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May 2019 Newsletter

MAY 2019 Newsletter



The time has come!  I'm writing my last column as the GCFM President and truly realize that I have been honored to serve with wonderful club members who, day by day, are making a difference in our communities throughout the State.  Each club and each district is unique and at the same time, we share so much in common.  I've just returned from the National Garden Clubs, Inc. Annual Convention in Biloxi, Mississippi and saw the same thing across the U.S  (Photo of Judith is with NGC President Nancy Hargroves at the Awards Banquet.)  We welcomed Gay Austin as the new President of NGC, and our own Suzanne Bushnell as Director for our RegionGCFM President-elect Barbara Longstaff attended as well and is now fully up to speed on all things NGC!  It was a very good meeting and we totally enjoyed Mississippi's hospitality.  It seems like a few weeks ago when I was at the NGC Annual Convention in Richmond, Virginia looking forward to my term.  Now, in a few short weeks, Barbara will move forward with her aspirations to bring new light to our organization.  Change is good and she will be a great President.  Please give her the complete support you gave me.  Meanwhile, I want to share a few highlights from the last couple of years that come to mind.  My President's theme of "Plant Maine -- Sustainable Home Gardening" focused on local, native plants and wildflowers and sustaining their habitat.  We co-hosted a Native Plant Symposium with the McLaughlin Garden and Homestead in South Paris, and then followed up with a Native Plant Forum working with the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.  The synergy we gained through mutual cooperation with like-minded organizations allowed us to have highly regarded Maine subject-matter experts and to reach a wider-based audience.  Also, we received an NGC Native Plant and Wildflower Award to help defray costs.  NEGC awarded us the New England Wildflower Society Award for educational programs using native plants last October.  Secondly, the GCFM Judges Council produced an outstanding NGC Standard Flower Show in conjunction with the Annual Convention in Phippsburg -- the last time we did that was in 2009!  Another area of endeavor in which I feel particularly proud is the Blue Star Marker program.  We rededicated a Blue Star Marker in Bangor, dedicated a new one in Franklin as well as maintained the many, many markers we have throughout the State.  The Harpswell Garden Club's hard work created Maine's first Gold Star Families Marker, dedicated last June.  Linda Redman (Blue Star Marker Chairman) and I gave a presentation on the Blue Star Marker program at the Bangor Flower and Garden Show last month.  Ellen Jackson, President of the  Kennebec Valley Garden Club, has developed a new computer mapping app to place club name and location together and is currently working with Linda to plot Blue Star Markers throughout Maine.  So what is next?  I've been serving as the New England Garden Clubs (NEGC) Treasurer and new NEGC Director Suzanne Bushnell has asked me to stay on.  I might even take a look at my untended garden as well.  Thank you all for all you do for your communities and the Garden Club Federation of Maine!  It's been a time that I've enjoyed and will remember always.  Thank you!  Sincerely, Judith


Mississippi's own Gay L. Austin was installed as the 46th President of the NGC on the final night of the 90th Annual National Garden Clubs, Inc. Convention in Biloxi, Mississippi.  A resident of McComb, Mississippi, Gay was presented the President's gavel by former NGC President Barbara May of Massachusetts.  Before a crowd of more than 500 people, Gay laid out her vision of what she hoped to accomplish in her new role.  Building on the success of the PLANT AMERICA theme of outgoing President Nancy Hargroves, Gay intends to continue with this popular theme and hopes to increase the amount of grant money that member clubs can apply for through the PLANT AMERICA grant program.  Gay brings to the NGC President's job an impressive resume.  Before working her way up the ladder through the various NGC Vice President jobs, she was a former State President of the Garden Clubs of Mississippi, served as the Chairman of the NGC's Annual Convention in 2003, is an NGC Master Flower Show Judge, NGC Flower Show Schools Horticulture Instructor, former President of the Pike County Master Gardeners, as well as having held numerous jobs at the State and Club level.  Besides her love of gardening, Gay is passionate about animal rescue and in her "spare time" serves on the Board of Directors of PALS Rescue, Inc.  In her professional career she holds a degree in nursing and is an accomplished multimedia artist as well.  She also serves on the Executive Committees of Keep Mississippi Beautiful and the Mississippi Heritage Trust.  And if that's not enough, she continues to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables for the family use, specializing in making jams and jellies to share with friends.  In fact, Gay donated enough jars of her homemade cinnamon pear jelly to have at the place setting of EVERY new member of the 2019-2021 Board of Directors breakfast on the final morning of the Convention - more than 200 jars!


Not only was a new National President installed in Mississippi, so was the rest of the Executive Committee of the National Garden Club.  This includes the eight Region Directors who represent the federated garden clubs of all fifty states and the District of Columbia.  Former GCFM President Suzanne Bushnell (Harpswell Garden Club) had the honor of being installed as the new Director of the New England Garden Clubs, Inc. (Suzanne, on the left, is pictured with new NGC President Gay Austin on the right at their installation.)  In her new role Suzanne will act as a liaison between the NGC and the garden club federations of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Suzanne succeeds Sue Hinkel of Vermont who held the Director's job from 2017 to 2019.  The "official" turnover started with a Region breakfast the morning of the installation where Sue presented the ceremonial gavel to Suzanne (photo at right).  Other Maine attendees at the breakfast were GCFM President Judith Tarbox (Camden Garden Club) and GCFM President-elect Barbara Longstaff (Eliot Garden Club).  Attendees from all six New England state garden club federations were at the breakfast to witness the ceremonial turnover of Directors.  That evening at the Installation, former NGC President Barbara May of Massachusetts presided over the ceremony onstage where Suzanne was installed with the rest of the NGC Executive Committee.  She was presented with a certificate to mark the occasion as well as a reproduction of an antique key -- a symbol that all those inducted that evening hold the key to the success of the NGC.  Besides serving as the Immediate Past President of the Garden Club Federation of Maine, Suzanne currently serves as the Region's Award Chairman.  For the GCFM, she serves as the Newsletter Editor, the Information Resources Chairman, and a member of the Website Committee, helping to keep the website up to date.  She also chaired the GCFM's Convention in 2012.  At the Club level, Suzanne is a former Club President and currently serves as the Chairman of the Gold Star Marker Committee, the Awards Chairman, the Chairman of the Naval Museum Gardens Committee, the Membership Chairman, and is the co-webmaster of the Club's website. 


With a stunning backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico, the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino was a beautiful venue to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the NGC at this year's Annual Convention in Biloxi, Mississippi.  654 registered attendees enjoyed indoor gardens which seemingly changed color overnight, high end Resort shopping, and all the sights and sounds you'd expect with an MGM-owned casino (photo at left shows part of one indoor lobby garden).  A visit to the Bellingrath Gardens (see rose garden at right) and two historic homes in Mobile, Alabama, an all-day trip to New Orleans to visit the world-renowned National World War II Museum, and a visit to the Stennis Space Center were just a few of the tours offered.  The opening night banquet was devoted to handing out the NGC Awards (Maine came home with its share).  But before this happened, attendees were entertained by a Dixieland Band and then a parade of Mardi Gras "royalty"  who danced their way through the ballroom (see photo below).  While many people might think Mardi Gras started in New Orleans, it actually has its roots in Mississippi!  The closing night ceremony was capped with the installation of the 46th President of the NGC Gay Austin (see related story above).  When attendees weren't out touring or attending banquets, they were busy transacting the business of the NGC.  A few things of interest to our members are mentioned here.  During the past two years the NGC awarded $100,000 in PLANT AMERICA grants with $75,000 of that total given this past year.  A total of 577 applications were received in the first two years of the program with 110 lucky recipients receiving money.  The NGC will continue with this very successful grant program during the term of new President Gay Austin.  A new password is now needed to access the MEMBERS ONLY section of the NGC website.  This password will be passed on shortly to all club presidents to disseminate to their members.  The NGC has hired a New York City design firm to come up with a new website for the organization.  Because the current firm's contract expires at the end of this month -- and the company decided not to bid for renewing the contract -- the NGC conducted a nationwide search to find a new design firm.  The NGC hopes the new website will be completed in about six months, and that members will find it easier to navigate while finding desired forms and information.  In the meantime, the old website will continue to be active until the new one goes online.  (EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you'd like to see more photos from the NGC's Biloxi Convention you can view them on both the NGC and the GCFM's respective Facebook pages.)


In just a few weeks we'll be assembling in Wells to celebrate the next GCFM Convention -- "Bringing Communities Together Through Gardening" at the Village by the Sea Resort and Conference Center.  This two-day event will be held June 18th and 19th, hosted by the Piscataqua District.  If you haven't sent in your Registration Form yet, you only have till May 27th -- the deadline to get it postmarked and sent in.  The Schedule of Events and Registration Form are posted on our website and can be accessed by clicking this link to our HOME page.  Click on the photo of the bird cage where you'll be able to print off the Registration Form and send it along with your check to Marjory Stewart, Convention Registrar, at the address given on the form.  If you haven't reserved a room yet, the deadline (May 18th) may have passed by the time you read your newsletter.  You can still call the Village by the Sea Resort to see the availability of any rooms.   In earlier articles about the Convention we've highlighted the speakers, the workshops and the garden tour.  Today we'd like to give a sample of what you'll find from our vendors and a few suggestions as to where you might want to go locally for a bite to eat if you're arriving the night before or staying an extra night after the convention.  Our vendors will have everything from olive oil, to jewelry made from potatoes, pressed flower items, garden items made from recycled items and aprons, just to name a few.  We asked President-elect Barbara Longstaff (see Barbara in the middle of the photo at left with Judith and Suzanne) for some suggestions (you can also expect some recommendations when you get your Registration packet at the Resort).  Route 1 is the main highway running directly in front of our Resort.  In fact, a good landmark to find the Resort is to look for Harbor Flags, located directly across the road.  For those looking for a quick breakfast, one of the more "famous" stops for tourists and locals alike is Congdon's Doughnut Shop.  According to Food and Wine Magazine, Congdon's was rated one of America's best doughnut shops!  In Maine you'll find LOTS of diners, and Wells has its own -- The Maine Diner.  Featured once on HGTV's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it offers up breakfast and lunch in a very casual setting.  If you're looking for something a little more upscale and you've got a free night for dinner, Wells has several places to go.  Barbara recommends Joshua's which features farm to table dining (reservations are highly recommended).  If Italian is more to your liking, Varano's has been highly recommended on Trip Advisor.  And for those whose tastes are more adventurous, Tulsi North is a fairly new Indian restaurant which has also received rave reviews on Trip Advisor as an outstanding place to eat.  Just remember -- check these places out online before you come to Wells to see what their days of operation and hours of service are!   


It's that time of year when our clubs are getting ready to change the leadership at the top as outgoing presidents "retire".  Why not celebrate all they've done for your club by honoring them with a GCFM State Life Membership!  For just a $50 donation to the GCFM Scholarship Fund, anyone can join the hundreds of members who've supported our mission over the years of providing educational scholarships to worthy college students studying horticulture or a related topic.  For more information on becoming a State Life Member, click this link to our SCHOLARSHIP tab.  Once you're on the SCHOLARSHIP page, scroll down -- almost to the end of the page to the third PDF icon --  till you see the PDF form (red icon) for the GCFM STATE LIFE MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION FORM.  You can download a copy, fill it out, and enclose a check to our Scholarship Chairman Harriet Robinson.  Emailed questions can be sent to


With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday fast approaching, it's also the time when we remember to decorate our Gold Star and our Blue Star Markers in patriotic fashion.  One of our clubs, the Bar Harbor Garden Club, has even scheduled a ceremony for its Marker which is located one-third of a mile from the head of Mount Desert Island along Route 3.  Their ceremony starts at 11:00 a.m. on May 27th and the public is invited.  Even if you're not having an official ceremony, take the time to either make your own wreath or look at local craft stores for ready made wreaths with a red, white and blue theme!  In talking with the public about the Marker program, many people have NO idea that garden clubs are the moving force behind the establishment of the Blue Star and Gold Star Marker Programs.  By taking photos of your decorated Marker, and getting it posted -- whether on a Facebook page or in your local paper -- it goes a long way to educate the public on all the things that garden clubs do for their community!  If your club decorates its Marker, make sure to take a photo and send it to Kathleen Marty for our Facebook page!


The very successful Judges Council sponsored floral design workshops are continuing into the summer.  The next two workshops are scheduled for June 5th with a class on Angular Design (a creative design emphasizing strong angles), and on July 3rd with a class on Tapestry Design (a creative solid mass design with a geometric closed silhouette). The Registration Form showing the schedule of remaining classes is linked to our HOME PAGE.  Just click this link to download a copy of the form which you can print and send in.  All classes are held the first Wednesday of the month at the Auditorium of St. Mary's Church, 43 Foreside Road, in Falmouth.  If you haven't signed up in advance for the entire series of six classes for $50, you can still attend individual classes for $10 each.  Non-member price is $15 per class.  Checks should be sent to Linda Frinsko at 24 Mountview Road, Gorham, ME 04038.  Judges Council of Maine also wants to announce that the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts will be holding an NGC Flower Show School starting this October.  The Judges Council is offering a stipend to anyone wishing to take Flower Show School Course 1 in Milford, Massachusetts on October 16-17, 2019.  If you wish to go, please contact Marilyn Traiser by clicking this link.  It's a fun and rewarding course! (EDITOR'S NOTE:  Photo is of a tapestry design recreation of the PLANT AMERICA symbol which was exhibited at the NGC's Biloxi Convention.)


Club officers and their Awards Chairman are invited to attend a working lunch Awards Workshop to follow the GCFM Board of Directors Meeting to be held on August 19th at the Elsie Viles Home, 71 Stone Street in Augusta.  The workshop will begin at approximately noon or right after the Board Meeting concludes.  During the workshop we'll review the GCFM, NEGC, and NGC electronic awards process.  Please bring your electronic device (laptop, phone, iPad). You'll also need to bring a lunch!   If you have any questions, contact Kathleen Marty at or by clicking this link.


(EDITOR'S NOTE:  We've asked the Longfellow Garden Club to share the journey they traveled to develop a new website.  After reading their article, your club might be inspired to jump into the digital age as well!)  We've come a long way since the Club's founding in 1924.  Gone are the hats and white gloves of the original members, gone are the engraved invitations to mid-century garden club events.  Like many clubs, Longfellow has entered the age of communication through digital technology, providing current, topical and engaging information to its members and to the wider community.  For several years, we've maintained a Facebook page which includes a meeting schedule as well as photos and videos of our programs, activities and events.  This is regularly updated by a member of the club.  The Maine Historical Society website also has several links to the club, as well as an Instagram account which often features our work in the Longfellow Garden.  And of course, we're listed on the GCFM website.  But we wanted to be able to offer more in-depth information about our club, promote our objectives and convey a sense of the camaraderie enjoyed by members.  So about two years ago, the club voted to establish our own website, and a small committee was formed to explore options.  Fortunately the domain name of was available.  After interviewing four web developers, we engaged Bridget Leavitt of Hope, Maine to help us design the site.  We wanted the look of a professionally structured site but the ability to control and update the content ourselves.  Over the next eight months, we had several meetings with Bridget to refine the look of the website.  The committee also met regularly to draft the content and select photos for the web pages.  The finished site has a WELCOME PAGE with tabs for our ACTIVITIES and PROGRAMS, the LONGFELLOW GARDEN, the LONGFELLOW ARBORETUM and BECOMING A MEMBER.  There are also quick links for our meeting schedule, Facebook, GCFM, NEGC, and NGC as well as a members-only section with our Yearbook and By-laws.  And lots and lots of photos!  Three members of the Website Committee are trained in updating our information on the SquareSpace platform.  This is done frequently in order to keep the content current and interesting.  The web designer's fee was just under $2,000.  If we need further consultation, she charges $45 per hour.  The cost of hosting on SquareSpace is $200 annually.  We believe it's been well worth the investment of time and money to achieve a vibrant, welcoming and interactive on-line presence. 


If your garden is a "blank slate" like the one in the photo at left, then you've got just the garden we're looking for!  As Suzanne Bushnell assumes her role as the new Director of the New England Garden Clubs, Inc., she had to come up with a theme that could easily be implemented in all six New England state garden club federations.  And that's "Planting the New England Victory Garden."  Her idea is to encourage individual club members across New England to plant extra vegetables and herbs this spring through fall to donate to local food banks, soup kitchens, or any other organization that helps fight hunger.  She is in the process of developing a form that will be posted on the NEGC website shortly.  This form will be easy to fill out and should be submitted once a month through the growing season.  Though it's a work in progress, Suzanne is going to develop a simple way for members to report these numbers.  Her goal is to have each of the six states participate and then submit an NGC Awards application before the end of her term, for a Member Award of Excellence Region Award -- something that hasn't been done in several years!  The Region with the best project wins a Certificate of Merit and $500!  So watch for an announcement that the form is ready to be downloaded.  In the meantime, get your plans for your vegetable garden in high gear and be sure to plant extra for the hungry in our New England Region.  Another idea that Suzanne has and is now working on the rules for, is a poster contest for school-aged children to produce a poster that carries out the theme of "Planting the New England Victory Garden."  A small cash prize will be given to one child in each of the six New England states who can best illustrate what it means to be "victorious" by planting a garden.  Because of the interest of kids in playing sports, Suzanne would like to encourage children to combine a love of sports with a love of gardening.  And since New England sports teams have been coming out on top (think of the Red Sox winning the World Series, the Patriots victorious in the Super Bowl and maybe even the Bruins with the Stanley Cup), Suzanne thinks "Planting the New England Victory Garden" might also be a winning theme!  Details on the poster contest will be made available before the kids break for summer vacation.


Despite the crazy swings in temperatures this spring, it truly is the time to plan in participating in our clubs' upcoming plant sales and garden tours.  We continue to advertise the events we KNOW about on our website CALENDAR.  Our website also has a special tab for publicizing GARDEN TOURS.  If your club is planning either a tour or a plant sale or another fundraising event, and you want it publicized on our GCFM CALENDAR, send information on the date, time, place, cost (if applicable) and any other important details that should be passed on to the public PLEASE KEEP YOUR ANNOUNCEMENTS BRIEF!  We'd also like a point of contact -- either an e-mail address or a phone number if a member of the public wants to find out more information.  Oftentimes our website receives inquiries so we know people are coming to our site to look for garden-related events! 


For most clubs, it's time to start the new program year.  That means it's ALSO time to remember to update your club's individual CLUB PAGE on the GCFM website.  These pages are found under the CLUBS tab.  As we mentioned in our garden tour and plant sale article, the public is looking to our website for information about where they can find gardening information as well as where to find a garden club near them.  So it pays to have timely information on your CLUB page.  If you need help with this task, contact Fran Moore, our GCFM Corresponding Secretary, by clicking this link.


In a front page article in the May 12th edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram, the Maine Forest Service warned that they expect 2019 to be the worst year yet for the brown tail moth and its toxic caterpillar hairs. They also note that the area affected has spread now beyond the coast and is working its way inland.  At this point in the life of the insect, it's approximately a quarter of an inch long.  But eventually it will grow to full size (an inch or longer) and the toxic hairs will get caught up in the wind and blow long distances.  The Maine Forest Service states that the worst time for the hairs to be released is usually mid-May through mid-June.  But the toxins in the hairs can stay potent for up to three years.  If you have sensitivity to the hairs, you need to be prepared when you work in your garden.  Wear long sleeved clothing, wear a hat and you also might consider wearing a mask.  Even then, you still may get the poison ivy-like rash as the hairs can get through permeable material.  In an interesting note, the Forest Service says that the brown tail moth is largely confined to Maine.  100 years ago the insect created similar problems throughout New England and even into New York City.  The populations collapsed in the 1920's but then reemerged in Maine in the 1990's and has never left.  The widening problem has caught the attention of the Maine Legislature where they're considering a bill to allocate $274,000 to the University of Maine to find ways to combat the insect. .


Now's the time to start planning to celebrate National Garden Week, June 2nd to the 8th.  The National Garden Club's website has a poster you can download and insert your own club's name and then display in a prominent location, such as your local library or a garden center.  Their website also has lots of ideas you can use to highlight your club and how you contribute to gardening in your community.  The NGC even gives cash prizes during their Annual Awards Banquet at their Convention to the club with the best program to highlight this very important week!  So why not think about doing something special to celebrate National Garden Week!


May 27
Memorial Day -- decorate your Gold Star and Blue Star Markers
June 5
Floral Design Class, St. Mary's Church, Falmouth  FMI:  Marilyn Traiser
June 2-8
National Garden Week
June 18-19  
GCFM Convention, Village by the Sea Resort, Wells
July 3
Floral Design Class, St. Mary's Church, Falmouth  FMI:  Marilyn Traiser
August 7
Floral Design Class, St. Mary's Church, Falmouth  FMI:  Marilyn Traiser
August 19
GCFM Board Meeting and Awards Workshop, Viles Home, 71 Stone St., Augusta


Judith Tarbox

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