Growing a stronger community

By REBECCA SCHWAB

OBSERVER Staff Writer

“Silver bells and cockleshells” ain’t even the half of it.

On May 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, the Bud n’ Bloom Garden Club will hold its popular annual plant sale to raise funds for both the club and the Literacy Volunteers of Chautauqua County. Located at the Deakin’s barn at 6571 Route 20 in Portland, the sale will include perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs. The fundraiser is in its fifth year and promises to be the biggest and best yet.

Penny Deakin, club member and garden enthusiast who co-chairs the event with Judy Kawski, explains that the sale is important to the Literacy Volunteers, with the organization’s budget cut due to governmental shortages.

“There is a troublingly high rate of illiteracy here in Chautauqua County, and that hurts everyone,” Deakin says. “Teaching people to read gives them a chance. We wouldn’t have so much poverty and crime if people were more educated. The Literacy Volunteers are a fabulous group of people who are trying to improve our community.”

Martha Wiser, a member of the Bud n’ Bloom Garden Club and a Literacy Volunteer, enumerates the ways in which the plant sale benefits the community education organization, which rents space in the beautiful building at 21 E. Second Street in Dunkirk:

“The club donates a large percentage of their sales to the Literacy Volunteers,” she says. “The money goes toward the upkeep of our facility, but we also use it to buy materials that help our tutors, like textbooks. We’re trying to buy some audio materials to use with our literacy students, especially those for whom English is a second language.”

The Literacy Volunteers live up to Deakin’s assessment of “fabulous,” as every single worker, tutor, and administrative employee except for the program director are unpaid volunteers. They’re men and women who truly want to improve their community, and they’re willing to put their time and efforts where their mouths are.

But the 20 members of the Bud n’ Bloom Garden Club are no slouches, either. Aside from donating money from their plant sale to the Literacy Volunteers, they’re ready, willing, and able to get dirty several times a year to benefit their towns and cities. Members from Brocton, Dunkirk and Fredonia dedicate their time and resources to a variety of community projects, and stay busy during all four seasons. Unlike many other gardeners, they don’t take winters off.

“We do many projects throughout the year,” Wiser says. “During the Christmas season, we create bows for the wreaths at the Barker Library in Fredonia. In February, we put together individual arrangements for all the residents at the WCA home.”

Deakin says that they also do a special Arbor Day project each year, planting one or more trees around their communities. In recent years, the club has purchased and planted trees for nursing homes, parks and schools.

“We also make arrangements for the desk of the Barker Library during June and July,” Wiser adds.

Their upcoming plant sale will have something for every type of gardener, which members of the club have ensured by planting 130 flats of various seedlings. For those who are looking to add pops of color to their homes throughout the warm months, plenty of annuals will be available for purchase, like petunias, million bells, and marigolds. Ready-made planters will be just the thing for those who want the look but don’t have the time to do their own planting. Vegetable and herb plants will be available for kitchen witches who love making summer salads and preserving summer’s bounty by canning vegetables or drying herbs to enjoy in the winter months. For gardeners who focus on the long-term possibilities of their landscapes, perennials will be for sale.

“I love perennials,” Deakin says. “It takes planning, but you can plant your garden so that something is always blooming, from early spring into late autumn.”

However, it’s not just variety and healthy plants that Deakin, Wiser and the other ladies from the Bud n’ Bloom Garden club are offering to their customers. They’re also willing to share their experiences and expertise.

“There will be workshops both days,” Deakin says. “There will be a container gardening workshop Saturday and Sunday, and a succulent wreath workshop on Saturday. There will be garden walks scheduled for both days.”

These garden walks will take guests on a tour of Deakin’s own private garden, which is only available for public viewing during these two special days. Deakin and her husband James have spent years cultivating their property into a gardener’s Wonderland, complete with fruit trees, a shade garden, over 200 varieties of roses and a 2,500-plus bulb daffodil meadow. But Deakin is careful not to call her hobby “work.”

“I don’t think of it as working and I don’t like when people call it that,” she says. “It’s not work if you love doing it.”

It’s obvious that these 20 women love what they do. Several sub-committees were formed within the Bud n’ Bloom Garden Club to help organize the plant sale. While Deakin is in charge of all the planting of seeds and transplanting of seedlings, Kawski handles all the labeling, arranging and organizing of the plants for the sale. Another member, Janet Arnold, heads a committee that takes care of sales, while member Phyllis Steinberg’s committee will coordinate all the publicity.

Even with all the planning and efforts of the club members, though, Deakin explains that they get vital outside help from community partners, family and friends.

“We couldn’t do this without my sister, Deborah Kwasniewski,” Deakin says. “She donates greenhouse space to us.”

Kwasniewski owns Taylor Greenhouses, and without that safe shelter, the club’s seedlings would never make it to the sale. Kwasniewski also makes sure that the club’s seedlings get all the heat, food and water they need to grow strong and healthy. Other businesses who lend a green-thumbed hand include Mike’s Nursery in Lakewood, Westfield Nursery, M & R Greenhouses and Glen Acres Nursery in Fredonia, who have each generously donated a shrub to be raffled at the plant sale. Raffle tickets can be purchased from any club member or at Literacy Volunteers for $1 each or six for $5. Literacy volunteers help out by staffing the sale alongside all 20 members of the garden club.

The Bud n’ Bloom Garden Club and the Literacy Volunteers of Chautauqua County are thankful for the efforts of the members of the community who have supported them in the past and who will continue to support them in the future. The club looks forward to greeting this year’s “crop” of gardeners at the plant sale, teaching them about container gardens and succulents, and leading them on the special once-a-year tours through Deakin’s Edenic garden. For old pros and fresh ground-breakers alike, this plant sale is the ideal way to start spring and “get growing” with garden plans.

Send comments on this story to rschwab@observertoday.com