Ostensibly this is a story about Hudson Valley Garden Association (HVGA), poised to be a huge boon to home gardeners, green-industry professionals, public gardens, and everyone in the region who benefits from the people-plant connection—which is all of us, if you think about it. This is also a story about friendship and how a shared love of plants can motivate friends to launch big, visionary plans.
HVGA cofounders Laura Wilson and Rebecca Glembocki, both of Wallkill, became acquainted when they worked together at Hodgson's Farm & Garden Center in Walden, now closed, seven years ago. Working in a greenhouse together forged friendship, as did numerous garden tours (especially those of the Garden Conservancy Open Days) and outings to area plant nurseries.
Like so many, the women grew up with family members who were into gardening but didn't find their own horticultural zeal until they were out on their own. Wilson is a former graphic designer who changed course in 2001 to study landscape design and become a professional gardener on a private estate. Glembocki is an art school grad, painter, ceramicist, and passionate home gardener. Glembocki and husband have two daughters, 8 and 11; Wilson and her husband have a 20-month-old son. (Wilson was weeding her garden until the day she gave birth—"Gotta go clean up and have the baby," she reportedly said.)
For years, Wilson had been taking copious notes for her own benefit about area horticulture-related events. In 2010, she made her compilations public by starting the online Hudson Valley Garden Calendar. Two years later, she decided to take things to the next level, that of forming HVGA, and asked her garden buddy Glembocki to join her. "She did not have to coax me," Glembocki says. "For years, Laura would bounce ideas off me, and I would always nod and say, 'Yes, that's great, you should do that!' Perhaps she was cleverly planting seeds of collaboration."
Thus was cofounded, in fall of 2012, the nonprofit Hudson Valley Garden Association, whose mission is to encourage new gardeners and to inform and inspire the public through educational garden programs and special events; to assist in the success and growth of local public gardens, garden organizations, and businesses; and to aid community gardening efforts and beautification projects.
"We think Garden Fair is going to be blockbuster," Wilson says. "There is nothing like it around here." Garden Fair is a celebration of gardening with education, plant sales, and networking all in one place. Whether you're tentatively putting in your first garden or think you have seen it all, Garden Fair has something for you. HVGA's first annual Garden Fair will take place on Saturday, May 4, from 10am to 4pm at Orange County Arboretum, in Montgomery. Though housed in Orange County, the event is meant to draw plant lovers and the plant-curious from all over the Hudson Valley. "A huge underlying desire for us with Garden Fair is to make people branch out beyond invisible boundaries," Wilson says. "So often you hear, 'I don't like to cross the river,' or 'But that's over the mountain,' or 'South of I-84?' or whatever. But once you get a taste at Garden Fair of the different, outstanding nurseries in our region, you'll see how the drive to these places isn't so far—and it's so worthwhile."
Connecting independent growers and garden centers to customers through Garden Fair meets the economic stimulation part of HVGA's mission. Wilson and Glembocki know firsthand from their time in the retail world how slim the profit margins for growers can be. Wilson says, "Self-promotion is a big challenge because these businesses often don't have the time or money to devote to it. We wanted to do something to help promote our local garden retailers."
Garden Fair serves the educational mission of HVGA with demos, exhibits, and lectures like that by horticulture luminary Tovah Martin speaking on "Lawn Liberation: A Floriferous Plea for Lawn Alternatives." Martin says, "What the world doesn't need now is more grass. This lecture starts with a running history of our fetish with lawns and how it began. But it wastes no time before wading into a plea for other, more fascinating alternatives. As ammunition, the lecture travels throughout the country, featuring photographs of meadows, screes, rock gardens, and other creative lawn substitutes." (More information is available at Hvgardenfair.com.)
Hudson Valley Garden Calendar
Foraging with Wildman Steve Brill in Pawling. Vegetable Gardening for Beginners in Millbrook. Alpine Plant Sale at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring. In the 2012 gardening season, the online Hudson Valley Garden Calendar (Hvgardencalendar.com) listed over 450 events taking place at 75 different locations.
Lynn Esteban, a painter and proprietor of Poughkeepsie-based Magnolia GardenWorks, says, "I am especially excited about the calendar. I had no idea there were so many workshops, open garden tours, native plant sales, classes, and garden clubs in the Hudson Valley! Of particular interest to me are classes about attracting birds to the garden, because one of my goals with my maintenance clients is to encourage diverse wildlife habitats."
Just two months after the association's founding, Wilson and Glembocki ran a winter lecture series on topics such as hydroponics and herb garden history. Class locations varied from an orchid greenhouse in Chester to White Barn Farm Sheep & Wool in New Paltz. Glembocki taught an overbooked class on kokedama ("moss ball"), a very old but currently trendy offshoot of bonsai in which clay soil and moss cover the root ball of a houseplant that is then tied up and hung with string. "It was fun and everybody was happy with their kokedama— we'll definitely offer it again," Glembocki says. (She got into the technique as a way to have houseplants out of reach of her cats; it's also good for people with limited space).
One of the most successful projects thus far, the HVGA Newsletter is a collaborative effort of the local garden community that highlights amateur and pro gardeners, photo-documents garden tours, and cheers the successes and programs of local groups. Every gardener is welcome to propose a submission.
Newsletter articles are archived on Hudson Valley Garden Journal (www.hvgardenjournal.com), which began as Wilson's personal garden blog. Touting the motto "It's great to be a gardener in the HV," she also shared photos and info as she explored horticultural sites and programs in the region. It lives on as part of HVGA's suite of offerings, with truly stunning photography and an increasing number of personal reflections.
For instance, in an essay called "Good-bye, Garden" by Holly Graff, the author grapples with leaving an extensive landscape she put in just six years ago. She says, "I can't say good-bye to my hand in creating something beautiful. I'll always carry that with me. I could say good-bye to the material components of my garden, the stones, the cedar bed frames, the bulbs asleep under the winter soil. But isn't my garden so much more than these physical manifestations? Isn't my garden an experience? A relationship? Isn't my garden something that will always exist for me somewhere?"
Sign up for the newsletter on the organization's website.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend the monthly "Organizing and Sharing" meetings. They are held on the second Thursday of the month from 7 to 8pm at the Shawangunk Town Hall Community Room, 14 Central Ave in Wallkill. Look for the two women organizers who are vibrating at a delightfully high frequency about people and plants—and all the possible connections between them.