Happenings – Holiday Edition

We have so many photos to share of our many recent activities that a special Happenings edition became necessary. Let’s begin with a recent and festive event – our annual Holiday Luncheon, held at the warm & welcoming Wentworth Country Club. Our very talented photographer, Ann H., documented the special day…

A big Thank You to our Hospitality Chair, Nancy D. and her committee, for organizing this special celebration!

Doing EAGC’s part to decorate the towns of Exeter and Stratham for the holidays, our Civic Beautification committee worked on wreaths and pots for the Exeter Historical Society and a special arrangement for the Stratham Municipal Center entrance. Jan C. and her crew whipped up some beautiful decorations for the Historical Society and Linda S., Lee C. and Ellen J. (with the assistance of her daughter) created a very charming montage for the Municipal Center. Also in Stratham, Linda S.’s committee prepared the Veterans Garden for the winter.

There have been so many activities lately that it’s easy to forget about our very successful Yuletide Fair fundraiser in November. Thanks to the participation of many members, under the leadership of Johann S. and Lee C., EAGC sold lots of holiday-themed arrangements, wreaths, and decorations – pleasing fair attendees and providing funding for our programs going forward.

In November, our Membership committee tried something new – a New Member brunch. Chairs Nickky J. and Jane J. organized a lovely get-together for new garden club members at LuAnn F.’s home. Also invited were some “seasoned” members, in the hope of making our new members feel welcomed and to acquaint them with others in the club. Judging by the enthusiastic response, this was an inspirational idea that will be repeated in the future.

There’s one more holiday event that always results in some interesting (and sometimes questionable) photos. That, of course, is Betsy V.’s Swap Shop Party. I’m saving those for next month’s Happenings, just to let the anticipation build. Don’t miss it! In the meantime…

October Happenings

November has launched with a flurry of activity for EAGC members. We’ve been tidying up our community service gardens, planning for our Holiday Luncheon, attending workshops for the Yuletide fair, and best of all, welcoming new members to our busy club. But first, let’s recap our October general meeting.

Our Awards Committee, chaired by Carmen G., took center stage in presenting EAGC’s annual Outstanding Garden Awards. This year, three awards were presented – Outstanding Residential Garden, Outstanding Commercial Garden, and the new Lifetime Achievement Award. After visiting a number of beautiful gardens, the committee chose these three as the most impressive.

Outstanding Residential Garden: Elizabeth Niebling, Exeter. Her gardens are a wonderful example of all that can be accomplished on a modestly-sized town property.

Outstanding Commercial Garden: Inn by the Bandstand, Robin Davis (partner of Jamie Lopez, owner of Inn at the Bandstand). The Inn’s location at the center of Exeter near the bandstand is the perfect location for a front garden and planters that help beautify the historic downtown.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack Fermery of Hampton Falls received the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of dedicated care and maintenance. A photo of a bit of his beautiful gardens show why he earned this award.

Award Recipients Jack Fermery, Elizabeth Niebling, Robin Davis, and EAGC member Judy Roberts

Carol C., a member of our Horticulture committee, provided a detailed Hort Moment for attendees that focused on the plant, bay laurel. Her presentation, including posters and plant cuttings, covered all aspects of this useful plant. A transcription of her program can be found in Hort Tips on the website.

Carol C.’s Bay Laurel Presentation

At our November 16 General meeting we will host Betty Sanders, a Massachusetts Lifetime Master Gardener, a former District Director for the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, and an accredited Flower Show Judge. Her talks share her knowledge and experiences on a diverse set of topics. She will be sharing the following talk:
Going Native: Low Maintenance Trees and Shrubs — Native trees and shrubs evolved in New England without our help. They have adapted to hot, dry summers and cold winters, to browsing deer, and local insects. The flowers and fruit they produce attract birds and butterflies, and along with their foliage add color to your landscape. Nativars—the cultivars of native plants—have expanded the color palette and options for the homeowner.

While at the meeting, don’t forget to sign up for the Holiday Luncheon, which will be on Thursday, December 7th, 11:30 a.m. at the Wentworth by the Sea Country Club. You must sign up no later than Nov. 23rd to attend.

Yuletide Fair Committees at Work Club members have been attending workshops, organized by Lee C. & Johann S., to prepare sale items for the Nov. 18th Yuletide Fair in Stratham. Many projects have been completed, with impressive results, but our biggest preparation effort will be the workshop held on Friday, Nov. 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Stratham Municipal Center. We’ll be working on fresh arrangements, gourd decorating, and finishing up the amaryllis containers for sale. Here are Yuletide committees at work and a preview of some of the completed sale items talented members have created:

With Veterans Day soon upon us, Linda S. and her Beautification committee spent a few hours this week tidying up the Stratham Memorial Veterans Garden for the upcoming ceremony. Spent plants were pulled, leaves were raked away, and grasses were trimmed. Applecrest Orchards in Hampton Falls donated their remaining mums for our use, adding some color to the garden.

And lastly…

Lynda B. took some time during her walks in Exeter (and on Star Island) to document some of the summer’s highlights and has shared them with us.

September Happenings

EAGC has kicked off its new club season with the exciting results of a new Environment & Conservation project – the beginnings of a Pollinator Pathway through Exeter and Stratham, courtesy of a new approach to our Mini-Grant program. The 2023 mini-grants were awarded specifically to encourage the creation of pollinator gardens, and the recipients’ results were on display at our September general meeting.

Eight grants were awarded to gardeners who were either expanding their pollinator gardens or starting one from scratch. E&C committee members who toured the resulting gardens were encouraged by the pollinator plants established this summer, knowing that these plants will multiply in future years – providing sustenance and habitat for our local pollinators.

At our meeting, E&C chairs Linda V. and Betsy V. assembled a detailed display of the gardens – along with descriptions of each gardener’s plans – so members could better appreciate how the mini-grant funds were used.

More detailed information about the Mini-Grant gardens can be found on the website, on the Community Service Page.

Many of our members have been gearing up for our second annual participation in the GFWC Yuletide Fair on November 18, at the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham. Workshops are underway for making our sales items and volunteers are being recruited for all phases of the fundraiser. Johann S. and Lee C. are the organizers and they will be signing up helpers at our October 19 meeting. Last fall many of our members enjoyed gathering to work on projects or to design arrangements – these workshops were perfect opportunities to get to know one another better and to be creative. This year’s biggest workshop will be on November 17, the day before the sale, when the fresh arrangements will be assembled and preparations will be finalized.

Our Awards Committee will be presenting the 2023 Awards for Outstanding Gardens at the Oct. 19 meeting. In addition to residential and commercial awards, a third new award category will be announced. Those attending the meeting will have an opportunity to meet the recipients and learn about their gardening efforts. In addition, our meeting will include the usual Hort Moment and a short E&C presentation, as well as a discussion about a new direction for our Spring Auction and Luncheon.

Linda S. took this photo of our club’s display at the entrance to the Stratham Municipal Center offices. The Civic Beautification committee maintains a display here year-round.


Keep up with the EAGC Board Meetings – the minutes are always posted on the website under Members Only, on the Minutes page.

The Rye Driftwood Garden Club will be hosting Jana Millbocker on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 9:30 at the Rye Congregational Church. Jana will be presenting “Deck the Halls.” More info can be found here.

Have you ever used an app on your phone to identify a plant? Some results can be questionable. Here’s a review of the apps, according to Michigan State Extension. The top performing app in their 2021 evaluation was PictureThis, with 67% of the suggested identifications being correct. Following this, there was a cluster of three apps with about 50% accuracy: PlantNet, Plant Story and LeafSnap. iNaturalist, came in fifth place with about 30% accuracy.

Fall has traditionally been garden clean-up time. But did you know that about 30% of New England’s native bees build nests above ground? The Tufts Pollinator Initiative says a great way to support these above-ground nesting bees is to leave dead plant stems standing in gardens for at least two years. Read the full article, “The right way to leave stems for native bees” here.

Mid-Summer Update

Area gardens are flourishing these days – thanks to copious rain and plenty of heat and humidity. We gardeners may not be coping quite as well, due to that same rain, heat and humidity. Early morning gardening seems to be advisable on these 90 degree days, and dealing with this summer’s very happy weeds is a challenge. Nonetheless, our community projects look wonderful. Our volunteers have managed to keep up with the weeding and deadheading despite the heat, and here are the results.

We finished off our 2022-23 garden club year in festive fashion again this year, with our Plant Auction and June Luncheon. Paige Curtis and her committee arranged for a lovely meal and setting, while Johann and her crew put together another fun and profitable plant auction. We have pictures!

Congratulations to one of our gardeners extraordinaire, Patti E, who earned a Certified Pollinator Garden designation. She posted on her Facebook page that the application strictly looked at the number and variety of native pollinator plants in her yard, which has encourage her to add even more natives. She’s seen “an amazing increase in the number of pollinators and birds here compared to the barren landscape that was here just 3 years ago.”

Another of our very talented gardeners, Becky M., was recognized in June by the Stratham Selectboard. The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance has honored Becky, a longtime member of the Town’s Heritage Commission and a community leader in historic preservation efforts, with its 2023 Elizabeth Durfee Hengen Award. The award recognizes Becky’s extensive contributions to preservation planning, advocacy, and education here in Stratham over more than two decades. Congratulations, Becky!


Christmas in July? Plans are underway to begin preparing items for the November Yuletide Fair. Pat N. will be hosting amaryllis pot decorating workshops on July 24 and 26. Abbie-Jane A. is also planning another crafting workshop for this summer. Watch your email for more information on signing up. We want to complete as much of the preparation as possible before the busy holiday season begins.

The Piscataqua Garden Club will be hosting “The Business of Food Waste: Growing, Selling, Composting” on Thursday, July 20, at 10:30 AM at the York Harbor Reading Room on 491 York St., York Harbor, ME. Experts in sustainable food production, waste reduction/composting, and community food service will hold conversations on how to help reduce greenhouse gases through everyday actions. Open to the public. There is a non-member charge of $5.00 at the door.

Independence Day has gone by, but this arrangement by Lee C. deserves to be enjoyed after the fact.

June Happenings

My apologies to members who want to see photos of our Spring Luncheon and Plant Auction held Wednesday, but they aren’t ready yet – tune in to the next Happenings for those. I can report, however, that we had a great turnout – 48 members and guests – and everyone had a terrific time and scored some great plants. Our next regular meeting will be on Thursday, September 21, but watch your email and the calendar for field trips and other summer gatherings.

Our May meeting, presented by Ann H. and the Design committee, was a particularly popular event. Attendees were given the opportunity to appreciate the design talents of nine of our members, while learning a little more about each of them through their very personal floral designs. The presenters were tasked with choosing a favorite children’s book to interpret – and the results were stunning. After sharing their creations at our meeting, the designers displayed them at the Stratham Library.

Thanks to the Stratham Library for some of these photos.

The busy May meeting also included E & C’s Bug project. Members were asked to bring a bug found in their home for display. Many predictable household insects turned up – no scorpions or tarantulas, fortunately.

The flower design exercise this spring was to build an arrangement and incorporate wood in any form. The results were varied and creative and fun. Some used wood containers, others used stems, branches, roots, and even decaying wood found on the forest floor. This group was the first to experiment with Agra Wool, a natural floral foam that is 100% biodegradable.

Spring is a busy time for EAGC’s community service volunteers. Civic Beautification members raked, weeded, and planted at our two major sites, the American Independence Museum in Exeter and the Stratham Veterans Memorial Garden. Both areas cleaned up nicely and were readied for summer visitors. Weekly volunteer schedules have been arranged to maintain the gardens into the fall. Our communities surely appreciate our efforts.

Another beautification effort EAGC has undertaken is at the entrance to the Stratham Municipal Center Offices. These pots are updated seasonally and certainly help cheer up the entry for residents and employees. Thank you to all our hard-working volunteers!

It’s not too late to add another container to your deck or patio. There are still plenty of plants available at local nurseries. For some professional tips on container plant selection and care, check out a recent article in AHS’s American Gardener magazine by Mary-Kate Mackey, Pro Tips for Container Gardening in All Climates.

Lynda B. has shared more of her photos of Exeter’s beautiful and historic spots. Enjoy…