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Volume 79, Number 3 *  APRIL 2016    

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This Spring, the state is sprouting with the many new oaks planted through our Native Oak Tree Project. See the update below. Our FGCCT Scholarship Fund is blossoming--there is news in this issue. And children are developing a relationship with the land in a variety of activities as reported on by Ann Germano this month.

On the conservation front, there is good news and bad news. The Monarchs seem to be benefiting from our efforts, but a deadly pesticide is still in frequent use, killing our precious pollinators. Read the wonderful article by our guest authors from The Garden Club of Newtown. Another opportunity to learn about pollinators is to attend the FGCCT Annual Luncheon on April 20th to hear Douglas Tallamy speak. You'll find the Registration form below.

For the Calendar, click here.


President's Message

Ah, spring.  What a wonderful time of renewal. Being a tree person, I not only look down at all the bulbs sending up shoots and early flowers; I look the trees.  The maples are tinged red with early leafing, buds are swelling, magnolias are blooming and soon we will see the fresh lime green of the willows. To me, it is the best time of the year with all the promise of the garden to come.

I love tree stories! 

Have you heard the one about the man who cut down the oldest living thing on earth? If not, and if you like tree stories, you must read American Canopy, a wonderful book that Leslie Martino gave to me at the beginning of my term. The tree was a bristlecone pine growing in Nevada which, when felled in 1964, revealed 4,844 rings. According to dendro-chronologists (those who study tree rings), the tree could actually have been 5,000 years old. 

But here's a Connecticut tree story that I bet you've never heard, plus a fact about oak timber use.

I had a neighbor in Florida, Mr. Sherman Farwell, who walked the beach and swam (not paddled) in the Gulf until he was 99 years old.  I learned he loved trees, so I sat with him at breakfast to hear about his life and his tree story. During the war, Mr. Farwell's profession was to supply the navy with oak tree boards and forms for the ribs and motor mounts of mine sweepers, wood being invisible to metal detectors.

Sherm, as everyone called him, spent his professional life in Connecticut working for a nursery near Danbury. He remembers digging 20 crab apple trees with very large root balls and loading them on two different barges in Germantown, NY, to be sent to Central Park. The first load must have been in spring because he remembers the trees had no leaves. Apparently, the trees went into bloom during transport as the skipper remarked he had transported many things, but never a barge full of flowers.

Information from the Central Park Conservancy, which includes a September 18, 1937, New York Times article on the date of the garden opening, suggests that these trees are part of the 60 in the Conservancy Garden in Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 110th Street. Richard E. Comley, then president of the Outpost Nurseries of Ridgefield, CT, had been in charge of the transplanting. He reported that one barge included a tree containing a bird's nest with eggs and a fluttering Mother robin, all of which were carefully transported as they hatched en-route.

If you get a chance, now is the time to see these glorious crabapple trees, Malus 'Hyslop', in Central Park in full bloom for up to three weeks. Many consider them more beautiful than flowering cherries; their life span is twice as long, and the fruit makes the best jelly. Plus, now you know about their Connecticut connection!

To enhance your spring gardening plans, be sure not to miss Doug Tallamy's fabulous presentation, "A Chickadee's Guide to Gardening" at our Annual Meeting on April 20th. Business includes new officer and board elections, plus a revision to The Federation bylaws. The reservation form is attached to this newsletter.  We have new vendors, beautiful centerpieces created by three garden clubs, and a streamlined check-in process. We always welcome your suggestions for making our meetings more enjoyable and efficient.

I hope to see you there to kick off the gardening season.

* Jane Waugh


This time not for floral design, but for web design. We're looking for one or two garden club members with a bit of design knowledge to help us plan a new website for the Federation. The current one is 15 years old - ancient in the world of technology. Some experience, such as having worked on your club's website, is important; knowledge of WordPress and web technology such as designing for mobile devices would be terrific, but not required. If you would be willing to help out on our task force, please contact the office or me directly.         

* Jane Waugh     [email protected] 

FGCCT Annual Meeting and Luncheon

Would you like to have more birds visiting your gardens?  Do you want to add more native plants to your property?

Dr. Douglas Tallamy, our speaker for our FGCCT Annual Meeting, will tell us how to accomplish this in our yards.

Dr. Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and the author of Bringing Nature Home and Living Landscapes. He will show us how to keep our landscapes alive by sharing our gardens with all living things, which can add to our pleasure.

For the Registration form, click here.

Registration Change:

When you arrive at Aqua Turf in April, you will find name tags have been arranged by last name:

A-L on the left table as you enter and
M-Z on the right table as you enter the building.

Your entree choice and the number of the table where you are to be seated will be found in the pocket behind your name.  We feel this change will speed the process and prevent back-ups in that area.

Looking forward to seeing you on April 20th.

* Margaret Hopkins
Meetings Chair


Scholarship News

We are pleased to announce the following contributions to our FGCCT Scholarship Fund since the last CF News issue:

Bristol Garden Club: $100
Cheshire Garden Club: $50
Green Fingers Garden Club, Greenwich: $150
Greens Farms Garden Club: $100
Olde Ripton Garden Club, Shelton: $50
Old Saybrook Garden Club: $100
Orchard Valley Garden Club, Southington: $100

And, finally, a most impressive gift came from West Hartford Garden Club:  $1,500.

 We sincerely thank all of our clubs for their generous support!

* Judy Joly
Scholarship Chair

English Garden Delights Tour 2016

Our fabulous trip to the English Gardens and Chelsea Flower Show is just around the corner. I hope all our 33 travelers are anticipating the trip as much as I am!

We will be seeing the top gardens at a beautiful time of year...Wisley, Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and the incredible Kew Gardens. Our full day at the Chelsea Flower Show ought to fulfill the imaginings and floral fancies of all. Museums, shopping, culinary delights as well as free time for exploring will be part of our tour.

Great Dixter.

Sissinghurst's White Garden.

Chelsea Flower Show.

I look forward to meeting new travelers as well as welcoming back old friends. Thank you for your support of our Tours Program.

* Kathy Kobyshin
FGCCT Tours Coordinator


Three Greenwich clubs (Greenwich Garden Club, Green Fingers and Hortulus) worked with the Greenwich Tree Conservancy to plant six native oak trees in Binney Park.  They planted scarlet, pin, black, white, burr and northern red oaks.  We could not have hoped for a better interpretation of the native oak tree project.


As part of its Centennial gift to the City of Middletown, the Middletown Garden Club planted 35 urban street trees, most of them native species. Included were two Scarlet oaks.


Wallingford Garden Club planted a native Northern Red Oak at Wallingford's Open Space at the Tyler Mill entrance native garden. Southwest Conservation District (SWCD) staff members Chris Bowley and Dan Massella did the planting on October 23, 2015. (Invasives were cleared and native shrubs and perennials were planted by Tyler Mill Stewards.)

Two Quercus bicolor (Swamp white oak) were donated by the Litchfield Garden Club on North St. (Route 63), Litchfield, CT, in September, 2015.  Maintenance will be carried out by Professional Outdoor Services, the company that planted the trees.

* Barbara Deysson
State Project Chair


Arbor Day is Friday, April 29th, the perfect time to plant a native oak tree in your community, funded by The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut. For more information, go to


Landscape Design Study School broke all attendance records last week completely filling Jones Auditorium with 60 attendees. Expert lecturers included two of our own Connecticut garden club members: Regina Neal, professional landscape designer, showed before and after photos of some of her impressive residential designs with interesting explanations of the stories behind them. Leslie Martino, Federation First Vice President and landscape designer, conveyed her extensive knowledge of historic preservation, its cultural importance and various types of preservation.

Next up is Flower Show School, Course III, May 11, 12, and 13, 2016. Horticulture will focus on the study of bulbous plants with emphasis on daffodils, hostas, and combination plantings. Design will include American Creative Designs such as Creative Mass design. Flower Show procedure will include a focus on Special Exhibits including the criteria for creating outstanding educational exhibits. The registration form is on the website. Come join the fun!

Neonicotinoids: Big Word, Big Problem

Can you say "neo-nicotinoids"? If you can't, "neo-nics" is fine. While proper pronunciation is optional, knowing about neo-nics is almost mandatory.

Neonicotinoids make up a class of insecticides that are toxic to bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, and are very widely used in agriculture and in the nursery business.  A neo-nic is applied to seeds and plants as a preventative against aphids and white flies. The problem is that it is systemic in the plant, being transported to all parts of the plant including blooms and pollen. When bees come in to collect pollen, they are subjected to doses of neo-nics that may be lethal. Even sub-lethal exposures can result in adverse effects, resulting in death or decline of the colony. The problem gets worse when you consider that neo-nics are soluble and do run off into water courses and seep into ground water. Also, they are persistent, lasting up to six years in some situations.

Asking nursery outlets if their plants are free from neonicotinoids is one way to raise awareness and hopefully prevent contamination of your garden areas. And if you use a lawn maintenance company, check with them to make sure they are not applying neo-nics to your lawn and gardens.

Many lawn and garden sprays sold at garden centers and hardware stores contain neonicotinoids, although they are not labeled as such. You have to read the label, looking for the words imidacloprid, clothinadin, thiomethoxam, acetamiprid, thiacloprid, dinotefuran or nitenpyram! But do try and remember these chemicals; we suggest making a list. When treatment is necessary, choose less toxic options such as biological control, nontoxic baits and traps, and horticultural sprays to name a few. It is important to use caution with any insecticide, be it organic or synthetic, and to consider non-target organisms like butterfly caterpillars and other beneficial insects. Also, pesticides should never be applied when pollinators are active and when flowers are present.

Our group in Newtown called "Protect Our Pollinators," and composed of several Garden Club members, is trying to do a number of things:

1) educate the public,
2) monitor local nurseries and outlets to determine who is selling neo-nic treated plants,
3) work with nurseries to reduce sales of treated plants and lawn and garden chemicals containing neo-nics,  
4) advocate for labeling of off-the-shelf garden chemicals, and
5) make our town officials and legislators aware so that they can help to reduce neo-nics in the environment.

On March 4, Protect Our Pollinators submitted testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly Environmental Committee on Raised Bill No. 231, An Act Concerning Pollinator Health. Protect Our Pollinators is committed to working to increase awareness of neo-nics and our threatened pollinator species including native bees, honeybees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, as well as birds and bats.  For more information, please check out our website at

* Mary Wilson and Holly Kocet
The Garden Club of Newtown

Option for Returning Silver Awards
Won in 2015

If you or your Club won a Silver Award at the October 2015 Awards meeting and you wish to return it, you may do so at the upcoming Annual Meeting on April 20th to be held at Aqua Turf.

We trust you will find this arrangement convenient--it will save money and relieve you of concern about its safety.  Otherwise, the silver will
need to be returned via U.S. Mail, FEDEX, or UPS, insured, to a location to be announced in the next issue of our CF NEWS.

* Inge Venus
Silver Manager


It's that time of year again when we are asked to complete and submit our Annual Reports to The Federation to document our activities and accomplishments in the past year and become eligible for FGCCT awards.

The interactive forms for your 2015-2016 reports are posted on our website. Go to, Click the Club LogIn page, and click on "Click here for Annual Report Forms for 2015-2016" at the top of the page. You may type directly into the page and then print your completed form to send in to our FGCCT Office by the April 1st deadline.

Technical Tips on Opening Annual Report Forms:

Occasionally, forms cannot be filled out in a browser window, so it is always better to download the form and save it to your computer.   You should not have trouble filling it out there, saving it, and then sending it as an attachment to an email.  If you use Internet Explorer, make sure it is the latest version.  Older versions are not always compatible with our forms and/or documents.

Also, make sure your Adobe Reader is the latest version!  Updates are free.


In mid-February I attended the Connecticut Flower Show, the crowning achievement of fellow members of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, Inc..  Always an enjoyable outing, the exhibits were interestingly beautiful. Flower designs and tablescapes were perfectly displayed. However, what really drew me in was the impressive collection of horticulture entries. The love, care and pride put into these specimens grown mostly by club members was evident. Among the entries were shining examples of amaryllis, cacti and orchids, to name a few.

What really caught my eye and inspired me to write this article were the Rex Begonias. It is only in the last five years or so that I developed a true appreciation for their diversity. I never really did like the wax variety my grandmother would use to edge her flower beds, so for years I never gave any begonia a second glance. Begonias and I have both come a long way from the time when those innocuous plants were in vogue.

Begonias are a diverse group. There are 1,795 different species of them worldwide with Rex Begonias being only one species. Many different species have been interbred extensively over the years so that there are literally thousands of varieties. Some such as the Tuberous species are noted for their outstanding flowers. Although the Rex varieties do produce flowers, it is their unique leaf shapes, colors, textures and patterns at which I marvel. I particularly like the spiraled leaf varieties. There is something other-worldly about them. 'Escargot' is an older and excellent example of this leaf type.  

Not having enough window room for another houseplant, I'm inspired to mix more of them into my summer planters. In my research, I've seen examples of them mixed beautifully with ferns, Oxalis and other species of begonia including Begonia boliviensis.   Throw in a shade-loving Alocasia 'Portora' as the "thriller" with any of the aforementioned plants and you'll  have a gorgeous combination for shade.

B. Rex prefer shade and love humidity and an evenly moist, porous soil. They cannot tolerate soggy soil. Wet leaves and stems will tend to rot. Only an occasional fertilizing is needed as too much fertilizer will burn the leaves. Being rhizomatous, they are easily propagated by rhizome division. Their exotic looks belie how easy they are to grow. I think the only problem is deciding on which ones to choose.
If you are considering something a little more exotic than coleus (nothing wrong with coleus, I love them too) for your shade containers, April is the perfect time to visit growers or to peruse catalogues specializing in them. A picture is worth a thousand words. I'm sure you will find some inspiration, and maybe next February it will be your horticulture entry for the CT Flower Show that will inspire others.

*Liz Rinaldi
Horticulture Chair

Finally... some GOOD news for monarchs!

Drumroll please...the counts from Mexico are in, and the news is encouraging! A season of excellent weather conditions for monarch breeding and migrating, almost certainly aided by habitat restoration efforts, has produced an increase in the 2015-2016 Eastern monarch population.

Scientists with the World Wildlife Fund Mexico measured 4.01 hectares (almost 10 acres) carpeted with the iconic orange and black butterflies in the oyamel fir forests this winter-three times the 1.13 hectares measured last year. The population count increased from 42 million last year to approximately 150 million this year. In 2013, the estimate was about 25 million butterflies covering .67 hectares. At the population peak in 1996, nearly 700 million of the beautiful creatures covered over 44 acres in Mexico's oyamel fir forests. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has set a 5-year target of 225 million monarchs (6 hectares), a figure the Service believes would allow monarchs to rebound from weather or other hits.

Keeping the good news in perspective, the reality is that the monarchs currently gathered in Mexico for the winter still represent a population decline of 32% from the 22-year average and a decline of 78% from the population highs of the mid-1990s. 

Because the weather conditions in much of the southern and Midwestern U.S. for the last two years were so good for monarchs, there is concern that this population size may be the largest that the remaining habitat can currently support. The loss of over 165 million acres of habitat to corn and soy production may limit the number of monarchs that can be produced on the habitat that remains, making habitat restoration efforts across the breeding range all the more critical in order to grow the population to a level that will not be impacted by winter storms: A single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs, more than three times the size of the current population.

The work is far from done. We need sustainable habitats of native milkweeds serving as host plants for the spring migration and an increase in native nectar plants for the fall migration. It is important to remember that having all-season native nectar plants serves our pollinating insects as well.

Thank you for all your efforts and keep up the great work!
Follow the spring 2016 migration here:

* Marty Sherman
National Project Chair

[Note: A "winter storm of historic proportions" hit the overwintering site the week of March 10, 2016, and reports are mixed as to how many monarchs may have perished. The storm began with rain and was followed by hail, snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Monarchs are more susceptible to freezing to death when they are wet, so the storm sequence was of special concern. In addition, dozens of trees within the sanctuary were toppled by strong winds. The annual spring migration was imminent but the mass departure had not yet begun at the time of the million monarchs. For more information as it becomes available, see

Youth Activities

April is the perfect time of year to introduce children to the wonders of gardening and nature.  Nearly all children enjoy watching something grow and bloom.  Look around your community, find a group of children and design a project to engage them in a gardening or nature experience.  Remember, you do not need to have a large group of children or a large number of volunteers or even a large block of time.  And your project need not be expensive.

Contact a local pre-school or nursery school and volunteer to supply some pots and soil and seeds.  Help the children each plant a seed or two in their pot to be given as a Mother's Day gift.  The children will have such fun planting the seeds and then watching them sprout and begin to grow.  If you don't want to do seeds, schedule your session later in the month and fill the pots with a small plant. This project only needs a few volunteers, some trowels or scoops and usually less than an hour in time.  But don't forget a plastic tablecloth; clean up will be much easier!

If you prefer to work with older children, look for a Boys and Girls Club or a  Community Center with after-school programs.  Suggest a program to teach children how to plant container gardens.  Offer to donate pots or planters and the soil and plants to fill them.   The pots can be used at the entrance to the building or in other public areas.  This program can be done in two sessions, if you want to have the children help decide on what containers and plants to use and where they should be placed.  Only one session is needed if you have already purchased plants and containers. The children will be so proud of their contribution to the space.  Again, this project will only need a few volunteers and should take no more than one or two hours of time.

It's also a great time for exploring the growing gardens.  Many nursery schools are held in church buildings and many churches have gardens.    Offer to lead a short "Tour of the Spring Garden."  Twenty to thirty minutes is more than enough time for this age group.  Plan two sessions.  The first when things are just beginning to pop out of the ground or perhaps budding and then a second trip when everything is in bloom.  If you would rather work with older children, think about offering a "field trip" to one of your members' Spring gardens or to a local town garden.  This would work for a scout troop or a small private school class.

Youth Program of the Month

Guilford Garden Club
Guilford Center for Children
Chair:  Susanne Durno       

This project was started four years ago when the new Guilford Center for Children building was completed.  The Center contacted the Guildford Garden Club and asked for help in developing a a small garden area in the fenced-in background. Susanne and her husband volunteered to build three raised garden beds at the center; they have since added a narrow bed along one of the fences to support vined plants.  The gardens are planted with vegetables, herbs and berries.

The Center serves children from the ages of three to five.  Children come out by classroom to help plant the gardens in the Spring.  They learn about plants and seeds as well as about planting and mulching.

The abundance of produce in the first year was donated to the local food bank. At this time, all the produce is harvested by the school cooks and used for the children's lunches and snacks.

Two to five garden club members work once a week for about a month in the Spring to get the gardens started.  The teachers help with needed weeding and watering. Garden club members need only check on the gardens  occasionally  during the growing season.  Once the beds are built, the cost to the Garden Club is minimal.  Annual cost is about $150.00 for plants, seeds and mulch.  

* Ann Germano
Youth Chair

Meet Krista Swanson Fiorini

I first met Krista Swanson Fiorini when we both participated in the Master Gardener Program in the class of 2000. Since then she has been Treasurer of the Bethel Garden Club and is serving her third term as President! And she is The Federation's new Blue Star Memorial Chair.

Krista grew up in Pittsfield, MA, and she says, "Gardening is in my blood." Her mother was "the farmer's daughter" and her grandmother was a big gardener, too.

Krista married her high school sweetheart, whose name, Fiorini, means "little flower." When they bought their first home, Krista read books on gardening and made improvements to their yard. They moved to Connecticut in 1985 and have been in Bethel since 1991. Their daughter is now in college.

All this time, Krista has worked for Perkin Elmer, where she handles Analytical Instrumentation doing Organic Elemental Analysis and Thermal Analysis. Currently she is consulting for them.

Civic Beautification is the main focus of the Bethel Garden Club. As President, Fiorini oversees the planting and maintenance of 65 window boxes around town and 19 public gardens. At home, she has her "share of flowers" but her emphasis has been on trees and shrubs, which she says "are not low maintenance!"

Krista is "very excited because quite a few clubs are interested in pursuing Blue Star Memorial Markers." Brookfield Garden Club has ordered one and Milford wants a marker to help celebrate its 90th anniversary. She will soon be visiting the Old Ripton Garden Club to educate them about the process.

 "Andrea Little of National Garden Clubs' Blue Star Committee has been very helpful. She gave me a Power Point presentation about the history of the markers to show interested clubs." And Pat Dray, Krista's predecessor, made a poster with a map of Connecticut showing where all the Blue Star Memorial markers are. Krista is updating it. There are now 9 markers in Connecticut. There are three kinds of markers: Highway, Byway and Memorial. So if your club wants to honor its town's service men and women, you know whom to call.

* Lynn Hyson
News Editor





To maintain your garden club's Tax Exemption status, your club MUST file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) EVERY YEAR. You must file a form 990, 990-EZ, or 990N (the e-postcard).


Clubs that fail to file an annual 990-series return or notice, for three consecutive years, will AUTOMATICALLY lose their tax-exempt status.



o r Go To, then click link for "Charities & Non-Profits."




Deadline for MAY 2016 ISSUE  


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CT Federation NEWS

Published monthly except January/July


Direct Articles/Dates/Events to:   Lynn Hyson, Editor    

49 Seventy Acre Rd., Redding, CT  06896     203-431-0613


Direct Advertising Queries to: Diana Abshire, Advertising Manager

26 Diamond Hill Rd., Redding, CT  06896    203-938-1114


Direct Circulation Queries to:  OFFICE SECRETARY, FGCCT

P.O. Box 854, Branford, CT  06405     203-488-5528



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To coordinate, stimulate and encourage higher standards in all aspects of Garden Club work


To protect and conserve our natural resources, preserve our heritage and promote civic beauty.   Federation logo


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Mt Laurel