The research is clear – gardening is good for our health, good for our mind/body/spirit connections, and good for the planet. Here in the Upper Valley we’re blessed with thriving community gardens, colorful public garden displays, wildflower sanctuaries, and high quality nurseries that tempt us all season with unusual plants and old favorites. For the two longtime Norwich gardeners we profiled for this article, the benefits of gardening include volunteering with their local clubs and lovingly tending their home gardens.
Richard and Melinda Stucker; Mary Ann Holbrook
Since 1907, the Norwich Women’s Club has been supporting educational, civic, and cultural projects for the town and its residents. One of the club’s many initiatives is beautifying downtown Norwich by designing and planting the “triangle garden” on Main Street just before Tracy Hall. For many years, club members donated plants and their time to care for the garden. Today, the club funds the purchase and installation of flowers for the crew of dedicated volunteers led by Mary Ann Holbrook.
In 2006, Mary Ann and four Norwich Women’s Club members volunteered to take over the care of the garden and have been designing and installing the gardens each year for nearly two decades. The Norwich Highway Department pitches in by donating mulch and helped with the installation of new granite pavers for the border. An attractive, wood sign is placed in the front of the garden identifying it as the Norwich Women’s Club Garden.
Mary Ann says of her work in the gardens, “I feel very fortunate to be working in the garden for 12 years now, with friends who value our efforts to make a beautiful garden for the enjoyment not only for us, but to share with the whole community.”
Melinda Stucker of Norwich is a member of the Hanover Garden Club, and volunteers to water plants in the club’s greenhouse over the winter months and helps out at the club’s annual plant sale fundraiser.
Melinda and her husband Richard focus primarily on maintaining the gardens at their home, starting from scratch in three different locations over the years. The current garden puts their skills and years of experience designing and selecting plants to the test. “This garden has been the most challenging so far because the house is entirely on ledge,” says Melinda. She admits to being a “scrounger gardener,” taking plants from her previous homes and trading plant divisions with gardening friends to create a country style.
Richard loves to work in the garden, and builds the hardscape components like constructing wood trellises, arbors, and stonewalls. “I could not garden without my husband – he builds all the walls by hand. Everything is done the old-fashioned way with rollers, pry bars, and wheelbarrows.”
Melinda’s earliest memories of gardening are from growing up on Chicago’s north shore growing tomatoes with her parents. She has carried that inspiration with her for more than 40 years, and in 2007, joined the Hanover Garden Club. As Melinda notes, “One of my goals is to have flowers in bloom all season long. We have a lot of flowering shrubs which we grow for the birds, producing berries of some kind and flowers.”
So if you have the chance, stop by and visit this year’s triangle garden in Norwich to admire the handiwork of the Norwich Women’s Club volunteer gardeners.