicated volunteers each month.
The New Canaan Garden Club Irwin Park Committee installed five (5) new trees at the Park entrance with the help of the town backhoe and Parks Superintendent John Howe, Highway Superintendent Mose Saccary and Tiger Mann on Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
In 2005 our garden club members accepted the stewardship of New Canaan's newest park on Weed Street from the Irwin Family when our club members were given an endowment fund to continue the beautification of the property/park and improve the quality of life in our already special town. The garden club gladly collaborates with the Park and Recreation Commission, the Office of Selectman and the Public Works crew on the maintenance and beautification.
Annually improvements and new projects have been undertaken using the funds. Although the latest path extension this past spring 2014 was funded by monies previously raised specifically for the original one mile path. New benches, chairs, picnic benches, a gazebo, thousands of daffodils on the great lawn and numerous trees have been planted to the delight of all who jog, ride bicycles, walk with their dogs and just rest along the paths and on the Great Lawn beyond the apple orchard. Additional open space provides playing fields for sports on weekends and a special Children's Mushroom Maze Garden is tucked in near the charming, old barn. Bluebird houses are sprinkled around the property in the meadows.
The Gores Pavilion, which was the original pool house on the property, designed by one of the famed "Harvard Five" architects, has been independently restored by the New Canaan Historical Society and is open to visitors Friday through Sunday, May through October 11:00-3:00 with changing photography exhibits.
The Irwin Park property is listed annually in "The Garden Conservancy Open Days Directory" along with another New Canaan Garden Club restored civic project- The Walled Garden designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted adjacent to Waveny House in Waveny Park.
The New Canaan Garden Club founded in 1909 has been a member of The Garden Club of America since 1920.
Our club has maintained the Historical Society gardens for at least 20 years. During New Canaan's Jubilee in 1981, our club restored the 18th-century Herb Garden and the perennial beds. Shirley Bird, a NCGC member since 1973, tended the Roger Studio perennial and shrub bed for years; it was rededicated in her name in June 2005. NCGC volunteers regularly weed and water the Shirley Bird garden, full of peonies, hydrangea, abelia, iris and other perennials. The Herb Garden contains a collection of herbs used in colonial times. Staff include the garden on tours and use its contents in programs. Judy Hopkins recently renovated the vegetable garden on site. Committee members are updating their research on plant material of colonial times in order to enhance further the current gardens.
NCGC's involvement at Waveny Care Center is longstanding, starting when the center opened. Over the following 25 years, NCGC members have brought the beauty and joy of flowers to the Waveny residents. Today, Mary Tanzi, following the tradition of Allison Caesar, who retired after more than 30 years, continues weekly to create flower arrangements for the front hallway and other public spaces. Regularly, Sheila McMann tends the indoor garden located by the lounge, which includes Norfolk Island pine, aglaoanema, chlorophylum dieffenbachia, dracaena, jade and philodendron. She adds special plants for Christmas and Easter. For 18 years a dedicated NCGC member, Jackie Fearey, organized volunteers each week to create flower arrangements for the dining room tables. Today, the Garden Club's civic commitment is limited to providing arrangements for the front hall and other public spaces as well as for the dining room tables for four weeks, three times a year – in January, April and July. Volunteers are always needed to support this commitment. It is a fun activity to do with one or more partners.
Funds were raised in the spring of 2013 to help restore the Peony Walk in Waveny Park. The first phase consisted of simply clearing masses of weeds and extraneous plant material from the peony beds and trimming dead wood and weeding under the row of Japanese maples opposite the peonies. Near the fountain we had the Barbary thorn and dead Miss Kim lilacs removed. Later this fall we will replant the area near the fountain with small boxwood and holly according to plan drawn up by our own Laura Case. Additional peonies will be planted where gaps exist. By next spring the Peony Walk will be complete, adding a new area of beauty to the overall splendor of the park.
The Waveny Walled Garden was originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted's firm as a formal rose garden. In 1995 a committee of Garden Club horticulture devotees redesigned the garden as a Wedding Garden. Alice Parker, then President, spearheaded the renovation fund raising effort. The design today incorporates roses in a long rose border along one side. The remaining three sides, bordered by brick walks, showcase deep herbaceous borders that include perennials, small trees, flowering shrubs, bulbs and annuals. Three seasons of the year this very special space is used weekly for weddings and special events. The garden is now included on the Garden Conservancy's list of Visiting Gardens. In this civic endeavor, we co-partner with the Town of New Canaan; the Park and Recreation Department manages usage of the garden and the Garden Club is responsible for the weekly maintenance. We ask volunteers to make a once-a-month commitment, with each visit to the garden lasting about one hour. Some volunteer for a Thursday morning or afternoon slot and others for a Friday morning time. We hope to see you in the garden, as there is much to learn and to enjoy.