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.
Kris Johnson and Stephanie Radman had been delivering meals to the Meals on Wheels of New Canaan clients for the past few years. A few years ago, they took it upon themselves to cut flowers from their own gardens to give to the Meals on Wheels clients when they delivered the meals. The small gift of a single flower really meant a lot to the Meals on Wheels clients. The flowers brought big smiles to their faces and made a real difference in their lives.
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.
Since 1960, the Garden Club has convened each December to make large holiday wreaths for our downtown area and buildings. In 1976, we joined forces with the New Canaan Beautification League. As a result of this collaboration, we have expanded our wreath-making efforts, and our beautiful wreaths now adorn the entrances to Town Hall, the Police Department, the Library, the Train Station,
and the Nature Center.
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 was established when Waveny opened in 1975. Professionally trained volunteers, including several New Canaan Garden Club members, met weekly with residents to work on plant-related activities. The original program won several awards, including a Certificate of Achievement from the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut in 1981.
Opened in 2005, Irwin Park is best described as a people sanctuary, with benches and chairs scattered among its vast lawns, fields and orchards. An environmentally friendly Flexi-pave trail, funded privately by the community, loops for almost a mile around the Park’s 36 acres offering a safe place for residents to walk, jog, ride bicycles, and even cross-country ski. The Great Lawn provides a wonderful place to simply relax – pack a picnic and sit among the thousands of daffodils added annually by the New Canaan Garden Club (NCGC). Dogs are welcome and must be leashed at all times. The park is open every day from dawn to dusk.
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 Barberry thorn and dead Miss Kim lilacs removed and replaced them with small boxwood and holly according to a plan drawn up by NCGC’s own Laura Case.
NCGC’s involvement at Waveny Care Center is longstanding, starting when the center opened over 40 years ago. Championed and nurtured by pioneer flower volunteer and NCGC member Allison Caesar, the volunteer-based flower program now has greater participation than ever. Many local organizations in town and neighboring towns are involved and send volunteers at the beginning of each week to create beautiful floral designs who then return over the days to follow to change water, making sure all flowers remain fresh for the week. These arrangements adorn the dining rooms, reception areas, nursing stations and various common areas at Waveny.
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 fundraising 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.
The NCGC has maintained the New Canaan Historical Society garden for 30 years. It is made up of the Shirley Bird perennial garden and an 18th century Colonial herb garden, which was recently redesigned and enlarged in 2011/12 and completed in 2014/15 with brick pathways and new plantings. It is used for educational purposes for the School House, part of the Historical Society’s property and visiting schools as well as being open to the general public.