The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 2, 2004


Butterfly gardens and plant sales: It's high season for the Garden Club!

Carlisle Garden Club president Holly Salemy and her dog Sage pause for a moment on the stone wall in her garden. (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

Although snow squalls marked the first official week of spring this year, March ended with a few days of warm, mild weather that carried the ambience of a change of season. For some of us, ideas about planting and landscaping begin to drift through our heads only when the temperature rises above fifty. For true gardeners, though, it's more than a seasonal hobby. And for the members of Carlisle's Garden Club, gardening is a year-round preoccupation.

"The club was founded back in 1959 by Marge Burton, who is now an honorary member," says current president Holly Salemy of Concord Street. "We meet monthly from September to June. Most meetings feature a guest speaker with expertise on a particular subject. In January we have an annual round-table discussion to go through the seed catalogs and discuss what we each want to grow in the upcoming year."

Salemy explains that the guest speakers are probably the club's biggest draw for new members, but once people get involved, they find many other advantages to the organization as well. "We have about fifty members and a good mix of long-time gardeners and people who are just starting to learn about it. Alison Saylor used to own a nursery and knows about all kinds of plants. Susan Hollingworth is an expert on plants, too."

Hollingworth, of West Street, counters modestly that she is no expert, but says that she enjoys working with other Carlisle gardening enthusiasts. When she was young, her family owned a large garden center but has been out of the business for many years. "In recent years, I've been getting back into gardening and plants," she says.

Snowdrops are blooming. It must be spring. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

Membership is fairly relaxed and really requires little more than a willingness to participate in the club's projects and payment of the yearly $30 dues. "Carlisle is very low-key compared to most towns' garden clubs," Salemy says. "You don't have to be invited to join. It's full of knowledgeable people who want to learn more about gardening and share what they already know." Among the club's most knowledgeable members is Eunice Knight of Bedford Road, a graduate of the Landscape Design Program of the Radcliffe Graduate Seminars. Knight says that she is "interested in the Garden Club's ability, with community involvement, to preserve and enhance public spaces in Carlisle."

Even the more experienced gardeners can learn a lot about eclectic topics from guest speakers, Salemy says. Past topics have included Italian gardens, shade gardens, cooking with homegrown herbs, and butterfly gardens. "Five years ago I couldn't make a bow," Salemy says. "During the holiday season, Cynthia MacLeod, who was previously very active in the Garden Club, led a workshop on making bows, so I had a chance to learn. And after I heard a speaker explain how to make a butterfly garden, I came home and made one in front of my house, although the first year it attracted mostly dragonflies."

Contributions to civic life

Along with recruiting knowledgeable speakers, the Garden Club is responsible for numerous civic projects. "We maintain the plantings around the Town Hall, the Town Common, Diment Park and the Rotary. We also do weekly floral arrangements for the interior of the library, do an initial springtime sprucing-up at Town Hall, and keep the path that runs from the library to Church Street neat." Collaboration with other town organizations is another way in which the Garden Club contributes to civic life: every December they coordinate a workshop with the COA to help older residents create seasonal home decorations, and recently some Garden Club members lent their expertise to the Girl Scouts to help with plantings at the park on Lowell Street next to Ferns. Field trips are a popular Garden Club activity as well, Salemy says. "Last fall we went to the Arnold Arboretum, and this spring we'll visit Garden in the Woods in Framingham."

Past Garden Club president Alison Saylor starts spring cleanup in her garden on Maple Street. (Photo by Lois d'Anunzio)

Recently, the Garden Club has been joining forces with the Historical Society on educational maintenance at the Heald House. They also offer scholarships (two of $1,000 each) to Carlisle residents applying to college or graduate school, and annually donate $200 to the Gleason Library for books on gardening. "This year we also gave the library fifty free passes to the Butterfly Place in Westford," Salemy says. Other projects come up on an ad hoc basis, such as the memorial that the Garden Club is currently working on in honor of the late Russell Perry.

Among the Garden Club's best known events are its biannual Garden Club tour, in which participants can visit beautifully maintained gardens at private residences throughout town; and its biannual plant sale at the Transfer Station, coming up on Saturday, May 8. According to Plant Sale organizer Alison Saylor, "Since many of the plants offered for sale originate from members' gardens, it is a wonderful opportunity to buy something that is proven to survive in Carlisle. There will be knowledgeable Garden Club members on hand to offer advice on the best plants for certain garden situations."

The Garden Club's next scheduled activity is a lecture called "Restoration of Reed Homestead (1809 Historical Homes, Gardens and Landscapes)" with Priscilla Hutt Williams. Co-sponsored by the Historical Society, it will be held at the Gleason Library on April 12. Of course, club members will be busy well before then as the ground thaws and the air warms. "Snowdrops are blooming now, and soon the crocuses will bloom too," says Saylor. "I can't wait to get my hands in the soil!"

Interested in joining the Carlisle Garden Club? Contact Gio DiNicola at 978-287-5407 or Holly Salemy at

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito