Driving around town in the summer, it is easy to notice the beautiful gardens that brighten up the various traffic islands and corners around Bedford. These gardens make the town more beautiful. This is one of the great traditions in town.
Who is responsible, and how did it all start? The traffic island gardens are the work of the volunteers of the Bedford Garden Club.
The Bedford Garden Club in its current form traces its roots back to 1956. Back then, a small group of people interested in gardening met with the purpose of forming a garden club in Bedford. In 1958, this group adopted their charter that included the object of the club: “To stimulate among amateurs the knowledge and love of gardening, protection of native trees, plants, birds and the encouragement of civic plantings.” That last line dealing with civic plantings was put in effect right away. At this first meeting, their civic attention focused on the memorial circle and watering trough on The Great Road.
The Garden Club has been beautifying Bedford ever since. They currently have 16 locations that they take care of, mostly in high visibility traffic areas. But they also maintain the herb and native plant garden at the Job Lane House.
Jan Burnes, Civic Chairman for 30 years, and member of the Garden Club since 1987, says there are between 40-to-45 members who take care of the islands around town.
She says one of the keys to their ability to do this is the participation of the Bedford DPW. Jan noted, “Most of the islands have a water spigot which is a huge help. Lugging water is never easy, and as the members get older, it’s really important.”
She went on to say that every year, the DPW mulches the islands and also will haul away the fall clean-up bags when they’re done.” She added, “They also helped us by delivering rocks to the islands when we requested them. We just went to the dump and marked which rocks we wanted and the DPW distributed them to the islands.”
She added, “That relationship with the DPW is vital.” Jan said that Rich Warrington was a big supporter of their efforts and “made sure we got the support we needed. We still have that support, which is a huge help.”
She went on to say other towns have asked how they can have a similar program of having their garden club work on traffic islands, but they just don’t have the support to make it work.
In 1975, the Bedford Chamber of Chamber acknowledged the Bedford Garden Club for “Outstanding community service contributing to the beautification of the town.”
Patty Carluccio, the current president of the club, said she is very excited about what comes next. She says some of the gardeners are adding more native plants to some islands along with the colorful annuals. Patty says that each island has a team, and the team decides what they want to plant.
She added that someone come to her and asked if they could get an island on Fayette Circle. “We only work on the islands in high traffic areas,” Patty told them, but she had an idea. Patty told the resident, “The Garden Club would help the neighborhood garden by providing plants and advice, but the labor would be provided by the neighbors.” Patty said this might be the start of a new model.
Currently, the Garden Club takes care of 16 traffic islands/corners around town. Jan says she loves the feedback from people in Bedford. “Often people slow down and roll out down the window and say thank you. It really makes it so worth it,” she says.