Darien gardeners continued to bond throughout the pandemic, including taking a socially-distanced walk through Selleck’s Woods, a 28-acre nature preserve with ponds, marshes, swamps and streams.

Since fall is coming, the club is now planning membership meetings, as well as lots of activities. The first membership meeting is in mid-September.

Conservation education

As with other clubs and organizations around town and elsewhere, the Garden Club of Darien has adapted itself to the pandemic.

The socially-distanced curated conservation education walk at Selleck’s Woods, which took place in mid-June, was led by Chris Filmer, president of Friends of Selleck’s Woods and member of the Darien Land Trust.

“Chris Filmer was our naturalist and environmentalist guide,” said Darien resident Leslie McCarthy, who is involved with conservation education in the club, as well as is in charge of publicity.

Filmer led two groups of five “conservation-minded Darien residents in a lively and interactive set of nature walks to learn more about the seven distinct eco-systems of Selleck’s & Dunlap Woods,” McCarthy said. “We learned about the wildlife, native plants and local tree identification.”

Selleck’s Woods is located on Parklands Drive. It’s adjacent to Dunlap Woods which together, totals 55 acres.

According to McCarthy, the walk was designed to reinforce how green spaces are good for one’s health and mental fitness.

McCarthy spoke about the benefits of experiencing nature, especially during the pandemic.

“There are a lot of people who are isolated now. This is an opportunity to experience nature, which is good for our heads and our hearts,” she said. “There are so many benefits to being out in green spaces and you can do so while socially distancing.”

To view a five minute reflective “Walk in the Woods” of a curated small group walk organized by GCD conservation and Friends of Selleck’s Woods, click here.

Outreach project

In July, the club executed an outreach project called “Helping Hands Secure Gloves for Senior Residents.”

The project was designed to reach senior residents at both Maplewood and at the Residence at Selleck’s Woods during the pandemic.

The club donated both latex and gardening gloves to restock the senior care residences during the pandemic.

“A donation of 5,000 powder-free nitrile gloves was delivered to both Maplewood at Darien and the Residence at Selleck’s Woods,” she said.

In addition, a dozen new gardening gloves were also given to Maplewood in support of their gardening group.

“This reinforced good health and safety, while also promoting a love of gardening,” McCarthy said.

Environmental lessons

Over the past six months, the club has organized several activities in town that involved young people. One of those was an educational program held in collaboration with the parents organization at Tokeneke Elementary School’s Kids Care Program and the Darien Environmental Group.

“The eco-art educational program focused on water conservation; specifically, how much water is used every day and what each individual can do in our daily lives to save water, simply and practically,” McCarthy said. “Together, we partnered on a colorful, ‘hands on,’ eco-friendly sandscape succulent planting project.”

According to McCarthy, the purpose of the activities was to create an opportunity for children to work on creative eco-positive projects.

“We planted miniature succulent terrariums,” she said. “They are very resilient and they don’t require a lot of upkeep or water.”

According to McCarthy, the intention of the club was to hold the activity with all of Darien’s elementary schools. However, due to the pandemic, that was put on hold.

A second project, which also took place in March, involved the community and was coordinated by Alicia Sillars, director of the Darien Youth Commission.

It was held on a Saturday afternoon, and children planted sunflower seeds in peat pots.

“We talked about water conservation and soil, and the importance of nurturing native plants and pollinators,” McCarthy said.

About the Garden Club of Darien

The mission of the Garden Club of Darien, which has about 100 members, is stimulating knowledge and sharing a love of gardening, while improving and protecting the quality of the environment through programs and action in the fields of conservation and civic improvement.

Founded in 1929, the Darien club is under the umbrella of Garden Club of America — a volunteer nonprofit organization comprised of 200 member clubs and approximately 18,000 members throughout the United States.

The Darien club has 10 committees, including floral design, horticulture, photography and visiting gardens, as well as Pleasure Through Plants and Memorial Herb Garden at the Museum of Darien, and Cherry Lawn Gardens.

All members are actively engaged in at least two committees, according to McCarthy.

The welcoming gardens located at the entrance to Cherry Lawn were designed and planted by members with resources from club fundraising.

The club raises funds through annual membership dues and events. Last year, the club hosted a flower show at the Tokeneke Club called Persephone to raise funds.

“We are an active organization,” McCarthy said. “We have monthly membership meetings, a social coffee and competitions.”

There are also horticultural and photography exhibits, as well as structured educational lectures with speakers.

The club’s planning year runs from September through June. Each committee has developed its “initial planning and submitted that for scheduling for the future,” McCarthy said.

Additionally, once a year, the club gathers with the New Canaan Garden Club and participates in a variety of educational events.

Passing the baton

On July 1, the club’s leadership “gavel” was officially passed to its two new incoming co-presidents — Betsy Becker and Tracy Drippé.

According to McCarthy, going forward, the club hopes to have as many socially-distanced workshops, speakers or outreach initiatives, as will be possible within the guidelines of Connecticut regulations.