For Montclair Local


Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants, and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays as well as music and fashion columns for New York City newspapers.

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In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, please note that I meet and interview people far in advance of column deadlines. I attended The Garden Club meeting on March 11, preceding the shelter-in-place directives from Gov. Murphy. He opened up nurseries and garden stores on March 24. I hope this lifts your spirits in some small way.

I love flowers and plants, and spring brings a smile to my face. There’s nothing better than working in my garden and watching it bloom. Sarah Olson is the Garden Therapy Chairperson for The Garden Club. She and other members meet each Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Avis Campbell Gardens. 

They are practicing social distancing while getting the garden ready for spring. It’s almost in full bloom, the rose bushes need to be clipped, and the garden needs to be edged. Olson said, “Garden Club members are doing what’s necessary and maintaining the garden. The roses are growing quickly now. We’re being very careful and are enjoying working outdoors.” Spring Prep Tulip Lifts are scheduled for May 5 and 12, 9 a.m. to noon.

Nurseries and garden centers were allowed to reopen on March 24, although florists are still closed. I checked in with Amy South, owner of Moss & More, to ask about her business. She’s keeping her plant and gift shop and health and wellness business temporarily closed, in deference to her employees and customers. 

The shop is very small and doesn’t lend itself well to social distancing. However, she’s taking calls from people who want to maintain their indoor plants and work in their gardens. Amy, who is also a Garden Club of Montclair member, said of the club that it is “therapeutic.”

Since there are no nurseries or garden centers in Montclair, I went a bit outside of town and called Brookside Garden Center & Florist, in Bloomfield, for information about what they have for sale. They have some plants and small shrubs available, along with some potted plants to transfer into gardens. Delivery is available to Montclair, and they can make up bouquets for yourself or to send as gifts. You can call ahead to pick up plants and flowers, ready for pickup at curbside.

Centre Ridge Garden Center in Nutley is also open for business and will deliver garden supplies, plants, trees and shrubs to Montclair as well. If you’re in the mood for a short drive, they have a small parking lot on-site. 

With warmer weather on the horizon and trees and flowers abloom, working outdoors in your garden or making up a large patio planter while getting some fresh air is the best medicine for now.





Garden Club
Club members hand around an example at a presentation to the members of the Montclair Garden Club at their meeting at the United Way 3/11/2020

I attended the Botanical Arts: Objects with a Purpose presentation on March 11, at the club's headquarters, 60 South Fullerton Ave., in the United Way building. I never knew that there was an entrance at the back of the parking lot, where a plaque guides you down a ramp into a huge space where the magic takes place. Garden Club member Sarah Olson was so friendly and inviting, I couldn’t resist her invitation.

Florence Leyssene, a member since 1999, used photos to show some of the beautiful creations entered into the 2020 Philadelphia Garden Show, Feb. 29 - March 8, 2020. There are strict rules to follow from the National Garden Club Handbook (revised 2017) as to design, horticulture, photography and artistic crafts. The crafts include botanical jewelry, hats, fascinators and wearable apparel. 

Leyssene showed us the necklaces she made from wrapped wire, reindeer moss and live or dried plant materials. How do you keep the live botanical creations fresh for one to two weeks? Spray them with water and wrap them in a damp paper towel, then put them in a large, lidded plastic container. Design components such as dried flowers and petals last forever, as long as you don’t crush or drop them.

If you’re as talented as Florence, you might want to make a necklace. After explaining that it takes much practice, trial and error, she showed us how to use 24-gauge wire shaped into a circle, then into a smaller circle. Something stiff is needed to hold the plant materials onto the necklace, and moss works best. Don’t use a hot-glue gun, as it kills the live plants, fruit or vegetable materials.

While living in Japan, Florence studied Ikebana, the Japanese art of beautifully arranging flowers. After moving to New Jersey with her family, she worked at what was then Coqui Designs, now Chesney The Florist, in Cedar Grove, and learned how to make corsages and bouquets. She is passionate about flowers and plants, and said, “It's fascinating, and helps me to grow.” 

Presenter Debbie Moran led a tutorial demonstration, showing us how to attach moss with Oasis Floral Glue to the base of a design. She then went step by step to show how to make a centerpiece from painted palm leaves, dried leaves, flowers, and berries. The painted palm leaves looked like pleated wood, and the plants were positioned carefully in a design that was well-composed and colorful.

Deborah Hirsch, vice president of information, gave some background about The Garden Club and some of its goals, which are: to maintain the Avis Campbell Garden, located on the United Way site, and Triangle Mall Gardens in the downtown Church Street area; offer workshops in floral design and horticulture, and sponsor trips to the Philadelphia Garden Show and local gardens. 

Membership is also open for their Youth Committee, members up to high school age.

Consider becoming a member of The Garden Club of Montclair and spreading beauty all around you. Now that you have a lot of time on your hands, remember that, as professional golfer Walter Hagen said,  “You're only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”  


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