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March Happenings

It’s safe to say that spring is in the air. Even though that air might feel damp and cold today and snow clouds are hovering overhead, most of us are sensing a certain optimism that we’ll soon be poking around in our gardens again. All we have to do is look for the early bulbs popping out of the soil in our sunny beds for evidence.

James Brewer, our February speaker, showed us what can be achieved in our landscapes this summer – if we are amazingly talented or if we have him design our gardens. Attendees enjoyed slides of his spectacular landscape design work, along with his descriptions of the projects and of his transition from novice English gardener to established New England landscape designer.

In addition to an interesting selection of very healthy houseplants and tempting homemade snacks, Linda S. provided servings of Green Goddess soup for members. She has shared the recipe for this delicious (and very green) soup – it can be found in the Recipe Box on the website. (Thanks to Patti S. & Ann H. for the photos.)

As a followup to his appearance at our meeting, James Brewer sent us this note:
‘Dear ladies / members of the Stratham & Exeter Garden Club’.

I wanted to send you all a huge thank you for making Bill and I feel so welcome and staying awake while I talked to you all today.
Thank you for the opportunity to share a snippet of my story and discuss some of my gardens both large and small.
I wish you well for the coming season and hope you all enjoy your gardens, have good health and bountiful blooms in 2022…

Cheers,
James & Mr. Billster…

Club News:
Our Budget Committee met on March 3rd to draw up a budget for next year. The membership will be voting on the budget at the May meeting. In the meantime, there are a few vacancies on the board for committee chairs for next year. If you are interested in getting to know more members or becoming more involved, please contact Linda S. to discuss the positions that are available. Current and former board members will tell you that being on the board is the “funnest” part of being a garden club member. And if you’re interested in helping out on the Nominating Committee, there is still time to sign up, by contacting Linda S.

Our club is very excited to announce that, in conjunction with the Exeter Library, we’ll be hosting horticulturalist and garden historian John Forti, on May 24th at 6PM in the library’s Meeting Room. He will be giving a talk on heirloom gardening. John has directed gardens for Plimoth Plantation Museum, Strawberry Banke Museum, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and Bedrock Gardens. He also serves as a regional Slow Food Governor and biodiversity specialist for Slow Food USA. Here is a synopsis of his presentation:

The Heirloom Gardener – Traditional Plants and Skills is John Forti’s newest presentation.  It draws from his new book of traditional plants and skills for the modern world.  Richly illustrated with period images and contemporary woodcuts, his PowerPoint shares inspiration from our long history of heirloom preservation, garden craft and homestead lifeways.  Artisanal gardening lifestyles that are helping us to rebuild vibrant local agricultural economies and celebrate sustainable cottage industries that are contributing to our new, homegrown American arts & crafts movement and backyard environmentalism.  At a time when we could all use a little good news, we hope you will join us for a refreshing look at how you can make a difference and build habitat in your own backyard and community. 

He also has a book. These days, we all need some good news and a way to participate in meaningful change. The Heirloom Gardener-Traditional Plants and Skills for the Modern World is a book for gardeners who want to deepen their knowledge and improve life for families, pollinators and wildlife in their own backyards.  It’s a love poem to the earth; a map to the art of living intentionally and a guidepost for environmental gardeners and artisans.  It unearths old-ways, storied plants and artisanal life-skills; like seed-saving, herbalism, foraging, distillation, ethnobotany and organics which contribute to a new 21st century arts and crafts movement. With woodcuts from Caldecott Medal VT artist Mary Azarian, The Heirloom Garden offers a dose of wild hope for a weary nation. It is available through this link.

“A Garden for Pollinators & Wildlife: Natural Landscaping for a Better Yard” is a program being offered at the Brentwood Library on Tuesday, March 15 from 7 to 8 pm. The talk will be presented by Vicki J. Brown, NH Natural Resources Steward, Pollinator Pathways NH Organizing Founder and Speaking for Wildlife volunteer. She will provide insights on ways to attract butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife to your yard. You can sign up by clicking here.

Did you realize that saffron, that pricey and difficult-to-access spice is now being grown in New England? Here’s an interesting article, provided by Linda S., that explains the how and the where of local saffron: Why the Most Expensive Spice in the World Is Now Growing in Hundreds of Small American Farms.

February Happenings

Members who attended our January General Meeting learned all about herbs from Sarah Marcoux of the UNH Extension office, took advantage of our Sales Table, met a new member, and of course, enjoyed homemade refreshments compliments of our Hospitality Committee.

We also got a close-up look at Karen W.’s impressive landscaping plan for the American Independence Museum in Exeter. As many of you know, an EAGC committee is working with the museum to rejuvenate their landscaping, in particular the beds in front of the building. Our club, as well as the museum, are very fortunate to have Karen’s expertise as a landscape designer in creating a plan for beautiful, historical, and practical garden beds. Although some of our members may choose to volunteer some maintenance, the bulk of the bed installation will be handled by a landscaping company – good news for those of us who no longer relish doing the heavy lifting!

A portion of the site plan

Garden Design will be the topic at our February 17 general meeting. Our speaker, James Brewer, is a landscape designer who has been working within gardens since his boyhood years in England. He came from a sleepy village in Northamptonshire with natural stone thatch collages, an 18th century church ringing its lethargic bell and an abundance of wildlife within its rolling fields. Influenced by his surroundings James started his landscaping business in England in 1995 by lawn mowing and weeding, certainly humble beginnings.

A unique garden project in 2006 led to his enthusiastic personality and work catching the eye of the BBC and various publications in garden magazines.  In 2014, James moved to New Hampshire and embarked on a steep learning curve with our climate and vastly different plants.  In a short time, James has helped dozens of clients achieve new gardens and several ‘Signature’ projects throughout the state. 

These include a small Pocket / Courtyard Garden in Portsmouth; Downton Abbey / Baroque creation in Dover; and a ‘Testimony in Granite’ garden, which is a ‘Wolfe-henge’ style garden in the mountains of Wolfeboro overlooking Lake Wentworth.  Each of his designs are highly unique and combine aspects of classical English garden design while embracing the best plants and materials available to us in New Hampshire. We’re certain to see photos of some of James’ lovely gardens.

It’s that time of the club year when a Nominating Committee is formed to look for new officers and committee chairs. Although many will be returning to their positions, there will be some openings. Linda S. is asking members to contact her if they are interested in serving on the board and/or being on the Nominating Committee. On March 3rd, the Budget Committee will be meeting to prepare a budget for next year. If you chair a committee, please submit your budget request to Susan C. before then. And if you’d like to serve on the Budget Committee, contact Susan or Linda.

Although the Environment & Conservation Committee has put their traditional Mini-Grant program on hiatus for the year, they have been busy formulating a Pollinator Corridor grant plan in conjunction with the Exeter Library’s speaker program. The grants of $100 will be available to Exeter residents who will use the funds to plant pollinator-friendly seeds or plants in an effort to create a pollinator corridor in Exeter. More details about the grants will be available soon.

For those of us who are weary of the winter whiteness, here’s something colorful to feast our eyes on. The Amercan Horticultural Society has released its new plant recommendations for 2022. Even if we never plant one of these beauties, it’s uplifting just to look at the pictures. Click on this link and enjoy.

Photo by Skyler Ewing from Pexels

January Happenings

In this edition we’ll, be reviewing some holiday fun in addition to updating the club’s January plans. One of the most anticipated December events is Betsy’s Swap Shop Yankee Swap, a one-of-a-kind holiday celebration replete with one-of-a-kind “gifts” for every participant. Betsy hosted some members who were new to the swap shop experience, providing extra entertainment for everyone. And as usual, she outdid herself with a table overflowing with homemade goodies.

Promise Tree News: As we start a new season, the Promise Tree is offering tea wallets and Wonder Wallets by LuAnn and homemade soups from Linda S. She makes hearty soups, stews and chilis and will offer them at $8 per 24 oz. container.
Linda has offered to bring one container of soup to the next meeting for those interested. Probably a ham, chorizo and white bean stew. Please order by contacting Linda, as she is limited to 3 for this month.
Do you have some Christmas gifts you would like to pass on? Our Sale table will continue into the New Year and we look forward to your unique offerings.

Vicki has recommended checking out Pollinator Pathways, an organization dedicated to establishing pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinating insects and wildlife. They provide resources for learning more about planting pollinator-friendly gardens. Click on this link for information on programs and activities in the local area.

While we’re talking about pollinators, “My Garden of a Thousand Bees” is a PBS video recommended by Ann H. It’s “a story of surprise and revelation. A wildlife cameraman spends his time during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown filming the bees in his urban garden and discovers the many diverse species and personalities that exist in this insect family.” This is available on Amazon Prime for $5.99 or go to this link.

Our January 20th general meeting will be held in person at the Stratham Fire Station. The meeting will include a discussion of the video presentations on Microgreens that we were able to view on January 3rd and 12th. Be sure to check out the Promise Tree for new leaves while you’re there. Our Sales Table will also be set up.

Many of us fondly remember Terri Donsker, a club member for many years, who was also an extraordinary gardener, photographer, and nature lover. In fact, many of us treasure the plant cuttings (especially succulents!) and small Stewartia trees she generously shared. I just happened upon an article by Terri in “The Cook’s Cook”, a digital food magazine published by Denise Landis, another former club member and president. Terri’s article is titled “Suet, Seeds and Safety: Feeding Birds in Winter” and includes several of her recipes for homemade suet balls. Click on this link to see her recipes and some of her wonderful photography.

December Happenings

There have been so many club events this month — and members have definitely been taking advantage of the long-awaited opportunity to gather and enjoy each other’s company! Although holiday events are still ongoing, here’s a photo recap of some of the fun that’s already taken place.

The Civic Beautification Committee kicked off the season by meeting to decorate the Exeter Historical Society building. If you’ve ever helped with this project, you know how rewarding it is to work with such a talented and enjoyable group of women. The end result is always impressive (and greatly appreciated by the Historical Society.)

Our November general meeting was another success. Hospitality provided a tempting table of snacks, our Promise Tree was sprouting some interesting new leaves, and Ann H. of the Horticulture Committee, presented a fact-filled Hort Moment that educated us all about Joe Pye weed. All of this was followed by an enlightening talk by our speaker, Jillian Arquette-Gallagher who owns Fruition Flowers, where she grows flowers to supply local vendors. We all learned a lot about the environmental benefits of buying flowers grown locally.

The Design & Hort Committee hosted a pinecone wreath workshop this month – resulting in some wonderful wreaths, just in time for the holidays. Thanks to Ann H. for the photos.

Members were in a festive mood at the annual Holiday Luncheon at the beautifully decorated Wentworth Country Club. Delicious food, wonderful company, a holiday poem from the Hospitality Committee (apologies to Clement Moore), and a gift exchange made the event special.

On the calendar for January: more photos of Holiday fun and our January 20th UNH Extension Master Gardener presentation.

Notice: The club is in need of an official photographer – someone who plans to attend most, or many, club events and would be willing to document the activity with photos. Ann H. has been providing us with exceptional photos, but she already wears many hats for the club and should not have to feel responsible for photos. No great skill is required for this position – if you look at the three luncheon photos above, you can see that the need is dire and anything would be an improvement.

Wishing All Happy and Healthy Holidays!

November Happenings

The holidays are approaching (very quickly, it seems) and the club calendar is filling up with special activities. Some email information has already gone out – decorating the Historical Society, Holiday Luncheon, and Design Workshop – and more plans are in the works.

But let’s backtrack for a moment. Last month’s speaker, Jeanne Davidson, may win a gold medal for most enthusiastic presentation and best props. She also provided us with loads of advice on how to protect our backs as we garden. Jeanne’s demonstrations were spot on (see photos) and she got members up off their seats to practice her techniques.

The meeting room at the Mogera Library was appropriately fall-like, thanks to the Hospitality Committee’s efforts. The creatively decorated centerpiece pumpkin, provided by Pat Navin, was auctioned off at meeting’s end.

A highlight of the meeting was the return of the Hort Table. Many members scoured their fall gardens for anything beautiful and/or interesting and the result was a surprisingly large, colorful, and varied assortment.

Our November meeting promises to be just as colorful, as we’ll be hearing Jillian Arquette-Gallagher speak on “The Importance of Local Flowers.” Jillian is owner of Fruition Flowers in Newmarket, NH. She has been drawn to flowers from a young age and creates memorable arrangements for a range of events. Her education in color and design lends a unique approach to floral arrangements. Like the bees, she gathers inspiration from the seasonal charm of New England. She uses as many foraged and locally cultivated materials as possible.

The meeting will be this Thursday, the 18th, at the Morgera Room at the Stratham Fire Department; doors open at 9, snacks at 9:30, meeting at 10. Don’t forget to bring your own beverage!

Promise Tree News: There will be a signup sheet at the Nov.18 meeting for a Cookie Swap which is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 20, from 2 to 4pm, at Susan C.’s home. The swap will be limited to 15 members. Participants are asked to bring 60 cookies and an extra container for their take-home cookies. All members of the Ways and Means committee will meet briefly after the Nov, meeting to finalize plans for the Cookie Swap.

Also, club members are asked to “make a promise”. We welcome new leaves on our Promise Tree with “gifts” of your choosing.

The Website Committee is planning an update of the site, with the hopes of making it more streamlined and user-friendly for members. One change you may have already noticed – the “Garden Talk” blog is now named “Happenings”. Everything else about the blog remains the same. In the future, some pages on the site may be eliminated, but advance notice will always be given.

We would love to have more input about how the website should look. If you have suggestions or would like to be involved in this re-vamp, contact LuAnn.

If you are planning to attend the Holiday Luncheon and have not signed up yet, please bring a check for $35 to the Nov. 18th meeting. Jill C. will be collecting them there.

A note from Abbie-Jane about the October meeting:

Enjoyed the program on Thursday. I’ve been practicing on my straight back gardening.
A big thank you to the member who brought in the pineapple vase. It graces my mantle.