As you pull up to the modest red building that the Nashua Humane Society calls home, you are greeted by a well maintained perennial garden. This space feels serene with its well-placed statues and benches, yet cheerful with its colorful banners and blooming flowers of all textures and sizes. The garden was created and has been cared for by the Nashua Garden Club since 1999.
Some folks may not realize that the Nashua Garden Club is more than a club that loves flowers and hosts an incredible plant sale every spring. They also are an extremely generous group, and work hard to keep our city beautiful by maintaining not only the garden at the Humane Society, but the Sensory Garden at Greeley Park and a garden at Southern NH Medical Center. I met with Tina Rufo, club member of 5 years, who has recently been passed the proverbial torch from Judy Geer, previous long term committee chairperson for the Humane Society Garden, to learn more about it.
Tina is from the Waltham, MA area and has been a nurse for 40 years. She has always been into gardening and grows flowers and herbs at her home, but leaves the vegetable growing to the local farmers! Tina says that she has learned so much from being a member of the Nashua Garden Club (and member of the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA). With garden related speakers at every monthly meeting from September to June, summer field trips and various volunteer opportunities year round, (not to mention the new friends you’ll meet) the $20 annual membership fee is quite a bargain!
In 1999 the Nashua Garden Club was approached by the Humane Society about starting a garden at their site on Ferry Road. The club rallied and secured donations from local landscapers for flowers and mulch. Many club members dug up plants from their own perennial beds to fill in the large garden area. In 2009, Gate City Monuments donated the engraved stone that sits in front of the miniature lilac trees to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the garden. More than 15 years after breaking ground, the garden is still a well-tended, welcoming focal point at the Humane Society.
Tina mentioned that every two weeks the garden landscape changes, as new growth comes into bloom while others go by. In spring, the super fragrant miniature lilacs send wafts of perfume through the air while daffodils brighten your spirit. Gorgeous purple streaked, bright yellow iris show off their blooms amongst columbine, which to me, look like little rocket ships. There are stands of tall yellow primrose, classic daylilies, tall phlox, silver king, “boomerang” rose, coreopsis, sedum, thyme, violets, salvia, lambs ears…need I go on? Tina pointed out the hardy mums in the garden, and said that you can “pinch them back” in mid-July for a bigger, bushier plant that blooms in the fall and can live up to ten years!
I asked Tina about the public’s reactions to the garden, and she mentioned one woman in particular, who enjoyed sitting on the stone bench in the garden while holding her cat. To make it a little more accessible, this year’s project involves taming the garden a bit by creating more obvious pathways. That way, guests can feel free to walk through the garden and explore without worrying about stepping on plants! To maintain such a large space, Nashua Garden Club volunteers tend to it weekly on a rotating basis, keeping it watered and weed free all season long.
What I learned while talking with Tina is that the Humane Society Garden is a true community garden. Every inch of the soil has been tended by patience, sharing, care, altruism, joy, and love of nature. Do check out the Humane Society Garden, and the Nashua Garden Club, too!
Article and photographs by Holly Klump, GCCG Board Member (and proud Nashua Garden Club member!)