Adirondack Garden Club - Longer History

(Formerly known as the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club)



85th Anniversary History


ECAGC logo


This history was prepared for the celebration of our 85th Anniversary and is dedicated to the members of the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club, past, present, and future, who “labored not for themselves alone,” without whom there would be no history, and to the historians and archivists whose reports informed this history, most especially to my mother, Gretta Prince, who wrote the 50th year history in 1978.

                                                                                                                                       Happy Marsh                   August, 2013

Our Mission

The Essex County Adirondack Garden Club was founded in 1928 and joined The Garden Club of America in 1933. Its mission is the conserving of the plants, shrubs, and trees native to the Adirondack region and the making of both wild and cultivated gardens characteristic of the environment in which they are placed, the furthering of the cultivation of gardens throughout the Adirondack area, and the promotion of civic beautification and conservation.

Stretching from the shores of Lake Champlain to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, the Club’s membership covers a geographical area of 1,824 square miles. The Club’s involvement in civic and conservation affairs is well illustrated by the motto on the Club’s seal, “Non Mihi Soli Laboravi,” “Not for myself alone have I labored.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Illustration by Anne Lacy Trevor

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Illustration by Anne Lacy Trevor


Presidents of Essex County Adirondack Garden Club:

 1928 - 1931     Frances Ladd, (Mrs. George)

1931 - 1934     Francisca Paine, (Mrs. A. G.)

1934 - 1937     Sarah Pell, (Mrs. Stephen H.G.)

1937 - 1940     Mabel Ludlum, (Mrs Seymour DeWitt)

1940 - 1941     Mary Vail, (Mrs. Cyrus)

1941 - 1946     War Years, no regular meetings

1946 - 1948     Miss Agnes F. Wells

1948 - 1950     Edna Hubbard, (Mrs. Eustace)

1950 - 1952     Margaret Rogers, (Mrs. James, II)

1952 - 1955     Ruth Wilson, (Mrs. A. F.)

1955 - 1959     Mary Townsend, (Mrs. Winfield)

1959 - 1963     Ardelle Sanderson, (Mrs. Lloyd B.)

1963 - 1966     Mary Prime, (Mrs. Raymond C.)

1966 - 1969     Ruth Hart, (Mrs. George)

1969 - 1973     Helen Johnson, (Mrs. Berkeley D.)

1973 - 1976     Craig Schuller, (Mrs. Erwin)

1976 - 1978     Ann Gardner, (Mrs. Robert E.)

1978 - 1980     Peg Byrne, (Mrs. Wayne)


The Archives of the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club, located in the Adirondack History Center in Elizabethtown, contain many artifacts relating to ECAGC, some of which are illustrated in this history. In addition, ECAGC has a special bookcase in the Library donated to the Museum in memory of Gretta Prince, Happy Marsh’s mother. On these shelves are many beautiful donated books which relate to gardening, including Our Founders’ Gardens and Some Other Gardens. Some of these books contain ECAGC bookplates donated by Gretta Prince.


On a hot August afternoon in 1928, Miss Sarah D. Lowrie and Mrs. Seymour DeWitt Ludlum hosted a lunch at Hills Garden House, in Keene Valley, formerly the property of the famous guide, Old Mountain Phelps. With advice from Susan Hand, a Committee of Invitation brought together twelve women selected because they were true amateur gardeners and “represented the leading families whose influence counted most in County life.

This was the era of the Charleston, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and bathtub gin; Herbert Hoover was president and the Scopes trial for teaching evolution was just ending; Hirohito, Mussolini, Hitler and Chiang Kai-shek were on the rise, and Amelia Earhart became the first female to fly across the Atlantic.

Essex County, the second largest county in New York State, was widely represented by these founding members:  Miss Mary Foote, Port Henry; Mrs. Augustus Hand and Mrs. A.J.. Wadhams, both of Elizabethtown; Mrs. Arthur R. Masten, Tahawus; Mrs. Augustus G. Paine, Jr., Willsboro; Mrs. Stephen Pell, Ticonderoga; Miss Sarah D. Lowrie and Mrs. Seymour Dewitt Ludlum, both of Keene ValleyMrs. Henry Rogers, Ausable ForksMiss Mary Eddy, Westport; Mrs. George Ladd, Wadhams; and Mrs. Wallis Craig-Smith, Upper Jay.


1980 - 1983     Frisky Irwin, (Mrs. David)

1983 - 1986     Kay Bergamini, (Mrs. Herbert)

1986 - 1988     Happy Marsh, (Mrs. James I.)

1988 - 1990     Keela Rogers, (Mrs. James, III)

1990 - 1992     Caroline Lussi, (Mrs. Serge)

1992 - 1995     Sarah Disney, (Mrs. George A.)

1995 - 1997     Frisky Irwin, (Mrs. David)

1997 - 1999     Karen Huttlinger, (Mrs. John B., Jr.)

1999 - 2001     Cathy Johnston, (Mrs. Wayne)

2001 - 2003     Gussie Baker, (Mrs. John D.)

2003 - 2005     Renee Rosch Lewis (Mrs. Charles H.)

2005 - 2007     Ellin Glenn, (Mrs. Morris)

2007 - 2009     Betsy Whitman, (Mrs. D. Bruce)

2009 - 2010     Ellin Glenn, (Mrs. Morris)

2010 - 2012     Maureen Ecclesine, (Mrs. Joseph)

2012 - 2014    Delia Thompson (Mrs. Charles “Kip”)

2014 - 2016   Liz Jaques (Mrs. Lawrence)

                                                             Illustration by Anne Lacy Trevor

                                                             Illustration by Anne Lacy Trevor

Judge Augustus Hand prepared a skeleton Constitution and Bylaws modeled after his suggestions for The Garden Club of America. The Founders approved the mission of the Club at one of the first meetings. The guest of honor, Mrs. Allan Marquand, spoke on National and Local Garden Clubs. An international expert on flowers in famous paintings, Mrs. Marquand designed the bunchberry (Cornus Canadensis) emblem which became the center of our logo.

From the beginning there was recognition that “some of us are county families, and some of us are not. The Hands...have rights here, which we loyal and enthusiastic summer cottagers cannot hope to attain...although we may seem more or less alike when we meet at the winter luncheon of the GCA Flower Show in New York, up here some of us are “the folks” and some of us the “summer folks.” “Even we of the Essex County Club, dwelling as we are in the same County, and belonging as a group to the same pattern of up-bringing and of social opportunities, even we might never have met, let alone become warm friends in many instances, if our gardens had not given us the secret high sign of fellowship.

Early meetings were held at members’ homes, gardens viewed and admired in a lovely leisurely way, and good horticultural information was exchanged. Most members wore elaborate hats and often brought a flower arrangement to the meeting. Early minutes describe delicious afternoon teas or fancy luncheons. Now we meet in the mornings, often bringing our own sandwiches. Originally ECAGC met in the Adirondacks June through September with a January meeting held in New York City; now we meet May through October with winter study in the Adirondacks. Meeting notices are now computer-generated and e-mailed with the meeting minutes.

Sarah Lowrie, our first Club historian, often waxed poetic about a hostess or her garden: “ amazing joy-to-the-eye of larkspur and bordered vistas ...left the onlookers breathless as in the end one fears it left her. A background of green meadow and a foreground of threatening sky, sloping pastures and distant ponds and mill streams was ours to contemplate. With difficulty we kept our minds on our reports and business affairs.  The blue of those great stalks was so hypnotizing, the birds’ and bees’ and butterflies’ interest in them so beguiling...” “The setting was as vivid and well composed as young Mrs. Uihlein, as charming as a costume contra-dance, staged in a Forest of Arden setting.”

Members’ deaths were mourned poetically: “The house deserted, the garden almost unrecognizable, our amused and cordial hostess gone but never to come our way again in this world of time and place.” “Her final leave-taking out of life leaves all her friends wistful, even though gardens blossom daily in her wake because she passed through them.”

Of the 1948 Pittsburgh GCA meeting, Sarah Lowrie wrote: “We were ready of course to ignore the pall of smoke/cannily choosing our clothes the ravage of soot to revoke.”  Poetry flourished in 1970, when both the President and the Program Chairman gave their annual reports in verse. Helen Johnson wrote:  


By 1970 we'd become so political - some of our members blew, for it's a big order to plant a new border - while getting the Northway through!  Should forever Wild Land be wild forever? - Or must we keep up with the pace?  How to vote in a true way - when this proposed Thruway will sever the Prescotts' big place?

                                                                                                                                                Watercolor by Happy Marsh

                                                                                                                                                Watercolor by Happy Marsh

Winter Study began in 1986 when each member chose a perennial to research. These off-season meetings often focused on a project such as propagating sage, studying rare and endangered plants, or making Victorian planters, trellises, or topiaries to sell at a spring Plant Sale. River Study had its genesis in the winter of 1995 when Sally Webb, Chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee, suggested a way for our widely dispersed membership to work on a single project.

Originally, the Club had two categories of membership, Active and Honorary.  New members were called “new companions of the Order of the Red Berries.” Later Bylaw changes added the categories of Provisional and Affiliate. New members are Provisionals for the first two years; Affiliates are those who have been active for at least ten years and have demonstrated commitment and financial support to the Club.           


Founded as the Essex County Garden Club, subsequently called the Essex County Garden Club of New York, we added “Adirondack” to our name in 1939. Citing the success of the Summer Institute, and the gift of garden and ground plans for schoolyards, the Executive Committee felt they had “earned a right to add ‘Adirondack’ to our name and to represent a region larger than a county and as romantically famous for its unspoiled forests as Arden, almost as the Garden of Eden.”

 Unique among the more urban and suburban clubs in The Garden Club of America, the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club’s geographical area lies in two hardiness zones and three counties, covers 1,824 square miles and thirteen towns, stretches from the shores of Lake Champlain to Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid and from the northern end of Lake George to near the Canadian Border. It is not uncommon to have to drive one and a half to two hours to a meeting. In elevation, the area ranges from about ninety-six feet at Lake Champlain to over fifty-three hundred feet on the top of Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in New York State. Members who live on the slopes of, or atop nearby mountains, are presented with high noontime temperatures and cold nights, a very short summer with sudden frosts at both ends, and winters when the thermometer not infrequently registers thirty or even forty degrees below zero. Under these conditions, all but the sturdiest perennials refuse to live, or can only be enjoyed as annuals – yet these gardens flourish.

*Subsequent to the writing of this history, we changed our name to 'Adirondack Garden Club' in 2014.


In 1930, we were accepted in “good and regular standing” by the Federated Garden Clubs of New York. “Our Flower Shows and our County Fair exhibits have won us the respectful approval of the State Federation of Garden Clubs, and, it may be, that of some of the on-lookers of The Garden Club of America.”  After twenty-eight years of dual membership, we discontinued our association with the Federated Clubs in 1961.     

Proposed by the Lenox Garden Club and seconded by the Garden Club of Princeton, we became a member of The Garden Club of America in 1933. Forty-five years after our founding, we formally incorporated and received not-for-profit status in 1978.


In order “to further the cultivation of gardens throughout the county,” the Founders set about organizing or revitalizing local garden clubs in their own communities. “Our villages and little towns have become, more and more, garden spots because our sharing of our garden lore has found a happy response up and down our village streets.” By 1939, thirteen affiliated clubs had been activated ranging from Crown Point to Ausable Forks, and almost all of them also established Junior Clubs. By 1966, eight were still flourishing and represented over four hundred women. At one time ECAGC members often belonged to their local village Club as well. Many of these affiliated clubs still exist today although we no longer hold joint meetings.

Every summer the Essex County Garden Club hosted 500 delegates from these local clubs at an Open Meeting, usually in July. In 1939, it was an all day affair, with each of the thirteen affiliated clubs giving a brief resume of the year’s activities.  This was followed by a picnic at which members got acquainted and exchanged ideas. The after-lunch program included such topics as water pollution, organic gardening, zoning, tree farm management, and current legislation. The minutes report this Open Meeting “was really a triumph of hospitality, a miracle of preparedness and then some.  The Elliott Spaldings were told to expect forty guests, and over one hundred and fifteen turned up.  Yet the punch and sandwiches, the tea and cakes and all the other delightful extras never gave out and Mrs. Spalding and her beautiful daughter never seemed worried or exigent...we stayed later than we should have to enjoy her very original blue and white tea wagon and its jolly contents.” In 1946 and in 1948, guests at the Open Meeting gathered at Ligonier Point in Willsboro and sat on the rocks “sunning ourselves like a covey of sea gulls” to hear reports from these Affiliated Clubs: Ticonderoga, the Jays, the Forks, Keene Valley, Elizabethtown, Essex, Willsboro, Rogers Rock, Westport, Saranac Lake Village, Lake Placid, and Tahawus.

Among the projects achieved by the Affiliated Clubs were the Saranac Lake shore park, Junior Gardens, and Junior Clubs (of which Willsboro had the largest). In 1946 there was growing enthusiasm for bird and plant sanctuaries and by 1949, ECAGC proudly cited “doorstep gardens, wayside filling station surroundings, flower arrangement contests, horticultural publications and talks and pictures which marked our beginnings in the original Village Garden Clubs we started.”  Our countryside of Essex and the Adirondacks which is already blossoming in the hundreds of gardens we have encouraged as well as imitated will grow more and more beautiful in roadsides and village flower patches.” However, they complained: “Now apparently we are counted upon to preach and practice Conservation, to back the State agricultural experts, the State Forestry authorities, and the Village Park Associations, to be wise about the Wild Flower Sanctuaries, and to accept the educational advantages in our separate village schools.

The Open Meetings of 2008 and 2013 focused on invasive, non-native species affecting the Adirondack region, and emphasized what citizens can do. Today we continue to eradicate and educate about invasive species by partnering with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.       


Few early members worked professionally outside the home, and while it is often said that the Founders used paid gardeners, some comments belie that: “NO hired helper, beyond an occasional lift with a too heavy stone, has turned a sod or pulled a weed or laid on a spadeful of manure.” “I do all the work, except for Miss Eddy’s help in the Spring when we transplant together and talk over any new ideas...[which] invariably leads to a trip to Mr. Horsford’s nursery in Vermont.”

Those who did have help were not always enthusiastic about the quality. Writing of the Westport Inn garden, Mary Eddy says: “And how I have clung to Mr. Bailey and his Manual!  I have had no encouragement in that from my ‘helper’ however, who whenever I suggested following anything I had read, shook his head and groaned, ’No, I don’t believe nothing that comes out of books.’”  A decision was made to curtail the vegetable gardens at the Rogers Rock Club “because of the increased wage scale from the days when Mr. Williams blasted out spaces for lawns and beds with labor at $2 a day.

Today the vast majority of Club members do their own gardening, some members work professionally outside the home, and several Long Range Planning Committee meetings have focused on how to attract and involve the working professional woman into our Club, recognizing that “since the founding of the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club in 1928, the lifestyles, interest, and demands on members’ time have gone through major transformations.”


By 1940, World War II was looming. And “...because of the war threatening our very threshold or because politics keeps us jittery for the morning paper and the evening radio, there was no participation at the County Fair, and fewer flower shows because of more Red Cross work.” Most meetings were suspended “due to lack of sugar for pink cakes” and the rationing of tires and gasoline. But “in spite of Red Cross, Bond sales, blackouts, canning with yards of cheesecloth for blanching, and the lack of nurses and cooks, we kept our gardens.”

 Several members deserve mention for their special contribution to the War Effort. They tell of this in their own words: The Prescotts made their “humble contribution to the war effort” by raising potatoes. They “became very friendly with all of our local potato farmers; bombarded Cornell for bulletins; read everything with any potato information and when spring came, we ploughed 15 acres.” Later they cultivated 22 acres, harvested the potatoes and sold them to the local hospital.

Writing about her garden which “...contained rights-of-way to colored people brought here by John Brown, the Abolitionist” Mrs. Henry Uihlein continues: “The war was on; it seemed shameful for that fertile farmland not to contribute its share to the war effort.  Potatoes, we learned, would do best in our locality. We studied nights, pleaded to the Ration Board for each piece of necessary farm machinery we were able to secure, piece by piece. Our labor situation was never adequate, and we helped plant, care for, and harvest 13,000 bushels of certified seed potatoes which not only passed certification but qualified as foundation seed stock. We planted a vegetable garden that yielded a surplus which we were able to market. I was amazed to find out how simple it was to learn from books and pamphlets the methods of preservation of vegetables and fruits so that we could utilize a two months’ crop all winter...More study became necessary when we decided to tap the wonderful stand of sugar maples on the hill and make maple syrup. We hung twenty-two hundred buckets, and our efforts produced nearly 500 gallons of syrup.  My husband boiled all of the sweet sap, and I took over the filtering and packaging ...It was a complete surprise to discover bovines were intensely interesting and that we liked them, but after all, this was our first opportunity to know them intimately.  More research was required this time about dairy cattle. There was a serious shortage of milk, and we had the space and pastures.”

Mrs. Herbert Morris wrote: “My garden is not a garden in the usual sense.  It is an earthy factory to produce food for hungry boys. We started the garden on River Road when we took in English refugee boys in 1940. The underlying idea was to raise as much as possible for summer consumption and enough potatoes to see ourselves and our friends through the winter in Philadelphia.  At first I was going to give the potatoes to friends, but decided to sell them for the benefit of my Red Cross unit, and was able to do this, selling at twenty-five dollars to one hundred dollars a bag. Although they were not, I am sure, the quality of the excellent product raised by my co-member, Mrs. Uihlein, still they fed hungry children and produced amazing revenue for the Red Cross...The garden is cooperative, in that only those who work three hours a day eat. Also, I barter the produce, especially the strawberries, with Dr. Ruck, the Episcopal minister.  I trade berries for fish, venison and fresh corn...What is not eaten the summer canned and frozen in the deep freeze. We then transport about 400 packages of berries and vegetables in dry ice to Philadelphia to be used in the winter.”  


Each of our Club’s twelve founders documented the story of her own garden for a book, The Founders’ Gardens, which was published in 1930, without the intended photographs. The forward states “the charm and variety in the gardens must be chiefly imagined.…”  These gardens offered interesting contrasts in individuality.  There was a fan shaped “garden in the wilderness” with a wattle fence to keep out the deer; Mrs. Paine naturalized yellow moccasin flowers and fringed gentians in seams of the flat rocks of Willsboro. There were also a perfume garden, a butterfly garden, curtains of morning glories at Rogers Rock, serried ranks of delphiniums at Ironville, and a fig from the hybridizer, Mrs. Edward Root of Clinton, NY.  The Coffins’ mountaintop garden featured native and foreign alpines including Himalayan primroses, and plants carried down by the Coffins from numerous peaks. One of the founders’ gardens was that of Sarah Lowrie in Keene Valley.  Her father bought the Phelps’ lot at the Old Guide’s request...planned a vegetable garden for themselves and the Phelps couple, “too old to hoe even their potato patch.  The garden was crossed by an ancient Right of Way for Walkers, “still used by members of the Phelps and Beede family as a short cut to the village; on each such trip whether by day or guided by an oil lantern on a dark night, neighbors are gladly welcomed to rest and chat.”

Mrs. Arthur Masten wrote of a common concern: “My problem is to find out what plants can outlive a temperature which often drops to -40 degrees in winter, and can develop and blossom in a season where the last frost is early in June and the first early in September.  Three months is a very short season, but fortunately the flowers seem to understand that and they speed up accordingly.”

A second book, Some Other Gardens, was published in 1947.  Many complained about pet or insect damage: “The pansies, planted in a low spot, disintegrated completely in overly heavy rainfall, while all dahlia-loving pests held congress in my cherished patch.  Carnage unspeakable!” “Blue lace flower alone is a notable failure because its juicy stems seem to be celery to the chipmunks.

Mrs. Ludlum solved this problem: her garden “is surrounded by four-foot chicken wire to keep out bunnies and I choose to have chicken wire so that lying in my hammock I may watch those same bunnies and other wild creatures frisking about where they belong, outside the almost invisible garden wall.”

Only three of the Founders’ gardens still exist: the Jardin du Roi (King’s Garden) at Fort Ticonderoga recreated by the Pells on the site of the 1756 garden used to feed French troops, some of the garden at Flat Rock Camp in Willsboro, the creation of Mrs. Augustus Paine, Jr. (Frisky Irwin’s mother), and in a smaller version, the garden of Mrs. Albion Wadhams (grandmother of Elizabeth Lawrence) in Elizabethtown. A grant to restore the Marsten garden may add a fourth to this list. In 1999 and 2000, The Irwin Farm Garden, owned by Francisca Paine Irwin (Frisky), appeared in the Nature Conservancy Open Days Directory - The Guide to Visiting America’s Very Best Private Gardens.


In 1937, the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club sponsored the first Summer Institute with a promise of at least $100 in subscriptions and of active participation in the proposed classes by all local clubs. These Institutes were held at the Rogers Rock Club on Lake George. That first year, participants represented thirty-three garden clubs from ten states! One hundred and thirty five women registered for classes during the 1938 meeting. Morning sessions covered landscaping for laymen with Annette Hoyt Flanders followed by afternoon lectures on flower arranging by Constance Spry of England. After her course, Mrs. Flanders donated to ECAGC a plan for schoolyard planting. 

The Third Annual Summer Institute was held in July, 1939. That year, Miss Hester Rusk, instructor at the Brooklyn and New York Botanic Gardens and Barnard College, lectured on wild flowers and our native ferns. Field trips included a visit to a bog accessible for the collection of rare specimens.  In the evening there were lectures on bird life and conservation. There was also a visit to a delphinium garden in Ironville (probably that of one of our Founders), supper in an outdoor dining room, and a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Pell’s walled garden at Fort Ticonderoga. The Rogers Rock Club made special rates for Institute members: $5.00-$7.00 a day, American Plan! WW II ended the Summer Institute, members being busy with the Red Cross and other war activities.


Before and after World War II, ECAGC annually had a booth at the Essex County Fair in Westport, gaily decorated with exhibits of plants, flowers, and vegetables. A Library Table showed educational material on horticulture and conservation, and featured periodicals and books on gardening. Special exhibits, some very elaborate, were created by enthusiastic members to encourage planting around homes and businesses, wayside stands and gas stations. A 1931 exhibit was designed to show the beauty and charm of “Door Step Gardens.  Anyone who has a doorstep can have a summer garden…Anyone who has a window ledge can have a winter garden.” To help celebrate the 160th Essex County Fair, we contributed a daily exhibit of pots of flowers.

Partnering with Adirondack Harvest, the Adirondack Green Circle, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), we produced an exhibit, Dig It, the Adirondack Green Festival,  at Marcy Airfield in Keene Valley in July of 2009. We provided the public with brochures from all participants and increased awareness of ECAGC and of our commitment to conservation and education.


In 1933, our Club began an effort to protect the visual environment.  Early gas stations, then called filling stations, were few and far between; most were eyesores. To encourage owners to beautify and clean up, we adopted a point system and presented a paper “Order of Merit” to those who qualified. Later, twenty-five Awards of Merit featuring our bunchberry logo were cast in iron. To save money, only 15 were painted until a former member offered to paint ten of them, reducing the Club’s bill to $27.50. “We sallied forth, each in her own community, to convince the garage men that neatness, outside and in, as well as general attractiveness, was desirable. For awhile, it was an uphill fight.

With more cars and tourists each year, and hence more competition, owners realized that a neat, clean station was good business.  Little window boxes appeared, borders and green lawns took the place of weeds. With due ceremony and publicity in local newspapers, we gave out the Awards of Merit which were proudly displayed for many years. In 1937-1938, nine Awards were given out for Gas Station Improvement. For the Essex County Fair we created two miniature models of gas stations, one neat, tidy, and well landscaped, and one a cluttered, neglected mess.

Wayside fruit and vegetable stands were also awarded points for the attractiveness of their displays and landscaping and our Order of Merit was presented to those who qualified. In 1928, members visited fifty-seven stands. Only eight were found worthy and one was asked to return the Order of Merit as the owner preferred a big Coca Cola sign!  That same year, Ticonderoga received an award for fencing in a defunct automobile dump as did the public campsite at Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain for meeting Club requirements.  (A 1937 letter indicates that the New York State Federation of Garden Clubs adopted our point scoring system word for word; our executive committee complained that we would have liked a friendly acknowledgement, and it is alleged that the rules were evidently so well stated that the Garden Club of America used our idea for their Award of Merit.)

                                                 Cast Iron Wayside Award of Merit

                                                 Cast Iron Wayside Award of Merit


At early Zone and GCA Annual meetings, we “trembled” as everyone else talked about horticulture, while we always discussed conservation. ECAGC has always been involved in environmental causes, especially the conservation and preservation of the fragile Adirondack environment in which we live, a priceless heritage of wild forests, mountains, lakes and river valleys.

 And no wonder… life zones range from lake shore to alpine areas and include marshes, swamps, bogs, and forests, which provide habitats for a wide variety of wildlife. Here rise the headwaters for the Hudson, Black, St. Lawrence, and Mohawk Rivers as well as those that feed Lake Champlain. This true wilderness area lies within driving distance of 55 million people. The threats are many: acid rain, diminished air and water quality, shallow, easily eroded soil, waste disposal, lamprey eels, milfoil, zebra mussels and other invasives,  hikers trampling rare alpine species, climate change, and development. 

 Backed by The Garden Club of America, we fought tooth and nail in 1934 against a proposal to erect a perpetual light on Whiteface Mountain, fearing it would be fatal to thousands of migrating birds which ate caterpillars and insect pests. Despite the controversy, the bill for this memorial light was passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature, but Governor Herbert Lehman vetoed the bill saying that it would be inappropriate to deface the summit. Today a lantern shines atop the summit house from May to October with a plaque affixed to the wall explaining “this is a memorial Light...attribute to the war veterans of the nation.”

We also fought and condemned the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway, but upon its completion and careful inspection (a drive up before the official opening) “our hatchet, however, we buried handsomely and, we hope forever, when we awarded to the Commission our Award of Merit to be hung at the Toll House as a token of our approval and admiration of the highway’s beauty. Thus by one gesture was the burning question which had perhaps taken our time unduly from flowers and from horticulture generally shelved to the satisfaction of all concerned,” and supposedly we “turned to other matters ever more nearly related to flowers and to our struggles with nature.” However we still continued to speak up when we felt a project damaged the environment, and in 1936, the Club supported an effort to buy an island on Schroon Lake to prevent a lumber company from removing the primeval pines.

The proposed Northway route (Interstate 87) won our approval even though many conservationists disapproved. The Federated Garden Clubs, of which we were still a member at the time, were hot against it. In 1960 on the way to a meeting of the Federated Clubs at West Point, our Club Delegate picked up a bundle of fact sheets at Exit 24 of the Northway. “I felt like a spy straight out of Helen McInnis. We paid a bell-hop ten dollars to push these pamphlets under the door at night while everyone was sleeping. The next morning in the elevator, the President of the Federation said how dreadful it was that someone had snuck into the hotel overnight to leave this information and ought to be arrested. The Federation passed a resolution opposing the proposed route, but I phoned the results of the vote to Roger Tubby, who had been President Truman’s press secretary (and whose wife, Anne, was a member of ECAGC). He knew how to get things in the paper and got a story in the New York Times and other papers saying the Federated Garden Club had gone on record against the building of the Northway.”

The late 1930s saw our Club working with children on school gardens and on ground and site plans emphasizing native plants. Hundreds of essays were received in the 1940s when we sponsored a high school essay competition with cash prizes, and a different conservation subject each year. It was successful for a number of years until school programs left little time for outside contests. For the next 25 years we sponsored children, teachers, and youth leaders to attend Audubon Conservation camps. At least three of the children went on to careers in conservation.

In the 1950s ECAGC donated copies of the Conservationist magazine to seventeen area schools. Members made and donated dish gardens and terraria to the Sunmount Veterans Hospital and in 1952, sponsored a program to send home native tree seedlings to elementary school children. Three to five thousand seedling trees were distributed each year for several years. Each child who planted and maintained his tree for one year received a prize. The project ended when we could no longer get trees due to a shortage at the state nurseries. In 1950, we produced a Q & A horticultural program broadcast over station WIRY in Plattsburgh. The 1986 Education committee developed a program beginning in kindergarten to teach about animals, seeds, camouflage, birds, etc. Unfortunately, this did not last long, as teachers had so many state-mandated subjects to teach.

 As early as 1974 members researched the disposal of nuclear waste. Later, recognizing the devastation caused by acid rain to wildlife, ponds and forests, Elizabeth Wadhams Lawrence presented a report at the Lake Placid Acid Rain Conference sponsored by scientists from both the United States and Canada. During the 1980s three programs were presented to members on acid rain, and in 1983, with the help of local photographer Gary Randorf, we sponsored an Acid Precipitation Resolution adopted by all Zone III clubs.

We funded a manual on composting cafeteria waste for the Keene Valley School. This project won an award for waste reduction and was featured at a New York State Rural Schools Conference. Ongoing concern about the effects of roadside spraying and the use of sand and salt led us to “educate” local highway commissioners. The environmental impact of the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid drew our attention and Nina Ross, an ECAGC member, supported brook trout research to improve survival and vigor by cross-breeding several strains.

In response to a request from seventh and eighth grade teachers for an audio-visual nature program specific to our area, in 1980 the Club co-produced, with the Adirondack Council, a slide show, video, student workbook and teacher’s guide titled “Zones of Life – from Lake to Lichen in the Adirondack Park.” Updated and renamed “Adirondack Ecology,” the slide program was later distributed by BOCES, the organization that provides cooperative services to all New York School Districts. 

In 1989 we funded a pamphlet “Trash Goes to School: A Solid Waste Young Education Packet for Essex County,” which included student art from the recycling poster contest which ECAGC sponsored in grades K-12 throughout Essex County. This pamphlet was distributed to every County resident and we funded a recycling video with the same title.              

 Community education has always been important. Club Members sold reusable canvas grocery bags, a toxic waste disposal wheel, planted trees in each town where members lived, and involved school children in growing wildflowers. We created a native fern garden at the New York State Visitors Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s. Then, after problems with grass, weeds, and lack of water, the membership provided money to change from ferns to a bird habitat garden with a small pond and berry type vegetation.  In 2002, the Conservation Committee identified and published a list of Adirondack organizations which promote sound environmental practices and distributed it to the general public.

Currently, the Ellen Lea Paine Memorial Nature Fund, established in  1995, provides yearly financial assistance to students, individuals, and not-for-profit organizations involved in programs which study and protect the natural environment. Programs funded include a rainwater garden for stormwater management, bird banding, a voluntary fish creel survey, educational field trips, professional development and training days for Essex County science teachers, field trips to Black Kettle Nature Trail, and worms and vermicomposting in the classroom.

The Open Conservation meeting of 2013 was held at East Branch Organics Nursery in Keene. Hilary Smith of APIPP spoke of terrestrial and aquatic invasives and Dan Spada discussed how invasive species bring about rapid change in an ecosystem. He suggested requesting non-invasive species, especially native, from suppliers of plant materials. Let’s Go Native, a piece by Jack LaDuke on this program, was presented by Mountain Lake PBS.         

 From 2002-2007, an annual retreat for all Zone III Conservation Chairmen was held at the Wawbeek Resort in Tupper Lake. Speakers covered subjects such as water, acid deposition, partnering for plants, invasive species, global climate change, recycling, and the bottle bill. Lest anyone think conservation is easy, hear what early minutes record: “Mrs. Rogers should have taken to her bed or at least to a Sanatorium and a rest cure after all that mighty brain effort (her paper on the Conservation Meeting at Jordan’s Pond at Mount Desert.)


Our interest in the Adirondack Park began at an Open Meeting at the Augustus Paine’s in 1938 when John Bird Burnham of Essex, Secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt, led a discussion  on the proposed Amendment to the State Constitution regarding New York State Parks. After presenting a summary of his viewpoint, we decided to use our influence to permit the clause to remain unchanged in the Constitution.

In the early 1960s, ECAGC adopted a resolution to classify areas in the Adirondack Forest Preserve as wilderness and held an open meeting for nine local Adirondack garden clubs. Speakers included Senator Eustis Paine of Willsboro who called for a commission to study zoning in the Adirondacks. The Club sent a resolution to that effect to all county towns nearby.  Closely involved with the Temporary Study Commission, the membership lobbied hard for the establishment of the Adirondack Park Agency.  This was an important step, as the Adirondack Park contains ninety percent of the wilderness remaining east of the Mississippi and is the largest protected patch of deciduous forest anywhere on the planet. Mary Prime (Meredith Prime’s mother-in-law) was one of the seven original Adirondack Park Commissioners, and the only woman.

As Helen Johnson wrote: “But that Agency sublime, We did achieve in time.  First Lady on it was Mary Prime, Our very own Mary Prime!”

Later, when Governor Mario Cuomo established a Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, the only two women appointed were members of ECAGC, Claire Barnett and Sarah Bogdanovitch. Two other Club members, Ann Gardner and Euphemia (Micky) Hall, served as advisors to the Commission. Testifying on behalf of ECAGC, President Keela Rogers expressed Club concern about solid waste disposal and recycling, asked for environmental education for children in the Park, and cited the impact of road salt and over-signage on Adirondack highways.


In the spring of 1994, Club member Sally Webb made a significant donation to the Club which resulted in the Long Range Planning Committee proposing a conservation project to involve the entire Club. Our widely scattered membership lives near three magnificent rivers that flow into Lake Champlain, the East and West Branches of the Ausable, the Boquet and the Saranac. It became apparent that the publication of a book identifying native species of trees, plants, shrubs and grasses that prevent erosion and improve water quality was a project that would benefit all of our communities and would also fulfill our Club’s goals.  

That fall, with help from botanists and river preservationists, members of ECAGC began to study these rivers. Educated about watersheds, topographic maps, plants and water quality, we then researched plants, trees, and shrubs, hiked to headwaters, were drenched at the mouth of the Boquet, and walked the meandering flatlands. Professors at Paul Smith’s helped identify appropriate native species and edited descriptions for accuracy and consistency. Out of a possible five hundred, fifty plants, trees, and shrubs were selected for their positive impact on erosion control, water filtration, and temperature. 

As our GCA Project 2000, ECAGC proudly published River Study - A Practical Guide to Plants, Shrubs, and Trees that Enhance Water Quality, Prevent Erosion, and Improve Fish Habitat, containing detailed descriptions, site conditions, propagation and notes of interest. We hoped that riverbank landowners, citizens, and visitors would use this guide to identify, plant, propagate, and protect these important species, ensuring that these marvelous, historic waterways will continue to provide clean water, a healthy habitat for fish and wildlife, significant biodiversity, and solitude and beauty for the refreshment of man.

Club member Anne Lacy, illustrator of innumerable articles, the Adirondack Wild Guide, and the illustrated map of the Adirondacks, and recipient of the first ever Zone III Horticultural Arts Award, provided the exquisite line drawings. Complimentary copies were sent to libraries, schools, universities, and museums.  Reviewed in Adirondac magazine and the Bulletin of the Garden Club of America, River Study was included by the Vermont Natural Resources Council in an environmental curriculum. In 2003 we received the GCA National Public Relations Award for River Study.   


In addition to River Study, our publications have included three books: The Founders Gardens (a 1930 history of the gardens belonging to the original members of ECAGC), Some Other Gardens, Volume II (in 1947, covering more member’s gardens), and Food Flowers &Fireworks (a cookbook from 1975, reprinted in 1981). Other publications include the Adirondack Gardener (a newsletter “published every once in a while”), songs  (“Long Ago in Keene Valley” to the tune of “Tit Willow,” “We’re Gathered Here to Say” to the tune of “My Object All Sublime,” and “Crying Foxglove and Goats Beard and Vipers Bugloss” to the tune of “Alive Alive O”), Happy Marsh’s 75 Year History of ECAGC, numerous articles in the GCA Bulletin, bookplates, postcards, seals, stationery, business cards, Wildflowers of Essex County (1933), An Informative Guide to Household Recycling for Essex County Residents, illustrated by Melissa Davis and funded by ECAGC, and notecards graced with Anne Lacy’s exquisite botanical illustrations.

 Copies of all of our publications as well as books donated by members and others are on the Gretta Prince Bookcase in the Adirondack History Center in Elizabethtown. The books contain material from many other parts of the world as well as Adirondack Flora; many are 19th or early 20th century with beautiful colored plates. All have been catalogued, preserved in archival material, and are available to the public for reference and research.


While conservation and horticulture have been the main emphases of ECAGC, we have also held Flower Shows, the first recorded one in 1935 in Ausable Forks, chaired by Peg Rogers, (Keela’s mother-in-law.) We also staged Flower Shows in 1990 and 1992, a mini-show in 2000, and a display of blooms at the Kent DeLord house in Plattsburgh in 2002.  We have also entered Zone and GCA shows, including a mail-in class at the New York Flower Show  for which Francisca Paine designed a bowl bearing our bunchberry emblem. History does not say whether it won, but bowls were ordered for three presidents, Mmes Ladd, Paine, and Pell.

 The 1992 show, Flowers and History in the Adirondacks, included a display of wildflowers as well as arrangements and plants and garnered GCA’s Marian Fuller Brown Award for “an outstanding conservation exhibit at a small Flower Show.Art, Artifacts and Arrangements was a small in-club show at the Adirondack History Center where due to low participation, all entrants received first prize!  In September 2008, we held an in-house horticulture show with two GCA judges, and in July of 2011 we presented Reflections of the Adirondack Palette at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid. The flower arrangement classes were Inspiration within the Blue Line, It’s easy to be Green, and Reflections in the Woods (miniature designs – inspired by a workshop).


Unlike the present, when an entire Zone puts on the GCA Annual Meeting, in May of 1973, with help from the Fort Orange Garden Club, ECAGC hosted 500 delegates in Lake Placid. The itinerary included a trip to the King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga, where thousands of tulips bloomed just in time for the visit. During the visit, GCA presented its first ever award for Historic Garden Restoration to Mr. and Mrs. John H. G. Pell for their work on the King’s Garden. (Mrs. Stephen Pell was one of the founding members of ECAGC).   

There are wonderful stories about that Annual Meeting.  Ruth Hart, the Chairman, called Lou Lockwood to tell her that the 550 shiny green paper bags which they had diligently decorated with pictures by Averil Cornwell, were too noisy and they had to produce another type of bag! The black flies were just emerging and ladies were spraying themselves. One delegate exclaimed “What a magnificent sweet perfume.  Aren’t you lucky to have such an aroma in the woods!  What is it?  The answer was Cutter’s insect repellent!

The Lake Placid Club, site of the meeting, had just closed for the season, and the flower arrangers commandeered the Men’s rest rooms to accommodate the large number of delegates, creatively filling the urinals with beautiful red geraniums! Members served as guides wearing straw boater hats with felt sunflowers for identification. At the final dinner, on each table were potatoes grown from disease-free seed stock by the scientists at the Cornell University Henry Uihlein II Laboratory in Lake Placid.

The first ever GCA Plant Exchange was but one part of an extensive exhibit arranged by the Horticulture Committee at this meeting, but took center stage. Delegates were exhorted: “Just bring six plants from your club and take six plants home.”  The theme was “Grow Your Own - Do IT! Know IT! Show IT! Share IT!  Plants came in all sizes of pots and were carried in Coca Cola cartons, Pappagallo shoe boxes, hat boxes, and shopping bags. Labels ranged from tongue depressors to calling cards. Rules were few, but the Plant Exchange flourished as a major event at GCA meetings until it was discontinued due to issues with disease control.


In 1935 The Garden Club of America was divided into geographical regions which would later become known as Zones. And who had the first meeting? The Essex County Adirondack Garden Club! In July of 1935, after a “Regional” meeting at Fort Ticonderoga, delegates lunched at the Pavilion and had tea at Rogers’ Rock at the head of Lake George. The next day they toured members’ gardens in Wadhams and Essex and lunched at Flat Rock Camp. Through the courtesy of the Whiteface Road Commission the party was taken up the mountain on the new road not yet officially open to the public. The meeting ended with tea at the Hands in Elizabethtown.

Zone III was hosted by ECAGC in July 1956 when the northeast region presidents met. Called by some our “first zone meeting,” the 1956 meeting was a “most enlightening and delightful experience.” Mrs. Thomas Waller was our Zone Chairman, and Averill Conwell painted the ECAGC bunchberry on wooden plaques for each delegate. We hosted a second Northeastern Zone Meeting in 1971.

In 1987 ECAGC was host to a Zone III meeting. Decorated lunch baskets were displayed in a canoe, fall flower arrangements spilled out of pack baskets, and Lou Lockwood etched Adirondack scenes on shelf fungi.  Panels for the Delegates’ tote bags were hand painted in lovely fall colors by Averill Conwell, and delegates attended the first-ever workshop combining Horticulture and Conservation.

The theme of the 2006 Zone III meeting was Forever Wild. Invitations looked like a color Adirondack travel brochure. Miniature pack baskets were filled with Adirondack gifts for the delegates and a life size model of an Adirondack guide and Adirondack pack baskets filled with fall flowers and foliage decorated the Ausable Club. The entire meeting was dedicated to Anne Lacy Trevor whose illustrations from River Study graced the Zone meeting paperwork.  Instead of a plant exchange, a miniature Adirondack Chair was mailed to each Zone III club which was encouraged to use natural materials to interpret “Forever Wild.” ECAGC members were identified by green vests and ran an Adirondack General Store filled with items of local interest. For the Awards dinner, moss dish gardens graced the tables.


The theme of the 2006 Zone III meeting was Forever Wild. Invitations looked like a color Adirondack travel brochure. Miniature pack baskets were filled with Adirondack gifts for the delegates and a life size model of an Adirondack guide and Adirondack pack baskets filled with fall flowers and foliage decorated the Ausable Club. The entire meeting was dedicated to Anne Lacy Trevor whose illustrations from River Study graced the Zone meeting paperwork.  Instead of a plant exchange, a miniature Adirondack Chair was mailed to each Zone III club which was encouraged to use natural materials to interpret “Forever Wild.” ECAGC members were identified by green vests and ran an Adirondack General Store filled with items of local interest. For the Awards dinner, moss dish gardens graced the tables.

After three years of planning and the involvement of over half of the Club’s membership, ECAGC hosted the annual GCA National Affairs and Legislation/Conservation Field Trip, An Adirondack Experience, in 2012. Delegates were treated to four days highlighting the amazing beauty and diversity of our region. Field trips to the east included the Nature Conservancy, Essex Farm, hiking Rainbow Falls and Ladies Loop trails, a Crater Club picnic, and dinner at Flat Rock Camp overlooking Lake Champlain. The itinerary to the west took our visitors to the Wild Center, a bog trail at Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center, and St. Regis Lake. On the last day the delegates chose hikes around Lake Placid and trails on Whiteface Mountain, and ended with a farewell dinner. Each day, speakers included conservation professionals, professors, authors, guides, a state and national legislator, and even an Adirondack musician, all of whom shared their views of the Adirondack Park’s history, challenges, and successes.

The theme of the 2006 Zone III meeting was Forever Wild. Invitations looked like a color Adirondack travel brochure. Miniature pack baskets were filled with Adirondack gifts for the delegates and a life size model of an Adirondack guide and Adirondack pack baskets filled with fall flowers and foliage decorated the Ausable Club. The entire meeting was dedicated to Anne Lacy Trevor whose illustrations from River Study graced the Zone meeting paperwork.  Instead of a plant exchange, a miniature Adirondack Chair was mailed to each Zone III club which was encouraged to use natural materials to interpret “Forever Wild.” ECAGC members were identified by green vests and ran an Adirondack General Store filled with items of local interest. For the Awards dinner, moss dish gardens graced the tables.

After three years of planning and the involvement of over half of the Club’s membership, ECAGC hosted the annual GCA National Affairs and Legislation/Conservation Field Trip, An Adirondack Experience, in 2012. Delegates were treated to four days highlighting the amazing beauty and diversity of our region. Field trips to the east included the Nature Conservancy, Essex Farm, hiking Rainbow Falls and Ladies Loop trails, a Crater Club picnic, and dinner at Flat Rock Camp overlooking Lake Champlain. The itinerary to the west took our visitors to the Wild Center, a bog trail at Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center, and St. Regis Lake. On the last day the delegates chose hikes around Lake Placid and trails on Whiteface Mountain, and ended with a farewell dinner. Each day, speakers included conservation professionals, professors, authors, guides, a state and national legislator, and even an Adirondack musician, all of whom shared their views of the Adirondack Park’s history, challenges, and successes.


Many of our activities have raised money: Food, Flowers & Fireworks, our cookbook, sold so well it was reprinted, and Mountain Greenery, a luncheon/fashion show in 1991, raised $6,000. Sets of Flora Bingo cards, which can be played in both Latin and common names, were sold at $10 apiece. Raffle tickets for two needlepoint wildflower rugs, stitched by members, raised funds for Zone meetings.  We have sold endangered species postcards, conducted an arts and crafts fair, and held a large auction with the Essex County Historical Society from which each organization realized $9,000! We have had garage sales and house and garden tours, sold ivy topiaries and tote bags, auctioning off fancy picnic lunches, and held two 50th anniversary celebrations, one year for the Colonial Garden and the next for ECAGC.

In August 1993, we held a Pesky Black Fly Dinner Dance. Donations were solicited from members; $100 for the privilege of “Not attending the celebration of the 65th Anniversary of ECAGC,” $50 for “Not being covered with a bug net,” and $75 for “Not having to eat or drink heavily.”

The following year A Mad Hatters’ Tea Party was held in the Colonial Garden. Anne Lacy designed the invitations and members wore decorated hats which were judged; there was a display of old dolls and a silent auction which included herb vinegars and knitted “fruit and vegetable hats” made by Club members.

Another source of revenue has been the President’s annual letter accompanying our dues notice. Members are invited to contribute to the Colonial Garden, the Ellen Lee Paine Fund,  the Speakers’ Fund, or the Delegates’ Fund, (established to assist members with the cost of attending Zone and national GCA meetings).

Starting in 1996, we held annual Plant Sales. By 2002 a color brochure was published, and three nurseries were contacted to find interesting plants. Hanging baskets were added as well as plants donated by members. In 2003, an even more extensive brochure was published, featuring color pictures of plants of the Colonial Garden and of the King’s Garden, plus annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, oriental lilies, and shrubs from the three nurseries. Proceeds from these plant sales covered upkeep and maintenance of the Colonial Garden.


For many years the Colonial Garden was our major civic project. The brainchild of Ira M. Younker, a native Iowan and his wife, Rosemary, whose interest in the Galamian music school, Meadowmount, brought them from New York to summer in Lewis, the garden was established in the spring of 1955. With the help of Frank Politi, a landscape architect, a horticultural expert from Cornell, and Alden Hopkins, the Williamsburg landscape architect, the design took shape. It consisted of a symmetrical center garden with a path along the edges, beds of annuals (originally edged with brick), and such features as the iron benches, which are copies of ones at Mt. Vernon and were made by Williamsburg ironmongers. The finials on the back wall and the 1778 lead cistern embossed with a dolphin came from England, as did the sundial of Portland stone which stands on a brick pediment copied from the University of Virginia Rotunda. The fence design is from Jefferson’s Monticello, the rear gates and walls duplicate those at the Capitol in Williamsburg. 

For nine years, Mr. Younker provided perennials and annuals, added new features, and employed a full-time gardener.  A sudden illness in 1965 forced him to return to New York where he died. At first, there was money to buy plants and pay a part-time gardener. When support ended that year, ECAGC assumed full responsibility for funding, planting and maintenance. The original plan called for flowers grown in Colonial times; however our short growing season and severe winters resulted in having to select modern varieties of old fashioned species. To reduce costs, we added more perennials and the long beds of annuals bordering the paths were reduced to small units separated by grass plots.

In addition to performing all work in the Garden, the Club had a goal of raising $2,000 a year for maintenance. We sold aprons, our cookbook, and colorful T-shirts featuring a silk screened bouquet of Colonial Garden flowers designed by Anne Lacy. In order to continue our commitment, Liz Lawrence, (Mrs. Richard) established The Fund in 1985, the income from which supported“the Colonial Garden and other projects for the benefit of the area.” This allowed us to hire a gardener to supplement the members’ work. A memorial plaque honoring deceased members was placed in the Gazebo and dedicated at our 60th Anniversary. Gifts of $500 or more allowed for placement of a deceased member’s name on the plaque, as well as more funds for maintenance.   

In 2002 the Club wrote and published a color brochure of the Colonial Garden identifying the annual plantings.  As well as being featured on the ilovegardens website, the Garden is included in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens web site. (The King’s Garden, the Paine’s Flat Rock Garden, Ruth Hart’s Church Garden, and the Hale’s Scragwood Garden are also in the Archives of American Gardens.)

For 46 years, we were the sole stewards of the Colonial Garden. We made plans for the garden, purchased annuals, perennials, and shrubs, planted in the late spring, deadheaded and weeded during the summer, and put the garden to bed in the fall. Often members from different areas signed up to work together and stay for sandwiches. This hard work somewhat lessened the financial burden and resulted in a beautiful garden for visitors to the Museum and for the general public to enjoy. It was also the site for weddings, baptisms, celebrations, and many a lunchtime break for neighboring businesses.

However, during those years we spent over $150,000 to purchase the plants and shrubs, pay for all pruning and shrub trimming, install a security system and new lighting, repair the brick work, restore stylistic elements such as the gates, the gazebo and the finials, and supply funds for whatever capital improvements were deemed necessary.

 Just inside the gates is a stone bearing this inscription “And the glory of the Garden it shall never pass away.” But times and member interests changed. A survey of members indicated waning interest in maintaining the Colonial Garden and few volunteered to work there. In May of 2011, a memorandum of agreement transferred responsibility for planting and care of the garden to the Essex County Historical Society. The Club turned its main civic interest to Conservation.


While the Colonial Garden was our main Civic Project until 2011, over the years members have been involved in many others. In 1933 we had the honor of planting the first oak tree in the Champ de Mars, the approach to Fort Ticonderoga. During the 1990s we manned a booth at Field, Forest and Stream at the Adirondack History Center selling tulip bulbs, ECAGC cookbooks, garden gloves, and reusable grocery bags. Hundreds of larch and jack pines were provided for grades 1-4, we sponsored a poster contest in schools, illustrated a recycling brochure called Trash Goes to School, and donated seeds to schools for propagation. We helped develop landscape plans for the Essex Town Hall, the area beside the Paine Memorial Library, and for Northern Adirondack Planned Parenthood in Plattsburgh. Landscaping at Beggs’ Point in Essex was also provided.

We created a native fern garden at the New York State Visitors Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s which was later changed from a fern garden to a bird habitat garden with a small pond and berry type vegetation. In 1981 we were asked by the state to suggest and supervise plantings for Camp Topridge, the Adirondack Great Camp left to New York State by Marjorie Merriweather Post, and to plant wildflowers in the median between Elizabethtown and Plattsburgh. With a highway work permit, wearing required orange safety vests and hard hats, members planted the seeds on the Northway.


Over the years, the Club’s programs have been varied and stimulating. We strolled along the Saranac River Walk and visited the Plattsburgh sewage plant. The Fort Orange Garden Club joined us at the Adirondack Museum for a lecture on “Wildflowers in the Naturalistic Garden.” Other subjects have been herbs, detoxifying your home, and what is a “prescribed burn.” Workshops covered propagating softwood cuttings, seed starting, drying flowers, felting, creating miniature gardens, and using Latin nomenclature.  We have learned about bees and butterflies, the reintroduction of the wolf to the Adirondacks, the Champlain Adirondack Trail System, the creation of the  Wild Center’s “green” roof and the “green” golf course at the Lake Placid Club, about decorative wood carving and how to grow lettuce hydroponically and make bonsai. Members have played floral bingo, exchanged cookies while making Christmas greens, and watched Carl Heilman’s slide show, Wilderness Visions. We have listened to Frank Cabot speak of founding the Garden Conservancy to preserve America’s most extraordinary private gardens, to Robin Ulmer of BRASS, to the President of the Adirondack herb society, and to Barbara McMartin on the challenges of gardening in the Adirondacks. 

Other subjects have included wildlife biology, natural history illustration, Adirondack land development, endangered plants, Lake Champlain, and Adirondack trees, alternatives to commonly used pesticides, using less damaging de-icers than road salt, black fly control, organic gardening, acid rain, invasive species, loons, and flower arranging.

We have toured many fascinating gardens, including those of members and non-members, the Montreal Botanic Gardens, Les Quatre Vents, La Domaine des Fugeres, and Essex Farms (a 500 acre farm, draft horse-powered, which provides a year round diet for two hundred people) with Mark and Kristin Kimball, author of “The Dirty Life. 

We have enjoyed boat rides, including one on Lake Placid for our 60th Anniversary (with commentary by the New York State geologist) and on southern Lake Champlain on the Carillon learning about the ecology and history of this area and of the partnership of area conservancies. We rode the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake enjoying a pot luck brunch and learning history along the way. We visited the Keene Central School lunch waste composting project developed to cut down landfill fees, conserve resources, and create a garden for the school children.    

Speakers have included Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, on the impact of the greenhouse effect on the Adirondacks, and George Davis on lessons to be learned from Russia’s Lake Baikal.  Spectacular slide shows have included Libby Collins on photographing nature and on entering photos in GCA Flower Shows, and Judith Doman “A Feast for the Eye: The Artist Sets the Table” and “Private Paths & Public Places.” One meeting a year is our open public meeting. Subjects are often on Conservation, and have included Dr. Edward Ketchledge, our successful candidate for the Florens DeBevoise Medal, talking about the alpine plants on Whiteface Mountain as he led an interpretive walk down the Whiteface Nature Trail, and the experts from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. We end in October with a pot luck brunch with spouses. In 2013, an 85th Anniversary Celebration will replace the brunch.


ECAGC members have always “labored not for themselves alone” and have garnered recognition with GCA Club, Zone III, and National awards. In our Club, the first GCA Club Award was presented in 1965 to Francisca Warren Paine, Frisky Irwin’s mother, for her horticultural achievements; the first GCA Zone III Award was for Conservation and given to Mary Prime, Meredith Prime’s mother-in-law, one of the first seven Adirondack Park Commissioners, appointed in 1971 by Governor Rockefeller. Anne Lacy won the first ever Zone III Horticultural Arts Award and Betsy Lowe was the first ECAGC member to win a national award, the Margaret Douglas Medal, for her key role in founding the Wild Center. The entire Garden Club won the GCA Public Relations Award for the publication of River Study and the Marion Fuller Thompson Brown Conservation Award for red wiggler worms turning kitchen waste into compost.

We have had the pleasure over the years of obtaining GCA Awards for non-members, including two national awards, one to Richard Lawrence for his efforts on behalf of the Adirondack Park, and one for Ed Ketchledge for his work on the fragile alpine environment at the top of the highest Adirondack Mountains.

Citations for these are listed on the following pages, as well as a list of the recipients of other GCA Awards and in-Club awards.

There are a number of in-club awards given only occasionally: a wooden “Faithful Flower” for Affiliates, a golden trowel, a green thumb, an endangered amphibian species award, and a red dot special commendation. The Gretta Prince Memorial GCA Cachepot, established in 1993 by Happy Marsh in honor of her mother, is given annually to a member in recognition of significant contributions to the Club.



For eighty-five wonderful years, the Essex County Adirondack Garden Club has packed in many accomplishments - as varied as our 46 year stewardship of the Colonial Garden and our Invasive Species Projects - as we have promoted gardening, provided knowledge, and worked to protect our magnificent Adirondacks. We have been stimulated by interesting speakers and great programs, have learned by working together on projects, and by digging in gardens both wild and cultivated, and have enjoyed the wisdom, talents, and friendship of fellow members.

This special land of lakes and mountains nourishes our gardens and our spirits and informs our work. As this 85th Anniversary History shows, our motto, Non Mihi Soli Laboravi is very appropriate, for it translates “Not for myself alone have I labored.” We look with pride upon the past and with anticipation to the future, when Essex County Adirondack Garden Club will continue to be inspired by our motto and by those who have left us this amazing legacy.


Happy Marsh, Historian - August, 2013  


 GCA National Medals and Awards

 1982 - Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal - Richard Lawrence  “In appreciation of his nationally significant service to conservation and for his continual effort to conserve for future generations, the fragile heritage of natural beauty.

1996 - Florens DeBevoise Medal - Dr. Edwin Ketchledge  “Awarded for horticultural achievement in the field of nurturing the sub alpine plants of the Adirondack High Peaks and his pioneering role in recovery, studying, cataloguing, and restoring.

2003 - Public Relations Award - Essex County Adirondack Garden Club for the publication of River Study.

2008 - Margaret Douglas Medal - Betsy Lowe  “Awarded for notable service to the cause of conservation education.”

 GCA Flower Show Award

1992 - Marion Fuller Thompson Brown Conservation Award - Essex County Adirondack Garden Club for the Conservation Exhibit at the July 1992 Flower Show  

GCA Zone III Awards - Members

1977     Mary Prime                  Conservation

1993     Ann Gardner                Creative Leadership

1996     Francisca P. Irwin      Conservation

1998     Anne Lacy Trevor       Horticultural Arts

2006     Nancy Howard            Conservation

2006     Francisca P. Irwin     Creative Leadership

2006     Darcey H. Hale           Historic Preservation

2010     Meredith Prime          Civic Improvement

2012     Frisky Hickey              Horticultural Arts

GCA Zone III Awards - Non-Members

2003     William Johnston       Civic Improvement

2006     The Hon. George E. Pataki, Governor of the State of New York      Conservation Certificate

2006     Adirondack Architectural Heritage Organization           Historic Preservation Certificate 

GCA Club Awards - Members

1965     Francisca W. Paine         Medal of Merit

1971     Mary F. Prime                   Medal of Merit

1983     Elizabeth W. Lawrence  Medal of Merit

1987     Margaret Byrne                Medal of Merit

1991     Ann Gardner                      Medal of Merit

1991     Francisca P. Irwin            Horticultural Achievement

1992     Euphemia V. Hall            Medal of Merit

1993     Charlotte Jones                Horticultural Achievement

1994     Keela Rogers                    Horticulture Achievement

1994     Sally Webb                        Certificate of Appreciation

1995     Meredith Prime               Certificate of Appreciation

1995     Ruth Blank                        Conservation Achievement

1995     Shirley Twitchell             Flower Arranging

1995     Barbara Parnass              Historic Preservation

1995     Sarah Disney                    Horticulture Achievement

1995     Francisca P. Irwin           Medal of Merit

1997     Happy Marsh                    Medal of Merit

1998     Jane Owens                      Horticulture Achievement

2002     Suzanne Perley               Medal of Merit

2005     Nancy Howard                Conservation Achievement

2006     Keela Rogers                   Medal of Merit

2006     Grace Crary                     Medal of Merit

2007     Happy Marsh                  Medal of Merit

GCA Club Awards - Non-Members

 1982     Greenleaf Chase            Horticulture Certificate of Acknowledgement

1997     Dr. Michael Kudish        Horticulture Certificate of Acknowledgement

1999     Robin Ulmer                     Conservation Certificate of Acknowledgement

2010     Sally Patrick Johnson    Historic Preservation Commendation

2011     Adirondack Harvest       Civic Improvement Commendation

2012     Champlain Area Trails  Civic Improvement Commendation

Essex County Adirondack Garden Club Members -- Serving on the Zone or National Level

Sarah Pell                                Director of GCA

Francisca Warren Paine     Director and Member at large of GCA

Francisca Paine Irwin         Zone III Director

                                                   Zone III Endowment Committee Representative    

                                                   Zone III Conservation Representative

                                                   Zone III Publications Representative

Ann Gardner                          GCA Treasurer

                                                   Zone III Founder’s Fund Representative

                                                   Zone III Nominating Committee Representative

                                                  Chairman of the National GCA Policy Committee

Happy Marsh                         Zone III Awards Representative

                                                  Vice-Chair of the National GCA Awards Committee

Nancy Howard                     Zone III Conservation and NAL Representative

                                                  NAL Committee, Vice Chairman, Forests & Redwoods

 ECAGC Club Awards

 Gretta Prince Memorial GCA Cachepot

 1993   Liz Ackerman

1994   Mary Hale

1995   Suzanne Perley

1996   Barbara Parnass

1997   Sarah Disney

1998   Kathy Speert

1999   Euphemia V. Hall

2000   Keela Rogers

2001   Betsy Whitman

2002   Ellin Glenn

2003   Happy Marsh

2004   Caroline Lussi

2005   Gussie Baker

2006   Renee Lewis

2007   Maureen Ecclesine

2008   Suzanne Perley

2009   Delia Thompson

2010   Mary Beal

2011   Grace Crary, Lynn Perry

2012   Nancy Howard, Liz Jaques

Community Awards to ECAGC Members

 Mary Featherstone Prime Award --

1983   Elizabeth Wadhams Lawrence

1993   Keela Rogers

 Essex County Bar Association Liberty Bell Award --

1990s  Keela and Jim Rogers

1993   Francisca P. Irwin

2005   Suzanne Perley

2008   Angel Brown & Kellum Smith

Adirondack Museum Harold K. Hochschild Award --

2001   Janet Decker

2008   Meredith Prime

New York State Planning Federation Pomeroy Award for Zoning Achievement --

2003   Suzanne Perley for her planning efforts for the Town of Essex

Other Awards Given Occasionally

Conservation Award with Poem by Sarah D. Lowrie

 Endangered Amphibian Species Award -- Keela Rogers

 Red Dot Special Commendation Award  -- Grace Crary “in recognition of outstanding performance in the organization for an ECAGC Flower Show, by demonstrating extraordinary spirit, commitment, enthusiasm, patience, and grace under pressure, and by inspiring others to participate.”

Faithful Flower  (a painted wooden flower given to long-term members)

Ardelle Sanderson – 44 years of service

Lidie McBurney – 42 years of service

Claire Barnett – 26 years of service

Kathleen Bergamini – 34 years of service

Margaret Byrne – 32 years of service

Melissa Davis – 25 years of service

Ann Gardner – 31 years of service

Cynthia Grant – 21 years of service

Louise Gregg – 18 years of service

Frisky Hickey – 24 years of service

Catherine Johnston – 12 years of service

Lou Lockwood – 36 years of service

Caroline Lussi – 18 years of service

Meredith Prime – 24 years of service

Peggy Prime – 18 years of service

Ora Smith – 12 years of service

Kathy Speert – 17 years of service

Shirley Twichell – 12 years of service

Virginia Weeks-Moreau – 34 years of service

Green thumb award ( a glove with a green thumb)

Anne Gardner

Peg Byrne

 Order (or Award) of Merit – for wayside stands and filling stations “that come up to certain requirements.”

The award is the cast iron bunchberry emblem.

                                                                                                 llustration by Anne Lacy Trevor

                                                                                                 llustration by Anne Lacy Trevor