Origin of the Patchogue Garden Club™
By Josephine Miller, Founder, Historian, Past President
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Patchogue Garden Club™. The history of the club has been and continues to be linked with the revitalization efforts in the Village of Patchogue.
In 1996, with a new administration in Village Hall, residents who had long been aware of the hidden treasure that is Patchogue began to experience renewed hope in its future.
A small group of residents, avid gardeners, began to consider how their love of gardening could be used in service to their community and contribute to the revitalization effort. Thus, the Patchogue Garden Club was born. Its mission: community beautification and community education.
With a plan to create a garden in the downtown area, we approached the Village Board and asked for a place to plant. To our surprise, we were given permission to develop the lot on the corner of Terry Street and South Ocean Avenue, an area much larger than we’d hoped for. To our surprise and delight, immediately after our presentation to the Board, we were approached by several local business owners and the editor of the L.I. Advance offering encouragement and support for our project
On a rainy March Sunday morning in 1997 we planted our first garden, the triangle where South Ocean Avenue meets Terry Street. Our enthusiasm exceeded our resources. Oh, what dreams we had, and oh, how poor we were! The lot was rubbish strewn and weedy, and the soil was mostly concrete. We wondered how we would ever create a garden here. Our initial plantings were pass-along plants from other gardens and some contributions from local nurseries such as Long Island Flower Garden and Fantastic Gardens. For that and their continued support throughout the past decade we are very grateful.
I believe our beginning struggle to create something beautiful created a dialogue with the community. Our efforts spoke to them of our love for the Village and our belief in and commitment to its future. The community responded with encouragement, support and some very real assistance in the form of unexpected and unsolicited contributions. Local businesses, the Knapp Sweezey Foundation and private residents contributed in a myriad of ways. Their response spoke to us of their love for the Village and their belief in its future. And so, over ten years, as the community and the garden club joined hands, the garden on Terry Street prospered.
Compost from the Holtsville Ecology Center enriched our soil. Grants from Suffolk County allowed us to purchase shrubs, trees and plants. The Gazebo was a joint effort of the Club, The Chamber of Commerce, the Village and the BID. An irrigation system eliminated hours of hand watering. The garden club and the Village became partners in many projects, e.g., the brick paths that encourage passersby to stroll through the garden. Through each administration, Mayors Keegan, Ihne and Pontieri, the Village has been unstinting its support.
Club membership has steadily increased, providing more worker bees for our garden. It has grown more beautiful each year. Last year the Village offered us additional space, adjacent to the existing garden, a very fitting way to commemorate our tenth year.
The transformation from a small struggling garden to a beautiful park-like space illustrates the power of community spirit to effect positive change and shape its future.
The Patchogue Garden Club™ meets in the fourth week of each month. To honor our commitment to education we have a speaker program. Guests are welcome.
Some photos from the earlier days…