BELFAST, Maine — Every week, the volunteer members of the Belfast Garden Club get together to make magic happen in the city. They plan, plant, weed, water and otherwise care for public gardens all over the city. From the bright flowers in Post Office Square to the peaceful trees that have newly taken root by the Grove Cemetery Chapel, the club’s ongoing civic beautification projects do a lot to add to the ambiance of Belfast, according to local leaders.
The club has been active since 1929.
“I think they’re incredibly active, take great care in what they’re doing, and just provide a lot of beauty and joy,” Belfast City Councilor Marina DeLune said of the efforts of the club’s 70 or so members. “The efforts of the garden club and the efforts of the volunteers with the parks and rec commission, those two entities, are what makes Belfast so beautiful.”
One of those members is 75-year-old Ann Mullen, who estimates that she has spent hundreds of hours working on the Grove Cemetery Chapel landscaping project, including 30 hours a week during the month of May.
“It’s practically a full-time job, and I love it,” she said. “I’ve been a gardener on my own time for most of my adult life. It’s the thing I like to do best. It’s satisfying, and you’re doing something really useful and beautiful. I can’t think of anything that’s better than being able to do that.”
Mullen, who has been a member of the club for the five years she has lived in Belfast, said that the cemetery landscaping project has been her favorite by far. A $5,000 grant from the philanthropic Golden Rule Foundation allowed the club to do the landscaping around a chapel that badly needed it, she said.
Last summer, the club helped put in a deck and path to make the chapel accessible once more, and last fall it began planting remembrance trees, including oaks, birches, black gums and Japanese maples. People can dedicate those trees to the memory of somebody, and so far 11 of the 16 planted trees have special commemorative plaques.
Club members like Mullen continue to work to maintain the plantings and keep the chapel looking great. She said that she was aided this past Earth Day by teen volunteers from the Game Loft in Belfast. At first, some of the students said that they were nervous about spending time in a cemetery, but Mullen said that she finds it a peaceful and restful place to work. “I feel as though it’s a contribution to the city of Belfast. The cemetery is very visible, and it’s the burial place for the families of many Belfast residents,” she said. “I think it should look beautiful and well-kept and respectful to the memory of all the people who have been buried there over the last couple hundred years.”
Other of the garden club’s beautification projects spread color in other corners of Belfast. Club members work on gardens and planting at the Belfast Free Library, several locations in Belfast City Park and the gardens surrounding the public restrooms at Belfast wharf — a location also known as “Water Loo.”
Past president Diane Allmeyer-Beck said that she became interested in the club’s work when she lived on a boat in the harbor. “I used to come ashore and appreciate how nice it looked,” she said. “I was interested in working on civic beautification as a payback for everything the town has done for us.”
Through fundraisers such as the summer’s Open Garden Days and the plant sale, the club raises money for scholarships to aid the Troy Howard Middle School’s garden project and civic beautification projects. Additionally, all returnables donated through the Belfast Hannaford from June 22-July 2 will benefit the club.
Allmeyer-Beck said she enjoys working with other members on Wednesday mornings in the growing season to make the city prettier. “It’s amazing what a group of us can do. We come in, we’re kind of like little ants,” she said. “We can make a big difference in a few hours.”
For more information about the Belfast Garden Club, visit http://www.belfastgardenclub.org.