Spring has at last arrived in East Hampton. Here is how I know: I was awakened by bright morning light and the cacophony of a thousand birds loudly tweeting their morning plans. Panicked that I had overslept, I glanced at my Droid. It was five a.m.! An errant duck quacked from somewhere in the vicinity of the swimming pool, and that roused Harry and Oliver, my usually late-‐‑sleeping Cavaliers, who demanded to go out. Once freed, and barking madly, they careened round and round the pool as two very clever ducks taunted them, calmly gliding back and forth out of reach. Apparently, the ducks had been advised that possession is nine-‐‑tenths of the law!
To spare the neighbors, I went out and approached. It turns out that ducks take human landlords seriously, because off they flew, with two spaniels racing to follow them to the sky. It was a George Armfield painting, with nature in imitation of art. And all of this by 5:30 a.m.!
I also know it is Spring because many of my flowering trees are living up to their names, with beautiful abundance. (I can testify that the aQendant allergens are also in abundance!) It is Spring, which means many of us have started preparing our gardens, and some of us are pondering how to replace the impatiens that have become such a staple for so many years.
At GCEH, preparations for the Plant Sale, chaired by Ellen White and Cindy Pool, are in high gear. The Silent Auction CommiQee, chaired by Julie Sakellariadis, has assembled a great roster of wonderful items. Looking forward to next year’s 2014 Centennial events, chair Hollis Forbes and her team are busy planning the festivities for “Mrs. Woodhouse Presents.” Mary Busch and Wendy Phillips are preparing for the Flower Show. More on that elsewhere in this issue.
This past week, importantly, was the Centennial Annual Meeting of the Garden Club of America, in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the GCA. I aQended, as did Ellen Cromack, Judge Gail Cooke, and Natasha Hopkinson, who received the GCA Founders Fund award on behalf of Central Park. The Zone V Clubs of Pennsylvania and Delaware, with Laura Gregg and Leslie Purple as their co-‐‑chairs, did a fabulous job presenting a meeting that entertained, enlightened, and amused.
There were the zone dinners in private clubs, the walking tour of historic Philadelphia, the visit to The Barnes Foundation, and the GCA Historic sites of Andalusia and Stenton. There were Garden Tours of Chestnut Hill and the Main Line. I hopped eagerly on the bus to the laQer as it was where I grew up. I was surprised and thrilled to see that the beautiful landscape was exactly as I remembered it.
The eight a.m. “business meetings” were treasures. I will spotlight here one speaker and one film that shined particularly brightly. The speaker was Amy Freitag, Executive Director of the New York Restoration Project. Previously she served in the Bloomberg Administration as Deputy Commissioner for Capital Projects in the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, working on, among other projects, the Highline, the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Union Square and Washington Square. She was also previously involved with Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, and, to add to her dazzling resume, was U.S. Program Director for the World Monuments Fund.
Her talk was at times funny, at times touching and tear-‐‑inducing, always fascinating. It was an oral narrative of the history of outstanding women of Garden Clubs over the last 100 years. It would be an understatement to say that thanks to these determined ladies, extraordinary progress has been made. Freitag pointed out, for instance, that the GCA has been routinely ten or more years ahead of other organizations and certainly ahead of government agencies in taking stands on environmental issues and acting on them. Individual women took it upon themselves to lobby Congress or to form coalitions to effect change small and large on a vast array of important issues. They were determined and unrelenting-‐‑-‐‑and often very colorful-‐‑-‐‑even though it at times took decades to achieve what they set out to do.
I, in turn, intend to be determined and unrelenting in trying to lure Amy Freitag to speak at our club, possibly in the context of our own Centennial.
Also presented in Philadelphia was a riveting new video, “Take Five: Club Projects from Our First 100 Years.” Mundane name, fascinating look at the projects undertaken by members of five different clubs. To illustrate, the Carolina Foothills Garden Club of Greenville, South Carolina, took on the monumental task that came to be known as the Reedy River Project. The Reedy River was an ugly pollutant-‐‑choked river that was partly obscured by a homely industrial automobile bridge. The club took charge of forty badly neglected acres on the Reedy River and spent decades restoring them. They lobbied governmental bodies for ten years toward the end of the project just to get the bridge itself torn down. They succeeded. In its place is a lovely pedestrian bridge. The Reedy River is clean, the surrounding Park land pristine and beautiful, and what was moribund is now a cherished recreational destination.
It was not until the very end of the project, after decades of effort, that the Carolina Foothills club was officially acknowledged for its achievement when the last three acres of its accomplishment were dedicated to it. Sadly, that lack of recognition seems so often to be the case where Garden Clubs are concerned. If I had my way, not only would Garden Club ladies get the bountiful credit they deserve, they would also get the world to rule!
I have a copy of the video “Take Five,” and we will try to arrange a screening in the not-‐‑ too-‐‑distant future. It is must viewing!
The last night Centennial Awards Dinner Gala was gorgeous. A worthy end to a great event.
So back closer to home, I look forward to another fabulous and successful season of our very own Garden Club of East Hampton!
All the best,