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Avis Campbell Gardens Committee Reports

2022-2023 — Maureen Sprong, Chair; Wendy Stahl, Vice Chair

We celebrated seventy years at our Avis Campbell Gardens this year with a party on site in September. Many thanks to talented artist and Provisional Karen DeLuca for creating our 70th Anniversary logo which we wear with pride on ACG t-shirts!


Arts & Flowers: A Design and Specialty Flower Show at Van Vleck House & Gardens gave us a chance to share ACG history and highlight the volunteers who tend 'Montclair's Secret Garden.'


Homestead Sprinklers will continue to fine-tune areas that were not addressed by the revamp of our sprinkler system. Bartlett Tree returned to treat our twin Japanese Snowbell trees, under attack since fall 2021, with a systemic treatment to combat Spotted Lanternfly. Fingers crossed as the season progresses!


Two ad-hoc committees were formed to address the brick paths and our compost system. We are grateful to Donna Karanja's grandson Mateo for helping bring the compost area back to full use.


2021-2022 — Maureen Sprong, Chair; Wendy Stahl, Vice Chair

The Garden Club of Montclair was approached in spring of 2021 by lrritech Training, an irrigation company based in Virginia that specializes in training and providing continuing education to members of the industry. Part of its business model is to renovate sprinkler systems free of charge to historical gardens, in exchange for the use of the property as a teaching location.

In November 2021, lrritech arrived at Avis Campbell Gardens with instructors and attendees who worked together during the day-long session.


New sprinkler lines were laid and easily adjustable heads were attached, drip hoses were placed in four of the beds, and a state-of-the-art controller and rain gauge were wired into the electrical system in our shed. We are currently working with our own provider, Homestead Sprinklers, to finish the task and add two lines along the west wall.

Early in spring 2022, we treated our Japanese Snowbell Trees with a systemic pesticide to protect them from Spotted Lanternflies. We first called on Bartlett Tree to come in late fall of 2021, after spotting and killing many on these same trees. Luckily, treatments already in use on our roses are effective against this pest. Hopefully, these measures will reduce the impact on the other beds at Avis Campbell Gardens, but we are learning as we go.

Once again, we were pleased and honored to host The Garden Club of Montclair's annual meeting in May. With many of our new Provisionals in attendance, we welcomed the chance to be together again face-to-face to honor award recipients, as well as our outgoing President, Florence Leyssène. Thank you, Florence, for your boundless support and love of the gardens during your tenure!

We are delighted to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Avis Campbell Gardens this year. Our Bed Captains and committee members work tirelessly to fulfill our mission of beautifying Montclair. We welcome everyone to our celebration taking place September 30, 2022.


2020-2021 — Maureen Sprong, Chair; Wendy Stahl, Vice Chair

Many visitors came to the gardens to seek solace and beauty as well as a friendly face during the pandemic. We are grateful to Floss O’Sullivan and Sarah Olson, leaders of GCM Garden Therapy, who gave us very satisfying opportunities to help cheer people. Blossoms from both ACG and home were harvested for the clients at Toni’s Kitchen in fall of 2020. In addition, for Thanksgiving these ladies organized a massive effort to create dried flower arrangements for holiday clients. The breathtaking bouquets donated to the residents inspired uplifting moments.


Wendy Stahl, member of the 2020 Provisional class, has agreed to lend her considerable energy and creative spirit to the garden as ACG&G Vice Chair. Wendy is a great addition to our team and her efforts in the garden are most welcome.


The challenges of Spring 2021 included, for the first time ever, the incursion of hungry deer to ACG. Luckily, we were able to use a variety of tools to protect the trademark tulip display for which we are celebrated. Barbara Meyer called in experts to begin monthly spraying to protect the gardens long term from the unprecedented deer population. Deer were not the only unwanted creatures, however, for we had to request signs for the many dog walkers who frequent ACG.


In May 2021, the volunteers at ACG were proud to host the Club’s Award event, the first large gathering since lock down. We are a tight-knit group: sharing plants, seeds, the latest online sources, and the liveliest garden centers. Our group was lucky to work in-person and to share the victories and milestones in our lives as well as the sorrows that are inevitable. All Avis Campbell volunteers will deeply miss Larry Whitehaus. A calm presence and knowledgeable problem-solver, Larry was always willing to lend a hand in the garden and bridge the gap for us when necessary.


2019-2020 — Maureen Sprong, Chair; Lori Vik, Vice Chair

2020 has been an unprecedented year at ACG. The long-awaited construction at the United Way Building required us to share aspects of the entire outdoor area and its quirks, recommend native plants, protect our gardeners from any safety issues, detail our essential water sources and most recently, uproot Bed Captain Jackie Kling's lovely bed to make way for a new accessible walkway and parking. Jackie has been gracious and creative regarding the disruption.


My husband and garden partner, Garry, helped to move the 15-foot Hosta 'Krossa Regal' colony born from a single plant Jackie selected years ago. As the start date for UW work comes near we are still managing the small to large bumps, from the ongoing threat of lily beetles to the expensive replacement of the pump powering our beloved fountain. Kudos to our Rose Diva, Barbara Meyer, for keeping this centerpiece of our garden in working order.


Several ACG&G Committee members did double duty this year by conducting the complicated and labor-intensive prep of our Club room for the construction. This huge task was gracefully conducted by Karen Whitehaus, Susan Straten, Deborah Hirsch, Florence Leyssène, and Celia Radek. Thank you, ladies!


My Vice Chair and good friend, Lori Vik, decamped to Texas. Always cheerful, funny and undaunted, Lori will be missed. Every volunteer was crucial this season because the Covid-19 pandemic and its multiple uncertainties understandably kept a lot of people home. I am incredibly proud of our bed captains and volunteers who shopped for plants and supplies and came to keep ACG in shape. Gardening while masked is hot work.


The closure of local parks due to the pandemic brought new admirers and some challenges. I sent a letter to local media outlets early on asking visitors to wear masks and social distance while respecting the plantings. Our favorite garden centers and nurseries rose to the challenge and kept people safe, even closing early during the busiest and hottest weekend hours out of concern for staff. Our bed captains have kept faith and managed well.


Avis Campbell Gardens is having a gorgeous season — thank you all!

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