A Garden Club Blooms in Rowley

The baton is passed, or is it the rake and shovel?

There is now an active garden club headquartered in Rowley – The Great Marsh Garden Club.

“The Rowley Garden Club hadn’t been active for years,” explained active gardener and one of the club’s leaders, Jill Sczepanski, to me in an interview near the Rowley Cemetery.  What could be done? 

In August of 2007, Jill met with several other interested gardeners and decided to organize a garden club.  “We had talked about doing it for several years,” she recalled.

And organize they did.  “The five of us became the Board of Directors,” she recalled.  “We created structure so that our garden club would last.”

The group chose, “Great Marsh,” for their club name because they didn’t want interested gardeners to think that membership was limited to Rowley residents.

Several in the original group had garden club experience.  Based on that experience an early decision they agreed on was to become part of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, as opposed to being loosely organized.

“Once you have been organized for a year you can become a member of that federation and that’s what we’ve done,” said Jill.  “They are very helpful. They sent someone to give us ideas on the best ways to undertake civic projects and work with public officials.”

Star Memorial Garden in the making at Rowley Cemetery.

Star Memorial Garden in the making at Rowley Cemetery.

Currently underway is the club’s first civic project – restoring the Star Memorial Garden in the Rowley Cemetery.  This garden honors those who have served our country.  Several club members have already prepared the soil and reshaped the star outline.  “We will be adding annuals of red, white, and blue that will be in place when the Memorial Day parade ends in the cemetery later this month,” she promised. 

Jill said that she hoped that future fundraising would enable the club to, “carve out the area outside the star into a patio where four granite tree benches can be placed so that people can come and sit.”

The club meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30PM from September-June in the Rowley Library. 

The original five organizers have grown quickly to thirty-five members in less than two years.  “We are pleased to have five men among the membership,” said Jill.  “Most clubs don’t have any men.”

There are no restrictions on those wishing to join.  “We already have within the club a variety of gardening backgrounds,” she explained.  “Our goals are to learn more about gardening and do community service.”

Jill can be contacted at 978-948-7800 or at gmgardenclub@mac.com for more information about the club, including the details for becoming a member. 

An important part of the Great Marsh Garden Club is raising money.  “You can’t do civic projects without it,” added Jill. 

On April 7th, the club hosted a fundraiser featuring radio gardening host Paul Parent.  “He was a great draw and people came from as far away as Andover,” Jill reported.

The next fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday (May 23rd) at Market Basket in Rowley.  It is the spring plant sale and it will run from 8AM-2PM.  “We will have a great selection of perennials for sale that were donated by club members as well as annuals,” said Jill.

Jill assured me that the number of projects they might do are numerous but she added that they need to be selective in the ones they choose.  “Starting the projects is the easier part. More difficult is handling the maintenance, especially in the summer when many are on vacation.”

Jill said that the club recognizes the need to align their activities with the wishes of the townspeople of Rowley. “Some residents have told us that they want to get back to the town center as a gathering place.  We have some ideas in that direction for the town common.”

Armed with commendable intentions and structure, it is easy to understand why the Great Marsh Garden Club is, and will continue to be, an asset to Rowley.  Consider joining.

( This story appeared in The Town Common on May 13, 2009. )

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