2019-2021 GCNJ President, Jeannie Geremia
My President’s Theme “Paths to Discovery through Outdoor Learning Centers”
First, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my background as I am a Jersey Girl with ancestors on both sides of my family, who arrived in New Jersey in the 1600’s settling in Monmouth County, and later moving west to Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. My family obviously fell in love with this great state of ours because most of them never left.
I am a proud farmer’s daughter, and the love of Nature figured into my early childhood as I was tasked at age 7 in watching our 60+ cows in different unfenced fields and pastures. That little girl still resonates in my soul as I spent countless hours frolicking among the wildflowers, birds, butterflies & bees. That really is what motivates me to this day as I want to share the exquisite beauty and joy I felt and pass it on to our future generations.
The remarkable thing is that, while my kids were saddled with a mother who insisted on giving their friends garden tours whenever they ventured to our house, and gardened until dark with my children impatient for dinner, I vowed that I was not a club joiner.
Yes, I became a Girl Scout Leader and took my troop to Bowman’s Hill time and again as I had to share the beauty of wildflowers, birds and butterflies with the girls, but it wasn’t until my persistent Aunt Sam finally coaxed me to join her garden club that I relented, and joined a club—-the Neshanic Garden Club. Who knew that this was my destiny and you might say I was a late bloomer in finally making this discovery.
My need to share about Nature was apparent at the outset as I was already smitten with Hellebores, not well known in the early 2000’s. Attending District meetings, I just couldn’t keep to my Neshanic Garden Club’s report alone, I had photos and articles on Hellebores and enthusiastically regaled the attendees about their attributes. That got Onnolee Allieri’s attention, unbeknownst to me, and the next thing I know, as I’m ending my Neshanic Garden Club Presidency, I became The Garden Club of New Jersey Horticulture Chair.
About this time, I become enthralled with caterpillars I found on rue plants at Neshanic Garden Club’s annual plant sale. Another love affair with Nature began, and the need to share and protect these creatures (my husband calls them Jeannie’s babies) with their penchant for chomping on parsley, fennel and dill, I realized that I had a big job to do to educate my fellow gardeners and the public as you can’t have butterflies if you destroy their caterpillars. All you had to do was grow more of caterpillar host plants and SHARE.
My next step was to help protect butterflies by investing time to get the Black Swallowtail Designated as New Jersey’s official State Butterfly. This was not an easy task but the lesson is you can do anything you set your mind to, just go for it, and give it your all. Everyone has the innate ability and I am so proud of the initiative, talent and dedication so many people have done for the environment, for our pollinators, for our health and wellbeing. We have such a proud history!
The GCNJ has had 3 past GCNJ members become National Garden Clubs, Inc. Presidents, and we are poised to be honored with a 4thas our own Mary Warshauer, GCNJ President 2009-2011 is currently NGC 1stVice President and will be sworn in as NGC President in May, 2021 at the National Garden Club Convention to be held in East Rutherford at the Meadowlands Hilton.
Pat Wilson, Rake & Hoe GC President is 2021 NGC Convention Chair, and with that in mind, we have several projects to energize our clubs with. First and foremost are the projects we are planning in partnership with Rutgers Gardens.
Bruce Crawford, Director of Rutgers Gardens has long regaled us with his vision of creating a living history of plants and their complimentary wildlife counterparts that came into existence and interacted with one another in the same timeframe.
We had already produced the 3rdvolume of GCNJ History entitled “The Green Crusade Continues” bringing the original history up to date as of 2010. Viewing this history prompted us to take on the task of refurbishing several past GCNJ/Rutgers Gardens Projects from Ruth Paul’s Native Plant & Regional Garden, to Wini Applegate’s Pollinator Gardens, to Carole Iuso’s Freedom Trail of Great Americans & Field of Heroes to Onnolee Allieri’s Helen Hull’s Native Plant List.
Eureka! A tour of Franklin Conservatory & Botanical Gardens new 2 acre children’s garden in Columbus, Ohio impressed me with the desire to incorporate some of these ideas into our exhibits at Rutgers Gardens. Hence, Paths to Discovery through Outdoor Learning Centers, a dynamic project that clubs can take any part of back to your own communities and parks.
Bruce’s dream and ours coalesced as we will have sculptures of a Bird, a Butterfly, a Bee, a Dragonfly, an Ant, Bats, turtles, frogs, and each with their own library and signage. All our District Meetings will be held at Holly House so you can experience these projects. We will introduce these projects and more, plus Flower Show workshops to be held beginning this September as we plan to stage 4 District Flower Shows in 2020 to help replace our annual GCNJ State Flower Show having been discontinued.
Please plan on attending the fabulous GCNJ Fall Conference to be held on Monday, November 4th, 2019 at the Bridgewater Marriott with NGC President Gay Austin as our special guest and Angie Raitano and Diane Hughes, Designers extraordinaire doing a fabulous design program “Christmas on Broadway”. You’re all invited as we feature our GCNJ history in a video that will be available on our website and Bruce Crawford and our GCNJ Committee showcasing our Rutgers Projects and much, much more!!!
In closing, I’d like to introduce my family—daughter, Nancy, son, Joe, daughter-in-law Sunny, Aunt Sam, my rock—my husband, Bob. Also my honored guests: My angel, Ed Danberry, my Gardener News editor Tom Castronovo, my Parker Home dear friend, Lee Shahay and partner in creating Learning Centers, Bruce Crawford.
My special gratitude goes out to my garden club, Neshanic, and Jane Smith for the fabulous flowers and arrangements. To all of you, my garden club friends, I give you two years of unstinting dedication to you and my love. Together we will make New Jersey BLOOM!!!!
Your gardening friend,
Garden Club of New Jersey President