Amherst Garden Club keeps downtown blooming
Mary Knightly, left and Katie George of the Garden Club of Amherst tend container flowers on the South Pleasant street side of the Amherst Common one day last month.
Kevin Gutting Purchase photo reprints »
Katie George, left and Mary Knightly,of the Garden Club of Amherst tend container flowers on the South Pleasant street side of the Amherst Common on Friday, September 14, 2012 Purchase photo reprints »
Most pedestrians hurrying along South Pleasant Street near the Town Common are likely unaware that the cement containers filled with colorful blossoms are the work of the Garden Club of Amherst, which for several years has been dedicated to tending the plants.
At least once every day throughout the growing season, a Garden Club volunteer checks on the flowers to ensure they will last through the fall. During the summer, the containers held petunias, with blue salvia at the back and yellow marguerites on the sides, with chartreuse potato plants in front.
Mary Knightly, who serves as chairwoman of this subcommittee of the Garden Club, said she has heard many people compliment the town for the appearance of the containers.
“I think it adds to our town. It makes it seem like we care about how our town looks,” she said.
Five members take turns visiting the planters to water the flowers, rain or shine, and they also deadhead the plants, removing the spent blossoms to encourage more growth.
Water is needed daily because the soil inside the cement containers dries out quickly.
Knightly brings 6 gallons of water in plastic milk containers, and volunteers also have access to a spigot at the information booth at the Town Common. Knightly is the one who fertilizes the flowers once a week.
She describes the work as a total volunteer effort, though the annual plant sale in the spring helps fund the purchase of the plants.
In the spring, club members begin by planting pansies after the last freeze, usually around May 1, and by the end of May they add petunias, daisies, salvia and other flowers. As the weather gets cooler, the petunias will be removed and replaced by mums, and then fall pansies bloom.
During winter, the club members begin planning their trips to local greenhouses, such as Andrew’s Greenhouse in South Amherst and the Hadley Garden Center, to begin selecting the flowers for next season. The intent is to vary the flowers each year.
“What we try for is that they’re bright and colorful,” Knightly said. “We want plants to be ‘wow.’ ”
The Garden Club also assists with the Kinsey Memorial Garden behind the Jones Library.
Knightly says that one of the joys she gets from her work is when people marvel over the beauty of the flowers and ask her for tips.
“You feel you want to make them successful, too,” she said.