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March 2017

MARCH 2017 Newsletter



March may have come in like a lamb; but after days of wildly fluctuating temperatures, it's hard to tell WHAT spring may have in store!  While many of you are busy making plans for your garden, my own District is busy finalizing plans for the June Convention, From The Forest to the Sea.   Read about highlights of the planned garden tour in this issue of the newsletter, and don't forget to get your Registration Form sent in as well.  In this issue you'll also find details of our District annual meetings.  Please get out and support your District by attending.  For smaller clubs, this is a great opportunity to hear speakers that you might not be able to afford as a club.  Another "event" on the horizon is an invasion of the browntail moth (caterpillar).  This was the conclusion of a panel discussion I attended recently in Bath put on by the Maine Department of Forestry.  My own town of Harpswell is once again in the bulls-eye of this growing menace.  So too are Sagadahoc, Androscoggin and primarily coastal Cumberland County.  The Maine Forest Service is predicting the number of caterpillars will be the worst we've ever seen and that the affected areas will expand.  Much of this can be blamed on the drought which weakened trees and allowed the caterpillars to thrive last year.  Add to this the fact that many people -- myself included -- are terribly allergic to the microscopic hairs that the caterpillars shed.  So not only do you have a threat to the health of your tree, you have a public health crisis as well.  Read more about this in a related article in this issue.  On a much lighter note, the photo you see was taken by professional photographer Doug Merriam from Santa Fe, NM who contacted me looking for gardens to photograph for Down East Magazine.  In this photo I'd linked him up with Bath Garden Club President Elizabeth Lakeman who has an incredible garden shed which does double duty as a venue to entertain guests.  Along with her husband Marty, Ernie and Judy Stallworth (GCFM Treasurer) and my husband Bill, we were part of a garden party photo shoot in October which we were told will appear in the April issue of Down East in a special section edited by Martha Stewart.  Also in the "selfie" photo are Doug (far left) and food stylist Madeline Macomber (yes, some people do this for a living!).  So get out and enjoy our lengthening days, support your District at their annual meeting, take in the Maine Flower Show in Portland at the end of the month, and get your reservation in for the Convention!


With the 86th Annual GCFM Convention, From the Forest to the Sea fast approaching, the Stroudwater District team (in photo) has been working hard lining up sponsors and donors, and recruiting members from District clubs to handle all the myriad tasks that accompany an event of this size.  If you plan to attend you need to make your room reservation soon at the Freeport Hilton Garden Inn (207-865-1433) and tell them you're with the GCFM Convention.  Queen rooms with two beds sell out quickly.  The Schedule of Events and Registration Form are posted on the GCFM website.  When filling out the form don't forget to choose an entree for the Tuesday evening dinner.  This is NOT a buffet.  For those attending the Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, the meal IS a buffet and no choice of entree is required.  Also, we've had an offer from one of the largest nurseries in the area, Estabrooks of Yarmouth, to join them for a gathering they've offered to host for us at their nursery on Monday afternoon.  Plans are still being worked out for this so watch for details in the May newsletter. 


This year's tour on Tuesday, June 21st will feature eight gardens.  Six of these are on the regular tour and two are on the "extended" tour for those who have more time to travel just a bit further.  The tour features a wide variety of gardens, from sun to shade, from small to large, from suburban to rural, from inland to seaside.  The two suburban gardens showcase different approaches to gardening in smaller places.  One focuses on a series of garden "rooms", with a different theme in each one.  A combination of plants in pots, raised planting beds, and interesting sculptures sit side-by-side with more traditional gardening beds.  The second suburban garden is divided equally between shady and sunny gardens.  The shady side of the house features mature, tall pine trees with meandering paths and naturalized plantings in the under-story -- a truly magical place to walk.  The sunny garden features a riot of exuberant perennials nestled along the edge of a large patio.  In one of the gardens by the bay, the owners have turned their driveway circle into a multi-dimensional display of densely planted perennials and shrubs that form a spectacular entrance to the property.  Several of the gardens showcase the multi-layer effect seen in nature and used by our Tuesday evening keynote speaker Thomas Rainer as a model for his new planting philosophy of using layers in the garden. A large tract of unmowed fields by the salt marsh complement the shady and sunny perennial gardens of a home in Yarmouth, extending the vistas as far as the eye can see.  If we're lucky, the lupines will still be in bloom, providing a sea of lavender and pink to feast our eyes on.  And to soothe our souls, a tiny hidden meditation nook in another of the gardens by the bay serves as a foil for the more elaborately formal gardens surrounding the house.  So come feast your eyes, soak in the atmosphere, admire the lovely plants, and think about what you can take back to try out in your garden this summer!


 (As we went to publication, we were still waiting on final details of some of our District's Annual Meetings.  Check back on the CALENDAR section of our website for updates.)


The Harbourside Garden Club will host the 17th Annual Piscataqua District's Annual Meeting on April 5th at the Spring Hill Restaurant, 117 Pond Road, South Berwick.  Registration begins at 9:15 a.m. with the business meeting starting at 10:00.  This year's program is presented by Bill Graham of Massachusetts whose lecture on The Little Black Dress (with associated floral designs) is always a big hit at garden club meetings.  A buffet lunch is included in the cost of $20 (members) or $25 (non-members and late registrations).  The deadline for reservations is March 25th and should be sent to Lori Kercher, 10 Cutts Island Lane, Kittery Point, ME 03905.  Questions -- contact Lori at 439-4814.


The Language of Flowers and Herbs will be the theme of this year's Stroudwater District Annual Meeting on April 26th at the Spring Meadows Golf Club, 59 Lewiston Road in Gray and hosted by the Foothills Garden Club.  The speaker for both the morning and afternoon sessions will be Betsey-Ann Golan, well known to GCFM members an an expert herbalist both here and at Mt. Vernon Estate in Virginia.  Her morning talk is entitled Flora's Dictionary: The Secret Language of Herbs and Flowers The afternoon will have her doing a floral demonstration called Not Just a Pretty Face Bouquets That Tell a Story.  Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. with a buffet lunch included for $21.  Reservations are due by April 18th and should be sent to Foothills Garden Club, c/o McLaughlin Garden, P.O. Box 492, South Paris ME 04281.  Questions -- contact Harriet Robinson.


 Heather McCargo, Executive Director of the Wild Seed Project will be the guest speaker at the Medomak District's Annual Meeting on May 1st at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Middle Street, Brunswick.  The theme is Sowing Seeds -- Returning Maine Plants to Maine Gardens.  Heather's lecture is called Going Native: Using Native Perennials, Shrubs and Trees.  The event is hosted by the Topsham Garden Club and will begin at 9:30 a.m. with registration.  Cost to attend (which includes a catered lunch) is $30 for members and $35 for late registration and guests.  Reservations are due by April 10th and the District is asking each club to send one check only for all members attending from each club to Liz Volckening, 10 Muskie Place, Topsham 04086.  For more information contact Vicky Marr at 563-1993.


The Penobscot District's Spring Meeting will be May 4th at the Newport Cultural Center, 154 Main Street, Newport.  The theme is "Grow With Me!"  Registration will open at 9:30 a.m. with a business meeting at 10:00.  Lunch is $8 per person (preregistration required) and a $2 registration fee will be collected at the door.  The District requests that each club send in one check to cover all attendees from that club to Ann Hardwick, Penobscot District Treasurer, 14 High Street, Newport, ME 04953.  The program will be a hands on workshop that was still being finalized.  Garden hats are encouraged as well as a plant to exchange.  Please check back on the website CALENDAR for more details later this month.  Questions -- contact Pam Newcomb.


The Waterville Garden Club is this year's host for the Kennebec District Annual Meeting on May 9th at the United Methodist Church, 61 Pleasant Street, Waterville.  Two speakers will be giving a talk -- the morning presentation will be Katrina from Johnny's Selected Seeds speaking on new products from Johnny's.  The afternoon speaker is Kelly Orzel, owner of the Bowery Beach Farm.  Cost to attend, which includes a catered lunch is $20.  Registration begins at 9:00 a.m.  For more information on where to send your check and the deadline for reservations, contact Beth Warren.


Final details were still being worked out for the St. Croix District Annual Meeting to be hosted by the Surry Garden Club on May 13th.  The speaker will focus on Maine sea farming activities (kelp and seaweed) and the host club is hoping attendees will be able to sample kelp and seaweed, take home recipes and even have the opportunity to walk to the recently installed fish ladder where the alewives MAY be running.  The location of the meeting will be the Surry Elementary School in Surry.  Cost to attend, which includes a buffet lunch, is $30.  Check back on our CALENDAR a bit later to get more details.  Questions -- contact Dave Hollenberg.


(Editors Note:  Marilyn Traiser, GCFM Flower Show School Chairman, recently attended a symposium in Atlanta to learn more about changes to the NGC Flower Show rules.  She reports on them here.)  "New Beginnings"  was the title of the symposium in Atlanta where the new Handbook for Flower Shows was introduced.  It's my hope that this will be a new beginning for flower shows in Maine!  Does your club have many horticulturalists but very few designers?  Have a Horticulture Specialty Flower Show with no designs permitted.  If the opposite is true, have a Design Specialty Flower Show.  Your club members like crafts?  Add a division called Botanical Arts with the potential for additional types of horticulture, design and art with exhibits such as photography.  Clubs are free to sponsor a flower show to encourage club participation and education, not always following the requirements of a Standard, Small-Standard, or Specialty Flower Show.  In other words, JUST DO IT!  New classes of horticulture are introduced in the Handbook such as dried and preserved specimens, fairy gardens, and topiaries.  New designs are introduced such as Cascade Design, Low-Profile Design (pictured), and Group Mass Design.  There's even a class called Exploration where dyed plant material can be used.  The Judges Council Design Group plans to showcase some of these designs next year.  Want to learn more?  We will have an exhibit at the Convention outlining many more changes, and we will have the Handbook for Flower Shows available for purchase.  They sell for $25 and every club should have at least one.  Members of Judges Council are always available to assist any club planning on having a show.  From writing a schedule to where to find staging -- we are here to help.  So, let's have new beginnings around the State to educate the public, entice new members and allow existing members to show off their expertise.  It's a rewarding experience!


GCFM Awards Chairman Kathleen Marty reports that many applications have been received and she hopes all clubs will enter for awards.  The Reporting Form is NOW the Summary Project Report.  List the number (example: #13 Habitat - Money/Project) from the Club of Distinction Form which you're taking points for and give a brief description/summary for the points taken.  Complete the Summary Report after the Club of Distinction Form is completed.  Be sure to print your award applications BEFORE you submit them!  If you have questions, please contact Kathleen by clicking this link or by phone at 633-7439.  Best of luck to all our clubs!


The Maine Department of Forestry (DACF) is warning residents that the 2017 growing season will be marked by a major increase in the number and reach of the browntail moth caterpillar (in photo).  Because of the ongoing drought from last year, the caterpillar thrived and defoliated more than 60,000 acres of trees -- three times the amount of acreage from just the year before.  They hatch when temperatures stay around 50 degrees and will completely eat the new leaves of hardwood trees, especially oak and fruit trees.  The caterpillars also pose a health hazard to people with compromised respiratory systems when they inhale the microscopic hairs, as well as causing a terribly itchy rash if you get them on your skin.  Hospital pharmacies and some local drug stores have developed prescription strength topical lotions to combat the itch.  Over the counter steroidal creams usually don't work.  The DACF is suggesting homeowners take precautions now before the caterpillars emerge by cutting the white silky nests from affected trees.  You should also call a licensed arborist to help with taller trees since the nests are found at the tips of the tree.  State licensed pesticide applicators can help with spraying trees to kill the bugs before they emerge.  If you cut the nests out yourself, be sure to wear protective clothing and put the nests either in a bucket of soapy water or burn them.  For more information, click this link to the DACF. 


The New England Region officially changes its name to the New England Garden Clubs, Inc. (NEGC) as of the NGC's National Convention in Richmond, VA in May.  This announcement was made by incoming Region Director Susan Hinkel, currently the President of the Federated Garden Clubs of Vermont.  She'll be succeeding Vera Bowen of Rhode Island.  And in another announcement, the First Annual Meeting of the NEGC will be on October 30-31, 2017 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Warwick, RI.  Immediately following the Annual Meeting will be the National Garden Clubs Symposium from October 31-November 2 at the same location.


A NEW photography contest that focuses on nature photography is now underway!  The contest runs from March 1st to April 15th and is open to any club member.  This is a professionally judged competition and the twenty-four highest scoring photographs will be on display at the NGC Convention in Richmond, VA.  There is no charge to enter (as many as three photos) but there are guidelines as to image resolution and dimension requirements.  To see the rules and a flyer on the contest, click this link.


The Ellsworth Garden Club has a long history of partnering with other organizations to effect change in the community.  Virtually all of its ongoing projects involve established partnerships -- garden clubs at all three of the City's schools, a cemetery association for which it did landscaping, and the Downtown Ellsworth Association for whom it has created pop-up gardens.  Two current and related projects reveal how effectively partnerships can work to make a change in the appearance of a community and raise awareness about the importance of green spaces.  Since 2013 the Club has partnered with the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce and a local media sponsor to raise awareness among local businesses regarding the importance of landscaping or plantings that not only draw attention to their establishments, but also provide informal green spaces and habitat within the community.  Beginning with National Garden Week in June and running through mid September, the program recognizes a Bloomin' Business of the Week with a certificate and signage (see photo).  Winners are featured by the partners on websites and Facebook after a Monday morning announcement by the local radio station.  The Chamber also includes a front page article and photo in its weekly newsletter.  Another project the Club has launched in partnership with the City is creating a "Green Plan".  The Club has done two previous Green Plans for the City in the distant past.  But given that the City is engaged in a comprehensive planning process, it made sense for them to be full partners this time.  The 18-month process is involving public forums and extensive consultation within the community including students and faculty in community planning at the College of the Atlantic.  As with previous Green Plans the objectives include determining a strategy for the identification, development and maintenance of both formal and informal green spaces that beautify and provide habitat as well as recreational space for residents.  Community consultations have also led to a much expanded focus on making Ellsworth a "model green city" with the inclusion of topics such as pesticide usage, snow removal, recycling and watershed management.  Implementing the plan will be a tall order, but with many players at the table and committed to an action plan, it has become possible to envision accomplishing much more than if the Garden Club were undertaking a narrower process on its own!


The MAINE FLOWER SHOW takes place in Portland at Thompson's Point March 30th to April 2nd.  GCFM will have an exhibit booth and GCFM President Suzanne Bushnell will speak on Thursday, March 30th at 12:30 p.m. with a presentation on The GCFM -- 86 Years of Beautifying Communities Click this link for more information and to find out about tickets.  EARTH DAY is Saturday, April 22nd!  Wouldn't it be a great thing to bring recognition to your club by hosting an event in your community?  If your club decides to host an event, send us the information at  If you don't have time to plan an event for Earth Day, then how about sponsoring an event in your community to celebrate NATIONAL GARDEN WEEK which runs from June 4th to the 10th!  The NGC has provided a link to a poster you can print for display


Some of our clubs have upcoming plant sales, garden tours and other fundraisers that they want folks to know about.  While we don't have the room to do an article on each and every club, we make every effort to post your event on the website CALENDAR when we receive details from you.  If you have something you want to announce, send us the details at  Another important thing to remember is to put your event on your CLUB PAGE on our website.  It's VERY IMPORTANT that your Club Page Administrator keep your Page current!  If you need help, contact Fran Moore, GCFM Corresponding Secretary.  Finally, if you change your e-mail address you need to change it on our Subscriber List as well.  If you set up your subscription to the Newsletter with your own password, simply log on to the Subscriber List at the bottom of our HOME PAGE and follow directions.  If you have problems or don't remember your password, contact us at and we'll help you out.


March 29-Apr 2
Maine Flower Show with GCFM Exhibit and President's Talk (Mar. 30)    Thompsons Point, Portland
 April 1
GCFM Awards Deadline
April 5
Piscataqua District Annual Meeting                                                                Spring Hill, Berwick
April 5
Floral Design Workshop at St. Mary's Church, Falmouth; Subsequent workshops will be May 3 and June 7   FMI: Marilyn Traiser
April 24
GCFM Board of Directors Meeting, Augusta                   9:00 (coffee)    9:30 a.m. (meeting)
April 26
Stroudwater District Annual Meeting
Spring Meadows Golf Club, Gray
May 1
Medomak District Annual Meeting
Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick
May 4
Penobscot District Spring Meeting
Newport Cultural Center, Newport
May 9
Kennebec District Annual Meeting                                   United Methodist Church, Waterville
May 13
St. Croix District Annual Meeting
Surry Elementary School, Surry                                                               
May 16-21
NGC Convention, Richmond, VA
June 19-21
GCFM 86th Annual Convention                                           Hilton Garden Inn, Freeport


Suzanne Bushnell


Garden Club Federation of Maine

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