By Liz Premo
Hampton Union, March 20, 2012
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON FALLS -- The season for tending flower and vegetable gardens is just arriving, but for members of one local club gardening is truly a year-round passion.
It has been that way for eight decades — a blooming milestone the Hampton Garden Club recently celebrated.
"It's 80 years strong," said Sandy Taube, a 16-year member and the group's president.
Taube was raised by a pair of dedicated gardeners — her father grew vegetables and her mother grew flowers.
"I guess that's part of my makeup," said Taube, who enjoys planting container gardens at her townhouse home. She considers petunias a favorite because "they flower all summer," and thinks "non-stop begonias are pretty, too."
The Hampton Garden Club was established in 1932 under the sponsorship of the Hampton Monday Club. At the time, 49 men and women who shared a common interest in gardening formed the membership.
The numbers have "ebbed and flowed" over the years, but Taube said she is seeing them rise again.
"It has grown," she said — a fitting term description for a group that has consistently been dedicated to many beautification and conservation projects around town.
"I think there's a lot more interest now," she added.
In its early years, the Hampton Garden Club took on a number of outdoor projects, including the park at Five Corners, Marelli (Depot) Square, and a seaside park that was later named after Ruth Stimson, one of the club's longtime members.
Eventually, the town of Hampton gave the club permission to plant anywhere on town property. To this day, members' volunteer efforts are clearly evident at the town office building, around the memorial stones on the grounds of the former courthouse and the Lane Memorial Library.
Over the last several years, a colorful curb-side strip of garden space planted at the intersection of Exeter and Lafayette Roads and maintained by club members has welcomed motorists downtown. Members have also taken on a number of "adopt-a-spot" places around town.
"Together we have made a difference in the way Hampton looks," said Ginny Bridge, who serves as club secretary and enjoys growing different varieties of veronicas and hardy shrub roses.
Bridge has always been interested in gardening, and being a 10-year club member has provided her with many opportunities to meet other gardeners who motivate her "to dig a little more," she said.
Throughout the year, members learn new skills through special presentations given by gardening experts. They share tips and information with one another, indulge in craft and community service projects, and go on garden tours and field trips.
Members take turns hosting meetings the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on Winnacunnet Road. Dues are $10 per year, and membership includes gathering together for seasonal social events, too.
"We always serve dessert and camaraderie and learn something, too," said Pat Navin, who will succeed Taube as the club's next president in April.
The social aspect of the Hampton Garden Club is just one of many facets she enjoys about being a member.
"I love to garden," said Navin, who joined three years ago. "Playing in the dirt is therapeutic and stress-relieving for me." She particularly enjoys growing the profusion zinnia, a summer annual she calls "a workhorse."
Hearing three Hampton Garden Club officers converse is almost like attending an actual meeting. Information flows back and forth and comments are offered regarding the practice of mixing annuals with perennials, dividing daffodil bulbs, and designating delphiniums and foxgloves as "picky plants."
Then there are the challenges they and their fellow gardeners face, including invasive species like the black swallowwort, Japanese beetles, and controlling other garden pests as organically as possible.
Being a master gardener or having a "green thumb" is not required for membership. In fact, there are some members who do not even own a garden plot.
They get their gardening "fix" by beautifying the town's green spaces; in one instance, several residents take care of a small garden spot surrounding the sign of the condominium complex where they live.
"We have them all spread around town and they do their own personal things," said Taube, noting that one member, Linda Gebhart, has helped beautify oceanside garden spaces in conjunction with the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee.
Members also take part in the club's annual Plant and Bake Sale, traditionally held in May. Perennials, annuals, gardening items and baked goods are offered, along with advice and gardening stories.
The plant selections vary year to year, and most often originate from members' own gardens. Anything that does not get sold at the sale typically ends up getting planted along the white fence at the busy intersection in downtown Hampton.
That "corner garden," which is ablaze with color during the growing season, has become a "showcase garden plot" for the club.
"It's challenging, but it's so pretty," said Taube, noting that fast-moving vehicles, limited work space and a plethora of cigarette butts are the biggest challenges.
That spot, however, survived an even bigger challenge during its earlier years.
"After we had planted the bed and it had been established for a year," said Navin, "we had to dig everything out when a new utility pole was put in."
Once that project was complete, members replanted everything and the corner garden continues to thrive year after year.
The rest is gardening history — just like the recently-observed 80 year celebration of the Hampton Garden Club. New members are always welcome; for membership information contact Ginny Bridge at 926-7340.