A look around our local towns and the greenery is never far from view. Area gardening clubs and beautification committees have long made sure that there’s always a kaleidoscope of color to dress up our libraries, schools, town halls and other public spaces. Some stretching well back into the previous century, the missions go beyond just looking pretty. Behind the scenes:
Beautifying North Castle! Yellow Daffodils, New Street Signs & More
The North Castle Beautification Committee’s mission is to enhance the hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains and Banksville. The group, comprised of volunteers, has a limited budget provided by the town. They collaborate with the Parks and Recreation Department on most projects. Kevin Foley, the Department’s foreman, is very talented, and the committee appreciates his eye for design, as well as the Department’s labor.
With Spring just around the corner, expect an onslaught of yellow daffodils popping up around the hamlets of Armonk and North White Plains. The Committee continues to add new bulbs each Fall to create more beauty. Additionally, hanging baskets on Main Street, planted barrels and targeted areas around all three hamlets will be sporting colorful flowers.
The Committee doesn’t just beautify with flora, though. They have designed and implemented the installation of new street signs on the primary roads of the hamlets. This includes new welcome signage at entrance points of each hamlet. Also, the group was involved in the addition of two bronze statues–one in front of the Hergenhan Recreation Center, and one at the North Castle Community Center.
This year they’ll be adding three new picnic tables to Wampus Brook Park–two adult picnic tables (one being handicap accessible), and a mushroom-themed children’s table.
Committee members Angela Monforte and Carol Bidjarano both commented that they’re always looking for community input and welcome donations. If you live in any of the hamlets and are interested in joining and representing that hamlet, please contact Carol Bidjarano at 914-273-5353. — By Rich Monetti Photos Courtesy of the North Castle Beautification Committee
Briarcliff Manor: Where Gardening Endeavors Have a High Calling
The Briarcliff Manor Garden Club was founded in 1955 and its mission has remained constant. “The club’s purpose is to encourage interest in all phases of home gardening and to promote civic beautification, conservation and environmental concerns,” according to Club President Susan Zetkov-Lubin.
BMGC’s current pride and joy keeps the town on yellow alert. “We have a daffodil program, which started in 2014 and is called the BMGC Daffodil Expansion Project ,” said Zetkov-Lubin. “Since 2014, the garden club has planted 1200 daffodils within Briarcliff Manor and will continue to do so. They are particularly beautiful this time of year.”
Add in endeavors like the pollinator pathways program, butterfly gardens and the donation of Christmas decorations and wreaths to various buildings in the area, the town can’t help to feel the uplift. A sentiment that was never more necessary than when Covid reached our shores. “When the daffodils were coming up, we were getting phone calls like crazy because people needed to see that burst of color,” said Zetkov-Lubin. “A sign of hope that made people smile.”
Briarcliff Manor Center For Rehabilitation And Nursing knows the feeling. BMGC has volunteered monthly garden therapy at Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing for many years.
Unfortunately, Covid has prevented the club from entering since 2020 but members will be available when the green light comes. That said, zoom programs will probably become less in play and in person meetings and workshops will resume with the crisis now subsiding.
BMGC also keeps an eye on the future. “We try to set an example for kids,” said Zetkov-Lubin, and those are more than words.
The club raises money annually for local educational scholarships. “We find a senior, who is interested in pursuing a career in horticulture or at least major in the field,” she said.
The club’s Plant & White Elephant Sale will take place on May 7 at the Briarcliff Congregational Church, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. And then on June 3-4, the BMGC Standard Flower Show at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library will take place. The Club is calling the affair, “A June Wedding.”
But if the times don’t align for residents, the soil and the club is ready to have you whenever you are. You won’t be disappointed, according to Zetkov-Lubin. “It’s so satisfying because plants and flowers can bring you joy year after year after year,” she concluded.
Briarcliff Beautification Committee
Beautification efforts In Briarcliff Manor, alongside the town’s Sustainability Committee, include area kids who are involved in the New York State School Seedling Program. On the current curriculum, schools received the seedlings, decide where to plant and then they go out and break the soil. “It looks like they will plant the white pine seedlings at Briarcliff Middle School and High School,” said Dawn Orza, who is part of the Briarcliff Beautification Committee.
As such, the kids seek out the optimum angle of the sun, how to keep the spot free of weeds and safe from the deer. The youngsters then get a crash course in caterpillars. Milkweed, a necessary host plant for the crawler, the monarch butterfly is the result and yet another avenue to a healthy habitat.
Work that obviously agrees with Briarcliff’s Pollinator Pathways involvement. “It’s all interconnected,” said Orza.
Nonetheless, Briarcliff likes to indulge too, and the pleasing natural manicure that abounds has Orza’s full support. “It’s something I do every day,” said the resident landscape designer, “and if the town can use some guidance, I’m happy to share my expertise.”
For instance, recently intervention meant providing plant palette guidance alongside a new accessible ramp at the Village Hall where the thoroughfare was lined with native flowers and plants.
Department of Public Works and Recreation, the Mayor, Board of Trustees and Village manager all get into the act too. “We have a great working relationship,” said Orza.
Firmly in sync, the consortium also introduced aggressive native plants to curtail the spread of weeds in public plots; they continue beautification and connectivity at the Pocket Park. “The Department of Public Works removed the tired old plantings, and together we replanted several hundred native grasses, flowering plants and spring bulbs,” said Orza. “Right now, the seed heads from flowers feed the birds and look pretty interesting–even at this time of year.”
Of course, the amalgamation of club members and volunteers always have the initiative, and the past is the proof. The Garden Club dedicated a Blue Star Marker in the Pocket Park, which honors the armed forces.
In addition, after 9/11, the Community created an American Patriot Garden at Briarcliff High school. The respite serves as a place for reflection, a memorial to the victims and heroes and a reminder of the daily importance of human rights. The project was sponsored by the Lower Hudson-Long Island Resource Conservation and Development council in partnership with the State of New York.
“There are so many wonderful projects that community members have worked on together,” said Orza, and the strength of the community commitment means there’s no end in sight. –By Rich Monetti Photos Courtesy of the Briarcliff Garden Club
Harvesting the Rewards of the Chappaqua Garden Club: “Something for Everyone”
The Chappaqua Garden Club was established in 1928 and will be celebrating their 94th birthday this year! “The Club works to beautify New Castle and promote environmental education through our programs and community projects,” said Gwinne Porter, the Club president. A not-for-profit, the organization focuses on bringing knowledge to our members in the form of educational speakers and community outreach programs.
The programs were always in person, but since Covid, they have offered speakers on varied topics via Zoom. “Some of which have and will continue to be in partnership with the Chappaqua Library,” said Porter. “This has worked out well because partnering with the library has enabled us to broaden the scope of the people we can reach.”
Of course, events are free and open to the public, while the initiatives get into the nitty gritty with the kids too. At the library, there are programs for Juniors, and despite Covid restrictions, these offerings have continued. “We provide take home kits, and film instructional videos, guiding them through the project. All of which are plant and environment related,” said Porter.
The Gardening Club also engages with New Castle seniors on various activities like flower arranging. Last year, a garden at the Community Center was built. New Castle Seniors helped take care of it and got to harvest the rewards.
The group has continued to run popular flower-arranging classes virtually for members as well. In addition, they plan trips throughout the year, which have included New York Botanical Gardens, Wave Hill, and Stone Barns.
The Club started a Greeley Scholarship Program, which is now in its third year. In doing so, a scholarship award goes to two outstanding Greeley senior science students interested in pursuing a major in the field of plant study.
Many people move up to Chappaqua from the city or lower Westchester. They don’t necessarily know how to plant or what to plant and rightfully so, according to Porter. They join to learn, and members try and help. There are some very seasoned members who know so much about gardening and plants. Then there are those who don’t, so the aim is to be a garden club for everyone.
Either way, members like to share and show off their work. Open garden days have them visiting each other’s properties and sharing knowledge “You can find a whole group of people with shared interests,” Porter revealed.
Of course, the camaraderie, beauty and knowledge benefit the town. The Garden Club maintains the 9/11 Memorial at Gedney Park, takes care of the Pocket Park in the town and keeps up the many planters along our town streets. Thus, the beauty becomes second nature. “The Garden Club works together with the New Castle Beautification Board to select ideal plant choices for the Town containers.”
Pollinator Pathways also extends to the Garden Club, and getting the town engaged and informed is on the agenda. This has the Garden Club informing the community on the importance of planting native plants for the health and survival of our ecosystem. In accordance, forgoing harmful pesticides is in line with the pathway program to protect our wildlife. For example, poisoning mosquitoes and other pests only end up hurting the birds that eat them.
But with all the social isolation hopefully coming to an end, “if you ask our club members what they are most excited about, it is finally getting to meet in person once again,” concluded Porter.
To find out more about the Chappaqua Garden Club, and to register for events, go to their website, chappaquagardenclub.com. Follow them on Instagram @chappaquagardenclub. Members can also follow the Chappaqua Garden Club Facebook page for additional info and to stay on top of events. — Rich Monetti with Jennifer Prizer/Chappaqua Garden Club Photos Courtesy of the Chappaqua Garden Club
Pleasantville Garden Club Members Share the Multitude of Ways to Beautify a Town
The Pleasantville Garden Club, a community service organization founded in 1975 is a fast-growing group of over 100 members who are actively engaged in beautifying the Town of Mount Pleasant and Village of Pleasantville, educating children in the local schools, sharing their knowledge of gardening with each other, and working toward protecting our environment. President Helen Krasnow provides the guidance and support for the club’s dedication to the Mount Pleasant community.
A high priority of our club is beautification, with a year-round commitment to developing new gardens as well as maintaining and enhancing public spaces. The design, planting and maintenance is accomplished by the club’s membership in cooperation with the Parks Departments of Mt. Pleasant and the Village of Pleasantville. As you drive around our towns, you will see rose gardens, hamlet sign gardens, town clock gardens, a native plant garden at the Pleasantville Community Television Station and many more.
With the worldwide decline in the population of bees, butterflies, and other insects, our club is among a network of communities addressing this problem. “One of our objectives is to work to enhance the Pollinator Pathways program,” said Elsbeth Lindner, Publicity Committee Chair of the Pleasantville Garden Club. Last summer we held a Butterfly Fair to introduce a beautiful Butterfly Garden in Bradhurst Park. The garden offers nutrition for bees, birds, and especially butterflies through the planting of native plants, herbs, and vegetables. Many children and their parents came to the fair and enjoyed learning about butterflies through the many art and educational activities. Handouts, including “Simple Steps to Creating Pollinator-Friendly Yards” and a “Native Plant Resource Guide”, were distributed to all. Everyone was thrilled as they watched us release monarch butterflies that flew around and landed on flowers in the garden. We thank the Town of Mount Pleasant Recreation for their support.
At the club’s monthly meetings, visiting specialists discuss topics such as landscape design, native plants, and gardening with deer-resistant plants. Having a good number of knowledgeable master gardeners is one of the strengths of our club. Many presentations have been filmed and are available on PCTV, Pleasantville’s Public Access television station. These shows can be viewed on their website: www.pctv76.org/video/2756/.
Our website, www.pleasantvillegardenclub.org contains all the information about the club including the monthly meetings, gardening resources, and three-to-five-minute videos starring garden club members who share their expertise in various topics. You can also follow the club on Facebook @Pleasantville Garden Club Group and Instagram @pleasantvillegardenclub.
Pleasantville Garden Club’s incredible Annual Plant Sale occurs each year on the Saturday before Mother’s Day at Memorial Plaza, next to the Pleasantville Farmers Market. This year the sale will be held on May 7th from 8 am to 12 pm. Gardeners will find member-grown, proven perennials; hundreds of annuals; vegetables and herbs; plush hanging baskets; and numerous gift ideas for Mother’s Day. Our many knowledgeable Master Gardeners will be there to offer educated gardening advice. All the proceeds are used for beautification and conservation projects in our towns, and to support the environmental education programs in our local schools. The sale is so successful because of the hard work of the Plant Sale Committee and the hands-on help of every member.
In the spring and summer, we delight in sharing our gardens with other members. The property can be large and expansive with beds of wildflowers and perennials or small and personal with colorful patio containers. Each offers insight into personal style and preference. We also visit public gardens including dahlias at Stonecrop Gardens, daffodils and hydrangeas at Wave Hill, peonies at the Peony Envy Farms, and many more. Each visit is an enjoyable learning experience.
The Pleasantville Garden Club supports STEM education at the three Mt. Pleasant middle schools: Pleasantville, Westlake, and Valhalla. The programs are provided by the Science Barge of Groundwork Hudson Valley, based in Yonkers. Their environmental educators interact with the students on a variety of eco-friendly programs.
In addition to all the wonderful events and garden commitments, a monthly newsletter called The Inside Dirt is sent to each member. Filled with photos and gardening hints and tips, the newsletter gives all the information each member needs to keep up with the club’s activities, accomplishments, and undertakings. Plus, it keeps the members abreast of future meetings, presentations, pursuits, and obligations.
The Pleasantville Garden Club received recognition for its multifaceted work in the community. In 2019, Club was awarded the “Public Service Award” by the Westchester Recreation and Parks. We continue to be dedicated to the practice of horticulture, beautification, environmental protection, education, and friendship. We are eager to serve our community and welcome others to join us.
We are reminded of the Audrey Hepburn quote, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” — Info and Photos Courtesy of the Pleasantville Garden Club
Plant Sales for Mother’s Day!
In Briarcliff Manor, the Plant & White Elephant Sale will take place on May 7 at the Briarcliff Congregational Church, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. And then on June 3-4, the BMGC Standard Flower Show at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library will take place. The Club is calling the affair, “A June Wedding.”
Chappaqua will hold its annual Plant Sale from May 5th – May 7th at the Chappaqua Train Station, over Mother’s Day weekend. “What is most rewarding about the sale,” Club President Gwinne Porter said, “is not just the selling of plants to the community and raising funds for our programs but the way we help answer questions about what plants are best for specific locations. Shade vs. sun, wet vs. dry, our members want to help the community make the right decisions so as to be successful gardeners.”
In Pleasantville, the Annual Plant Sale will be held Saturday, May 7th, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Memorial Plaza, next to the Pleasantville Farmers Market Gardeners will find member-grown, proven perennials; hundreds of annuals; vegetables and herbs; plush hanging baskets; and numerous gift ideas for Mother’s Day. Knowledgeable Master Gardeners will be there to offer educated gardening advice. All proceeds are used for town beautification and conservation projects and to support school environmental education programs.