CFN Masthead

Volume 77,   Number 3 *  APRIL 2014   

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Don't miss Tony Todesco' flower arrangements--viewable on the big screen--at this month's Annual Meeting!
Mt Laurel

It all comes together this month, when we celebrate our planet and its spring renewal. Here we have a variety of ways for you to participate, from attending our Annual Meeting at Aqua Turf, to planting milkweed, to helping others through garden therapy. And what a calendar! The next two months are packed with educational and shopping opportunities :-)


Lynn Hyson, Editor
President's Message
Celebrate the Earth in April 

I pledge to protect and conserve the natural resources of the planet Earth 
and promise to promote education so we may become caretakers 
of our air, water, forest, land and wildlife.

    National Garden Clubs, Inc., 
Conservation Pledge

As we plan our clubs' programs, let's keep in mind the NGC Conservation Pledge and organize programs to learn how we can help take care of our precious planet.  April may be considered the year's environmental month with several celebrations to honor the Earth. 
Aligned with our state project, "Bee Kind to Pollinators," Make Way for Monarchs, an alliance of universities, faith-based organizations, gardening and environmental groups, is calling for A day of Contemplation and Actions with Respect to Pollinator Declines on April 14.  The day seeks to honor the legacy of Rachel Carson, author of 
Silent Springand environmental pioneer, on the 50th anniversary of her death. They have issued a "Winged Credo," in which they outline the plight of pollinators and their importance to our food supplies.  See their site at They urge gardeners across America to plant native milkweeds for Monarch butterflies.
April 22 is the 44th Earth Day.  Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, US Senator from Wisconsin, originally conceived of the day as a national teach-in on the environment on university campuses.  Twenty million Americans took part and that first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 
Twenty years later, Earth Day 1990 went global as 200 million people in 141 countries participated.  Recycling efforts were boosted worldwide and the way was paved for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio two years later.
The focus of Earth Day 2014 is "Green Cities." As the world's population migrates to cities, it is more important than ever to create sustainable communities.  This year over a billion people are expected to plant trees, clean up their communities, petition their elected officials, conduct seminars and more, on behalf of the environment.  

National Arbor Day is April 25.  What a perfect day to honor your members and beautify your town by planting trees. Our State's Native Tree Contest is running for another six months.  There is plenty of time for your club to participate. For more information about the contest, go to and click on Contests. The Award winning clubs will be announced at our Annual Awards Meeting in October.  

Studies have shown that even a modest increase in native plant cover on suburban properties increases the number and species of breeding birds.  We can design sustainable landscapes that limit lawns to areas used for walking or recreation.  The rest of the landscape can consist of canopy trees, understory trees, shrubs and grasses.  So we can honor the Earth and help our environment just by adding native plants to our own backyards.

Tony Todesco at AquaTurf on April 16

The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut's Annual Meeting is April 16th at Aqua Turf in Plantsville.  Come and experience one of America's leading floral designers, Tony Todesco, as he presents "Flowers: Fun and Fancy" - all captured on a full-length video screen. Learn what your State Federation is up to at the Business Meeting and enjoy a delicious luncheon. Be informed and be inspired.
  Click here for the registration form.
*  Jacqueline Connell

Bee Kind To Pollinators
Monarchs and Milkweed

M & Ms?  The candy is bright colored and yummy.  The Monarch butterfly           (Danaus plexippus) and its caterpillar are brightly colored and not yummy, at least to birds and other predators.  The caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed (Asclepias), ingesting cardiac glycosides (similar to Digitalis) that act as heart stoppers.  Their bright colors and bitter taste serve as a strong warning to predators.  
A Monarch Butterfly.

Monarchs are well known for their long migration in the fall to wintering areas.  East of the Rockies they travel to central Mexico. The western populations over-winter along the California coast from Mendocino to San Diego. They are the only North American pollinator migrating to warmer climates for the winter. In the spring they return north.  

How can an insect as fragile as a butterfly manage such long treks?  Butterflies born in late summer enter a non-reproductive
The Monarch in its nymph stage.
stage known as diapause, and can live as long as seven months, compared to two months for those born earlier in the season. How these butterflies can consistently find a site to which they've never been is not clearly understood.  A photoreceptor protein in the antenna detects ultraviolet light and acts as a chemical compass. This tells the butterfly if it is aligned with the Earth's magnetic field. The sun is used for navigation, and internal clocks compensate for daily changes in the sun's position. On the return trip, the eastern Monarchs stop off in Texas to feed and reproduce.  It will take several generations to reach the region from which the migration first began. 
The over-wintering sites have dwindled from 50 acres to seven in 2011, and as of 2013, three acres.  Deforestation and changed land use have resulted in the loss of winter habitat.  Climate change is another factor: Temperatures greater than 95 degrees F. can be lethal to the caterpillars, and eggs dry out in hot, dry conditions.  Herbicides used in the Midwest have killed millions of acres of milkweed that used to grow between the rows of food crops, eliminating those egg-laying sites and nectar for returning adults. I've noticed the drop in adults visiting my gardens, especially last year.  Have you?  

You've been urged to aid other pollinators by planting natives.  Now there is an additional native plant to consider--milkweed, a.k.a. butterfly weed. Full sun, well-drained, nutrient-poor soil is all it requires.  Local nurseries offer Asclepias tuberosa, A. purpurascens and A. curassavica. Building up the local populations 
will help counteract the large losses experienced in Mexico over the winters.

Useful websites include: 
 * Lois Nichols
Special Projects Chair
Plant Native Trees
The Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Cornus/Dogwoods are a childhood memory. Basically most of the Dogwoods grew naturally in the woods and on the edge of fields throughout Connecticut. The woods provided dappled shade and lots of leaves (or, fertilizer).

The Pagoda Dogwood likes acid soil and prefers wet/damp conditions. Great if you have a spot in your garden where the soil is moist and there is some shade. This cultivar will create a new look as its branches are horizontal. The flowers cover the tree in the spring. Eventually fruits appear along with the birds.
Spring and dogwood go together. Try a Pagoda for new interest and a wonderful small native tree.

* Kathrine Neville
Create Backyard Habits
Mother was Scottish and, that being said, had lots of little sayings such as, "It's bad luck to put an umbrella on the bed," and "It's bad luck to put up the new calendar before the old year has passed."  She also had a saying about good luck and that was,  "Make a wish when you see a robin for the first time in spring."  

I spied my first robin a week ago.  He was poking around in the snow, and I thought, "What do robins eat at this time of year when there is so much snow on the ground?"

So, I went to my favorite source--Google--and here's what I found. The robin redbreast loves grated cheese--mild flavored, of course--sunflower kernels, mealworms and suet.  Robins concentrate on berry bushes, trees and vines.  If robins over-winter near you, you can offer them frozen or fresh fruit, apple slices, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherries.  

According to my source, mealworms are the best choice for over-wintering robins.  And they're easy to find at pet stores or on the internet.  Just don't put them in the refrigerator! My husband, John, has an aversion to mealworms in the refrigerator.

Please note:  Even the hungriest robin would never eat birdseed.

In my article last month I mentioned the "trophic cascade."  I received an email from JoAnne about the trophic cascade in Yellowstone National Park.  She sent me this link to a wonderful video: .  I know you will enjoy it.

Please send me the names and certification numbers of your garden club members who have certified their gardens with the National Wildlife Federation.  If you need an application or have any questions, please let me know.

Here's to a spring full of wonderful surprises.

* Anne Harrigan
Danbury Garden Club
World Flower Show 2014
World Association of Flower Arrangers (WAFA) is planning the 2014 World Flower Show in Dublin, Ireland this June. For more information, go to and click on Helpful Links 
at the left side of our home page.
Eye On Horticulture: The Garden in April
As I write this in mid-February, Spring seems far away. I am out every day searching for her, but all I see is the foliage of early daffodils and plenty of cool season weeds.

Sydney Eddison once suggested that the first spring day that we can smell the soil should be a national holiday. The smell of soil does signal a magic few weeks in the garden when just about anything can be done. If you're worried about transplanting something special, now is the window of opportunity. 

Here are some other items for your consideration. There is plenty to do in the April garden!!

Fertilize ... 
if you didn't already do this in March. Remember to choose a balanced fertilizer (like a 5-10-10 or 10-10-10) containing a slow-release nitrogen.

Weed ... 
If a plant is green at this time (and you don't know what it is), it's probably a cool-season weed, and you will want to pull it before it can release thousands of seeds throughout the rest of your garden.

smaller plants that may have had their root balls pushed up out of the ground by frost. Replant when necessary.

Clean up the garden ... Now's the time to clean the garden thoroughly and carefully. Many garden diseases and insects can overiwinter in your garden (think blackspot on roses or iris borers), so you don't want to compost the debris. Cut down iris foliage which may shelter iris borer eggs.
Cut back perennial foliage and flowers that you didn't cut back last fall ... but wait until new growth appears before cutting back woody sub shrubs such as butterfly bush, caryopteris, sage, rue, germander, lavender, Russian sage and Montauk daisy.

Butterfly bushes flower best if all stems are cut right down to the ground when new growth appears. If this sounds too drastic to you, cut the oldest stems to the ground and trim back the rest. Butterfly bushes will grow 8 to 10 feet every year.

Ornamental grasses ... 
should be cut down before new growth appears. A sharp chain saw makes quick work of this chore.

Plant and transplant ... 
As soon as the soil is dry enough, you can plant, transplant and divide just about anything. Hostas, ferns and ornamental grasses are best divided and transplanted in very early spring.

Lawns ... 
Don't fertilize now. Your lawn will green up beautifully all by itself and Long Island Sound doesn't need any more nitrogen from unused lawn fertilizer. If you want to fertilize your lawn, fertilize no more than three times a year: Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Apply corn gluten (to control weeds in lawns) when the forsythia is blooming. Corn gluten contains nitrogen, so you may not need to apply nitrogen fertilizer.

Window boxes and containers ... can be planted with frost-resistant plants purchased from a cool greenhouse or hardened off yourself before planting. Frost-resistant plants include alyssum, English daisy, lettuce, linaria, lobelia, pansies or viola, parsley, primroses, snapdragons and stock.

Start watering plants that have over-wintered outdoors in containers. The soil in containers will dry out quickly and the plant roots must have water.

Pruning ... is my favorite early spring chore. No need to suffer from Fear of Pruning-- remember that you are doing your plants a big favor by pruning them. Plants that bloom on new wood (roses, for example) need a good pruning to encourage new growth. However, wait a few years before heavily pruning newly planted roses or other woodies. For the first few years, limit pruning cuts to removing dead wood or crossing branches, or lightly shaping the rose bush.

The best time to prune is just before "bud break."  Watch the buds on your branches swell and prune when they break, or open. At this time the plant's energy is moving up and out, and pruning cuts will heal quickly. 
The direction of the buds is important because they indicate which way the new branch will grow. Pay attention to the buds on the stem and prune just above an outward-facing bud so that the new branch will grow out. It's important to keep the center of a rose bush open to air and light.

Yes, it is possible to kill a plant by pruning too much (don't take off more than one-third of the branches), but usually the worst that might happen is that you will remove this year's flowers.

I have a Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk')  that I planted last fall. Eventually, I want its branches to hide my neighbor's garage roof.

I'll begin to shape the tree this April by cutting off a few of the lowest branches and cutting back the branch that is curving toward the center of the tree. This will encourage the tree to grow taller.

Next year I'll cut off a few more of the lowest branches and continue to shape the tree.

After three or four years of judicious pruning, this tree will be correctly shaped.

Remember to enjoy your garden! Don't get so bogged down in the "must-dos" that you forget to rejoice in the magic that is Spring!

* Pamela Weil
Horticulture Chair
What I Learned from the Flower Show
The following letter comes from Molly E. Sherman, a member of the New Britain Garden Club, with thanks to Leslie Martino, who gave her son a guided tour of the 2014 Flower Show.

What I Learned from the Flower Show

I like to go to flower shows, but I never understood how the judging for floral designs was done. This year I learned some of the things the judges look for.   
One thing the judges look for is movement, or how the eye moves along through the arrangement with the flow of colors and shapes (not the movement of bees buzzing around!). For instance, if the arrangement has yellow flowers, the color must be repeated to draw your eye through the design. If it is not repeated, or there is too big a gap, your eye stops. 

Another factor is the balance of flowers up and down, front and back, etc. Two halves of the design don't have to be mirror images, but they should have equal "visual weight." Stems, branches and leaves enclose "negative space" within the arrangement. This can add gracefulness, airiness, and light. Too much negative space can make it seem wispy and weak. 

Understanding some of the things judges look for helped me to really enjoy the floral designs this year. 

* David Sherman, age 9
Meet Leslie Martino
Yet another of our hard-working, accomplished
Board members, Leslie Martino was so  inspired by FGCCT's Landscape Design Study School andGardening Study School that she went on to earn graduate level certificates from Harvard in Landscape Design and Landscape History.  "I got so excited by those classes that I didn't want it to stop!" says Martino.
Martino admits that earning those certificates was "the hardest thing I ever did." She was commuting from Woodbridge to Cambridge, MA, doing graduate level work, researching, collaborating with fellow students and studying. But she loved it.

About 10 years ago Leslie served as a clerk under Judges Clerks Chair, Inge Venus, at the CT Flower Show.  "I never quite understood why judges judge the way they do," she remembers. That led Martino to enroll in Flower Show School, which she completed to become a judge. Martino now serves as Judges Clerk Chair, which means she organizes 22 people to work with the judges at the CT Flower Show. Having completed three of the FGCCT schools, she is currently finishing Environmental Studies School, "which I absolutely love!" says Leslie.

Martino now runs her own business, called Sugar Magnolia, doing landscape designs for a few clients. But her main endeavor is working with the Woodbridge Garden Club to research and design gardens in town. As chair of the Woodbridge Civic Beautification committee, she redesigned a colonial period perennial garden at the historic Thomas Darling house, and earned one of FGCCT's Tribute Awards. Then, for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, they created a memorial garden at the Woodbridge Fire Department. That project won the New England Regional Sears Bowl award.

As 2nd Vice President in charge of Membership, Martino answers inquiries about FGCCT, refers people to the right place and manages our FGCCT affiliates. Another of her duties now is to coordinate the annual Tribute Awards and Lifetime Memberships for The Federation.  Anyone can nominate a garden club member for one of these awards by writing a letter. Leslie then researches the members' activities to help determine the winners.

Four years ago, knowing Leslie's credentials, The Federation asked her to chair the Landscape Design Study School, which she did through 2013. Carol Beerbaum has taken over now and Leslie was a lecturer at the March session.

At home, Leslie admits to being "a peony nut." She collects peonies all along her driveway so that she can enjoy them as she rushes in and out.

* Lynn Hyson
News Editor 
The First Idea Exchange Symposium 
March 4, 2014
You may ask, what is that?  Bethel Garden Club President, Delores (Dee) O'Grady, wanted to do the best job possible for her members.  As in many clubs, there were many questions about running a garden club successfully and involvement with the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, Inc., etc., so she, with the help of neighboring Redding Garden Club president, Karen deFriesse, presented The First Idea Exchange Symposium. 
As the New England Region Director and a member of the nearby Danbury Garden Club, I was asked to attend and speak about a list of questions that had been sent ahead.  I then asked members from our Federation Board, who had expertise in the areas of the presented questions, to form a panel.  The Bethel and Redding clubs then sent out invitations to several area clubs and apparently the word spread beyond, as 18 clubs were represented.  

This first symposium was truly successful.  The panel spoke about topics such as growing membership, insurance and IRS issues, applying for awards, planning flower shows, garden therapy ideas, and what it means to be part of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, Inc., the New England Region and National Garden Clubs.  Each panel member answered questions from the audience. 

During luncheon, the attendees were seated with their committee counterparts and shared ideas.  Our Federation members sat at various tables, where we could be helpful in the discussions.

I heard comments that day that other clubs might be interested to host more of these idea exchanges.  Dee and Karen may have started a trend. 

I want to thank Leslie Martino, Barbara Bruce, Ronnie Schoelzel, Helen Pritchard and Dottie Fox for coming out on a very cold day to share their knowledge.  We all had a lovely time.
* Maria Nahom 
Director, New England Region
Garden Therapy Program
The Federation's garden therapy program has been quite busy over the past two months.  I have sent out the first edition of the "Share Your Garden Therapy Projects" email to the garden therapy chairmen who requested it.  If your club wishes to receive the second edition which will be sent at the beginning of April, please send your name, email address and garden club name to my email address: [email protected].  I will be happy to share ideas and, if you wish to share your ideas with other clubs, my "garden therapy projects email" is the way to go!

On March 4th, I spoke on Garden Therapy to the "First Idea Exchange Symposium" for approximately 70 garden club representatives at Anthony's Lake Club in Danbury, along with five other members of the Federation.  This informational meeting also helped answer many questions that club members had about finance, tax reporting, award presentations, National and NER news and the Federated Garden Clubs' annual flower show.  It was such a wonderful experience and I really appreciated being able to speak.

I am also planning the second Garden Therapy Workshop program for Wednesday, May 7th at the Whitney Center in New Haven from 10 am to 12 Noon.   Click here for the sign-up sheet for garden therapy chairs--additional garden club members are also welcome to join us.  Directions to the Whitney Center are enclosed.  We will be discussing many aspects of active/passive therapy, how to begin a program, and how to create a dynamic annual report. Hope you will join us and share your experiences, questions, etc. 

* Dottie Fox
Garden Therapy and World Gardening Chair  
Option for Returning Silver Awards Won in 2013
If you or your Club have won a Silver Award at the November 2013 Awards meeting and you wish to return it at this time, you may do so at the upcoming Annual Meeting on April 16th to be held at Aqua Turf.

We trust you will find this arrangement a good way to return the silver--one that 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 
* Inge Venus 
Silver Manager

Policy Guidelines for the Promotion of Upcoming Events by FGCCT Member Clubs/Affiliates
Every effort will be made to assist our member clubs and affiliates to publicize their upcoming programs and events.    We are providing several opportunities to do so:

1.    CALENDAR LISTINGS in the CT Federation NEWS. 
Send calendar listings to Calendar Manager Ellie Tessmer at
[email protected]. Please call Ellie at 203-269-2653 if you have any questions.

2.    PAID ADVERTISING in the CT Federation NEWS.
Send print-ready advertising copy to Advertising Manager Diana Abshire  
at [email protected]. Please call Diana at 203-938-1114 if you have any

CT Federation NEWS 
publishes monthly except January and July. Deadline for articles, calendar items, and advertising is ALWAYS the 10th day of the month PRIOR to the MONTH OF PUBLICATION.
Flyers--no larger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches--may be placed at the membership table in the foyer before entering the dining room at Aqua Turf,  before entering Jones Auditorium at The CT Agricultural Experiment Station or at other venues where FGCCT events are held.  

Clubs shall notify the FGCCT Second Vice President one month in advance of an upcoming event to be publicized. A display board will be set aside to display printed information on cards (front and back)--no larger than 4 by 6 inches--of events that are to be advertised.  These cards may also be left to be distributed to visitors.

NOTE:  We request that these guidelines be followed closely.  No exceptions will be permitted at any time.

* FGCCT Bylaws Review Committee
April 16, 2014
Flower Show School This Fall
Have you ever thought about being a judge at a flower show, or has your club thought about having a flower show but felt more information was needed?

Get started with Flower Show School, Course I, taking place September 10-12, 2014.   Plan on saving the dates. Scholarships are available from FGCCT and from your local club. Any questions, contact Jessica Fischer,  Flower Show School Chair at[email protected] or go to and click on Education Program.

* Jessica Fischer,
 Flower Show School Chair
Share Your Garden!
CFNews is asking members to submit a favorite photograph of their gardens to share with our readers. A special spot, an unusual design, any image from your garden that you think is distinctive is welcome. We will publish them in the color Constant Contact version of the newsletter as space permits. Simply email a .jpg file to Lynn Hyson by the 10th of the month at 
Thank you.

Above, A Smoke bush (Cotinus Coggygria 'Flame') in the garden of Jean Ridall, a member of the North Stonington Garden Club.  Below are her Vicia Unijuga (vetch) and wood trillium (Trillium Viride).

Urgent Warning



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.



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




Deadline for MAY 2014 ISSUE  


Email Articles and Photos to:
[email protected]
Email Advertising to:[email protected]
Email Calendar Items to:[email protected]
Text Only Version

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



Our Mission Statement 

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


6,817 Members


131 Clubs


15 Affiliates  

Mt Laurel