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     Those who gathered at the Blaine House in December for the return of the Holiday Social hosted by the Kennebec Valley Garden Club were happy to be back together. Smiles lit up every face. 
(Kennebec Valley Garden Club President JoAnn Mooney is pictured with Harriet at Blaine House Holiday Social, right.) Hopefully we will gather in person many times in 2023.
     The holiday social highlighted partnerships. A long tradition between Maine’s governors and the Kennebec Valley Garden Club makes possible this welcome event. This year a connection with the Maine State Museum resulted in interesting additions to the decorations. If you haven’t ever attended, make it a point to do so in December 2023.
     One thing the pandemic left us with is Zoom. What a positive contribution to our modern society!  The partnership between the Camden Garden Club and the Camden Public Library has made the February series of horticulture lectures available to everyone. (See details under the Apple Blossom Glass Flower below in GCFM News and Information.)  Likewise, Foothills Garden Club and the McLaughlin Garden in South Paris are partnering again for a hybrid lecture series in March with help from the GCFM Zoom account. If you enjoy speakers on gardening topics, any of these lectures could be just the thing on a cold winter’s day. Many of our clubs have used connections with other nonprofits to further everyone’s goals for better communities. If other clubs have an effective partnership, please write about it for our newsletter so that we all can get ideas. 
     Two issues faced GCFM when I began as president, a membership decline that had been going on for years and a newer problem of finding members to step up to leadership roles. Hopefully we have turned the corner on the membership decline with a slight increase both last year and this year. The GCFM board held an inspiring panel discussion in the summer of 2021 on what successful clubs do so that others could try similar things. Providing a welcoming atmosphere and offering programs of interest to gardeners are key.  Once again, let’s put our heads together and gather ideas, this time on how can we find leaders. A Zoom meeting on January 24 will provide a forum to discuss what we can do. (See GCFM News and Information section for details.) Without leaders, clubs will crumble. On the state level we are still looking for a second vice president to begin in June. 
     Most districts are planning in person annual meetings this year. These give attendees from clubs in the same area a chance to hear about programs they might wish to schedule, a chance to hear an interesting speaker, and a chance to socialize with other gardeners.
     I have Convention and Open Garden dates on my calendar and hope many of you will, too.  See our Important Dates to Remember section and save the dates your new calendars.  
     Winter is upon us and that means that spring can’t be too far behind. I hope to see many of you in person when the days are longer.



     As we settle into another armchair gardening season, I am thinking that not all the time indoors as a gardener is spent perusing seed catalogs. There are other reading and writing winter pleasures for us.
     Is it a given that we all keep journals, as gardeners? Maybe it should be! But even if it is, I find it very interesting that friends keep very different style of notes, based on what they find particularly helpful, or fun. There are no universal rules. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens usually offers a class on journaling, I hope they do again this season. Maybe we should put a bee in Irene Barber’s ear about that. Their class has highlighted watercolor painting journals, and oh my, they are beautiful creations! Others can write a storybook, with almost poetic descriptions of the first, crisp sparkling frost on the Brussels sprouts. And then there are the scientists whose journals look more like a series of facts and figures, with lists of crop yields, temps, and dates of blossoms for specific plants. All great, no judgement, whatever works. These should be and are very personal choices.
     My own reads like a mix of all the above. I try to record every thing I plant, it’s Latin and common name, and where it was purchased. I also try to record the first and last frost of each season. Note that I say try, I certainly miss lots. But over the decades I have managed to see trends, and looking back really helps me to see the seasons of my own life, as well as the garden’s. Times when family or work obligations made the entries quite thin, as well as the gardening. And then of course the Covid years when home and garden were everything, and no weed pulled wasn’t noted!
     I also write notes about garden books I find particularly helpful. Our own GCFM authors Lisa Colburn and Kelly Orzel both get multiple mentions for their wisdom. And then there are the pleasant winter reads, like tonight’s, The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift. It is a lovely story of a love affair not just with a garden but with the ancient English soil it sits on. We Made a Garden, by Margery Fish is another cozy winter read. In these months when I am not doing so much digging, I note these books in the margins of my journal, to remind myself of how I stayed connected to gardening when I couldn’t… garden. Also at this time of year lots and lots of “what if” plans get noted in the journal. Some I look at in spring and say “what was I thinking?” Others lead to shovels in the dirt.
     So if you don’t journal, give it a thought! And if you do, think about starting a conversation at your club’s next meeting. Ask your friends what they record and how. It may be quite different from your own style, and you both may learn something. And that is just the kind of sharing garden club is about.
Submitted by Katy Gannon-Janelle, Horticulture Chair

Searching for Photographs of Reef Point

     Do you have old photographs or slides of gardens from the 1940s – 1950s? Perhaps a gardening friend or a family member gave you a box of old photos. Or perhaps you were a very lucky child whose parents took you along when visiting and photographing Maine gardens.
     Gardens don’t last forever. Images of old gardens remain today only because someone snapped a photo and kept it. I’m searching for photos of Reef Point, the longtime Bar Harbor home of renowned landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand (learn more about her at Farrand first connected with plants as a child at Reef Point, and used the landscape as a living laboratory throughout her career, until she moved to her last home at Garland Farm in 1955. Some photos of the Reef Point garden do exist, but surely there are more in hiding! Several years ago, I learned of twenty photos of Reef Point, which had been taken in 1949 by Lyle Littlefield, my predecessor at UMaine. One of Lyle’s photos accompanies this article. (Photo above.)
     Many Maine garden club members were among the 40,000 people who visited Reef Point in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s likely that some of those visitors captured images of the gardens. Do you have some of those photos? Or, do you know a person who might have some? If so, please contact me by email ( or telephone (207-356-2890). I’d be happy to travel to meet with you, sort through images (labeled or not), and borrow photos and slides of Reef Point in order to scan them and produce a digital library that will be a resource for all of us.
     Thanks in advance for your help on this exciting project.    
      – Dr. Lois Berg Stack, Professor Emerita of Sustainable Agriculture, University of Maine



     GCFM is inviting everyone who is concerned about finding leadership for their clubs to attend a Zoom session on Tuesday, January 24 at 3 pm, hosted by First Vice President Karen Rea. This meeting is to try to find answers to the issue that has plagued many clubs and the state board. Information on how to register will be sent through club presidents in January.
     We can all be part of the solution!  What are the obstacles? What reasons do people give for not be willing to serve?  Can job descriptions be changed so that a position is more manageable? Can several people share a position? Is the stress of running business meetings, which many rank-and-file members dislike, a problem for potential presidents? We will explore these issues through a panel discussion, presentations, and audience participation. If you have a solution that you think would help other clubs, please contact Karen so that she can include you. You might prefer to bring your ideas to the discussion portion of the meeting.
     Our clubs will disappear if members won’t step up to the plate.  Let’s put our heads together and find solutions.
Submitted by President Harriet Robinson and First Vice President Karen Rea

Apple blossom glass flower model at the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, credit: Harvard University
January 31 – February 28, 2023 | Tuesdays, 10am–11am

Hosted Online by Harvard University and the Camden Public Library

Join the Camden Garden Club for five online events on topics related to conservation and environmental stewardship for home gardeners, as well as botanical art, photography and research. Those interested in events and tickets should sign up for the Club’s newsletter on the Club's website in order to be informed when registration is open.
  • Glass Flowers Tour: On January 31, the series begins with a virtual tour of Harvard’s Glass Flowers exhibit. Virtual tour guide Carol Carlson of Harvard Museums of Science & Culture will showcase the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Tickets are now for sale online for $15.
  • Forestry for Maine Birds: On February 7, Sally Stockwell with Maine Audubon and Allyssa Gregory from the Maine Forest Service discuss ways to steward woodland and provide habitat. Together, they will discuss ways to enhance habitat for a diversity of birds, fish, and other wildlife that live in or visit privately owned forests.
  • Yardscaping: On February 14, Maine State Horticulturist Gary Fish discusses how homeowners can create and maintain healthy landscapes through ecologically based practices that minimize reliance on water, fertilizer and pesticides. Topics include low maintenance and native plants, low input yard care, proper plant choice, and managing pests wisely.
  • Sugar, Sex, and Poison: Shocking Plant Secrets Caught on Camera: On February 21, Executive Director of the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania Bill Cullina discusses how the world of pollen, poisons, pigments, pheromones, sugars and sex translates to sound organic practices from which we can all benefit.
  • The New Invasive Plants List in Maine: On February 28, gardening journalist Tom Atwell discusses the new Maine do-not sell list. He plans to explain why plants some people like were put on it, the reasons for the list, and alternatives to undesirable plants for homeowners.
More information and a link to sign up for the Camden Garden Club’s newsletter to be informed of event registration openings and news can be found on the Club's website.
Submitted by Cayla Mäki-Pittman, Camden Garden Club Communication & Publicity Chair


     Foothills Garden Club, in partnership with the McLaughlin Garden in South Paris, is presenting the annual March lecture series as a hybrid event. The public is invited to come to the McLaughlin Garden in person or to participate on Zoom on Wednesdays, March 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. Each presentation begins at 4 pm. In person guests are invited for tea beginning at 3:30.

     The zoom link may be obtained by contacting

     The in person lectures are upstairs in the historic Tribou home at 97 Main Street (Route 26), South Paris, where Bernard McLaughlin lived with his wife. Tea will be served at 3:30 pm. 
     The tea and program are free and open to the public but donations are requested for the McLaughlin garden. Each speaker is donating the lecture as a way to help keep the McLaughlin Garden open. In case of inclement weather, please call the garden at 743-8820 or check the Garden’s Facebook page for a cancellation.
Submitted by Harriet Robinson, President Foothills Garden Club and President GCFM  


     Old York Garden Club’s Co-Presidents, Deneen Barclay and Carole Freeman, began their tenure with a long list of goals. Among them was a desire to retain current members and attract new ones. They listened to the members in order to assess the activities of most importance to them. Current members felt the club was a place for camaraderie, sharing a love of gardens with each other as well as new members. Current members place a high value on efforts to enlist quality monthly speakers plus lots of fun activities, workshops and outings throughout the whole year.
     The last 18 months have welcomed a promising number of new members by embracing several tried and true techniques for engaging the York community.  Among them was to encourage people to sign up and join the club online through the interest form on the club’s website.  Applications are processed quickly year round. Using no-cost publicity through local newspapers, Old York Garden Club invites the community to join several of their programs as guests. Public interest articles and images about the hard work the club does to beautify the town by caring for, and improving, many garden islands throughout York speaks to those that are civic minded and a feature articles like one about a vegetable vase workshop appeal to those that are creative. The Club stays connected to membership by sending out monthly newsletters, posting to a Facebook group and maintaining a club website to promote upcoming activities and involvement opportunities.
     So, what’s new? Garden clubs have been doing this for years. Today’s garden club faces a balancing act onboarding new members with perhaps less daytime availability but more tech experience and expectations.  The work done by the leadership team has been more organic.  Motivated by Marianne Willburn’s article entitled “In Defense of Revitalizing our Garden Clubs,”  the team has embraced the idea that the potential garden club members “need an outlet, not an obligation.”  However, in fact, Old York believes this philosophy resonates with all members of the club from 30-year members to recent guests.  Time is the commodity and efforts are made to align a member’s interest and time with the club’s offerings and projects.  With often lengthy and reflective meetings, the club’s officers and committee chairs are stream-lining practices and slow-rolling changes in an effort to keep everyone in the fold.  By breaking down tasks into smaller commitments of time for membership and remaining mindful and appreciative of every amount of involvement, the club has seen a resurgence of participation from longer-term members and a rush of participation of new members - ultimately creating an air of enthusiasm at meetings and events for all.  
    Several clever self promotions have also proven successful in recruitment activities. The Green Thumb Award Committee decorated artsy signs made from donated paint stir-sticks (Shown at right.) and placed them into many of the attractive gardens throughout the town. The stick praises the homeowners for their impressive landscape, tells them they have earned the Green Thumb Award of behalf of the Club and offers information about club membership.
    Community outreach activities have recently included an information booth display at the town’s annual Fall Harvest Fest where members (long-term and recent) met with passers-by to answers questions about the club. Arrangements made at club workshops have been donated to senior living facilities. Changes were even made to the annual plant sale by accepting credit cards and giving out information about the club and membership.
     In order to encourage York residents to want to be part of the Old York Garden Club, the club plans to continue reaching out as an active member of the York and neighboring communities.
Submitted by Carole Freeman and Deneen Barclay, Co-Presidents, Old York Garden Club


     Rebuilding the Gazebo Gardens in the Historic Coburn Park is the focus of our grant. Coburn Park is one of Skowhegan's historic icons used by thousands of citizens and visitors annually creating a constant flow of activity throughout the year.   
     This project will address the need of rebuilding 275 square feet of gardens on either side of the gazebo entrance. The soil and overgrown plants will be replaced. Water-saving soaker hose, new lattice around the gazebo base, and a natural cobblestone edging will be installed.  A variety of native plants, perennials, shrubs and bulbs, all Zone 4, and professional landscaping mulch will be used. This "Before" photo shows why we are doing the work:  tattered lattice, mostly hosta and little soil for growing. On the other side there is nothing growing.  
     The Bloomfield Garden Club, Coburn Park Commissioners, Skowhegan Rotary, General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), Skowhegan Woman's Club, and Lynch Landscaping support this project with funding, pledging approximately 67 volunteer service hours or materials. Garden Club members will coordinate volunteer efforts through to project completion.  
     Plant America Grants are in increments of up to $1,000. Bloomfield Garden Club requested the full amount and has been awarded this total. Work will begin in the spring of 2023 and be completed by early summer so this busy area of Coburn Park can be enjoyed as usual. 
     Pictures and updates will be shared throughout 2023.
Submitted by Debra Burnham, member of Bloomfield Garden Club and GCFM Protocol Chairman for 2021-2023

Visit the for updated information. 


     Membership Monday, sponsored by National Garden Club, is starting a Zoom series on Schools. If you want to know what the NGC schools are about or how to host them, these sessions should give the answers. On January 9, the focus will be Garden Study; on February 13, Flower Show School; on March 13, Landscape Design School; and April 17, Environmental Study School. Each session starts at 2 pm.
     Maine will be starting a new Landscape Design School series September 13 and 14 (emailed test Sept 15). It will be hybrid. More information will be forthcoming. 
     Maine members have also been attending schools sponsored in other states remotely. Information on when courses are offered, if they are in person or remote, and how to register is on the NGC website under the Schools tab. If you are interested in lifelong learning about gardening topics, these schools may be for you! Your president has completed all 4 courses in 2 of the schools and is partway through the other two. 
Submitted by Harriet Robinson, President, Maine Garden Clubs

EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you have news to share about your club for our newsletter, contact Carmen Weatherbie by clicking this link.  Our next issue is March - April, and the deadline to get your information to our Newsletter Editor is FEBRUARY 20.  If you have photos to share for the GCFM Facebook page, send them to Kathleen Marty by clicking this link and attaching your photos.  Please identify your event with any photos sent.  

Tuesday, January 24 at 3 pm, Finding Club Leadership Zoom session

It is time to save the dates for this coming season’s GCFM opportunities.  Further details on all these events will be available closer to the dates. Mark the dates now if you are interested. 

The Open Gardens will be back this season.
 - We will start at Pam Allen’s Oak Lodge in Nobleboro where we will see her daffodils on Monday, May 8.
 - On Tuesday, July 25 we will travel to Otisfield to see Harriet Robinson’s garden.
 - Becky Linney’s gardens in Cape Neddick will be open on Thursday, September 28

Convention will also feature a chance to see gardens. The date this year is Tuesday, 
June 13 in Southport. 

If anyone is interested in taking Landscape Design School, it will resume as a hybrid (in person in Falmouth and on Zoom) on Wednesday and Thursday, September 13 and 14 (emailed test September 15).


Harriet Robinson
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