LEWISTON –To Sharon Low, the purpley blue crocuses and spikes of new daffodil leaves in her garden are the tantalizing signs of the flower and garden show season ahead.
“I am just getting really excited and itching to get out there,” said Low, president of the 86-year-old Lewiston Garden Club. “The beauty of flowers keeps me going. I love to sit out on my patio and see what’s growing.”
Now that spring is here, the group’s annual projects are beginning to unfold. Soon Low will get out and dig up and divide her hostas, iris, evening primrose and Shasta daisies for the club’s May 18 perennial sale at the Redbrick School on Fourth Street, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Always held the weekend before Memorial Day, it is so popular that people line up for an hour before the doors open. Even club members have to wait to buy plants along with everyone else.
“They’re less expensive than you would find them at the garden center,” said Low, 70.
She joined the club a decade ago after she retired from her job working for the state’s Parole Division. “I’ve always wanted to be a member,” she said. “I just didn’t have time.”
Members get together for luncheons once a month with talks by experts and field trips to nurseries. When the weather warms, she and other members tend flower beds at Hennipen Park, the Lewiston Historical Museum and the library, and donate arrangements from their gardens to the infirmary at the Sisters of St. Francis Stella Niagara convent in Lewiston.
“What I enjoy most is just the friendships I’ve made through the garden club,” she said.
In the last eight years, the club of about 35 active members, mostly in their 60s and 70s, has continued to develop its signature fundraising event, the Lewiston Garden Fest. The festival, June 22 and 23, is a combination garden art fair and plant sale that has grown by word of mouth. They started with 19 vendors, and last year 50 were selling from booths along part of Center Street, which is closed to traffic.
Do you think the club’s work has affected the look of Lewiston? Is gardening contagious?
When people say they love Lewiston, they often say, ‘Oh, the beautiful gardens.’ I think our Garden Fest is contagious. When people come down … we get a lot of new members who want to learn more. I think the garden club has helped. I know that a lot of people down in the village do seem to be inspired.
How did you get into gardening?
I’ve loved gardening all my life, even when I was a child. My parents had a small back yard, but they had really nice lilies of the valley. I was the one who always planted marigolds around the side of the house the way my mother wanted.
There’s something that’s so easy to do, and it’s inexpensive. You can start from seed. I don’t know why everybody doesn’t garden.
I just love to plant something and see it come up. I can’t describe how nice it is when you look at your garden and say how pretty that is.
I have hostas that came from my mother’s neighbors when I moved into this house 40 years ago. These plants, I have had them for over 40 years.
Do you have a favorite?
My roses never do well, and I love roses. I had four bushes a couple years ago. Two of them I purchased at a nursery lasted two years. The two I purchased at Sam’s Club are still blooming. So don’t discount Sam’s Club.
I think my second favorite is the calla lily.
I’m partial to pinks and purples because they’re beautiful together. My house is coordinated mostly with pinks and purples.
I don’t have one of those gardens that you see in magazines. I have friends that do. I like a lot of containers. I put a lot of my annuals, especially, in containers. I try to make them coordinated. I have containers all over. I also have window boxes on the patio.
You take cheap disposable diapers in your pots before you put dirt in?
It holds moisture. Cut it to size. Put it in the bottom. It’ll still drain, but it’ll hold the moisture. Not only that, but the dirt isn’t going to come out. I learned that from garden club. I went to a nursery, and that’s what they told us to do. You should always have drainage at the bottom of the pot. It seems to help.
What is your garden like?
I have daffodils and tulips coming. I was just out and saw some crocuses. I see the buds from the hostas.
I have hostas all around my house. Now I have a 90-foot bed in the back of the house. I have hostas out there. Hydrangeas, which I love. I have calla lilies. I have Shasta daisies. I have bachelor buttons. Salvia bushes. I have a beautiful sumac, which deer love.
We have a group of about six deer that come. They love to eat my hostas. I watched them chew on the sumac, which prunes it. It comes back with a vengeance. Deer also love the tulips. All I have left is daffodils. They don’t like daffodils. You have to find deerproof plants.
This year you’re trying some deerproof granules?
I’m going to spread it around. I’ve never used granules. I hope I get tulips this year…
Do you garden anywhere else?
I also do some of the gardening down at St. Peter’s Parish. They have urns in front of the rectory. I put those in. I always start with geraniums. I add petunias and vinca vine. I like the pinks. Every year, I pick the pinks since I get to do it.
Last year I also added purples and yellows. I started with a base of geraniums, pinks. Then I did some purples. Then some yellow. I also did sweet potato vine. The purple and the green sweet potato vine looked really nice together. People say it looks very nice. My husband and I go to Mass every day … A lot of people don’t know that I do it. But that’s OK. I don’t really care if they know.