Program Committee Reports

2020-2021 — Charlene Connolly, Michele Trevenen Co-Chairs

Our Club embraced Zoom programs as the best way to keep Membership connected this year. With the assistance of our Committee and Zoom master Florence Leyssène, members were kept engaged with a variety of subjects from the world of gardening and flowers.


Our October Zoom program featured local aviary authority and world traveler Sandy Sorkin presenting “The Birds, the Bees, the Flowers and the Trees of London” facilitated by member and spouse Kathy Sorkin. After so many months confined to our homes, we were ready for a virtual tour of London’s gardens.


In November, we hosted an evening Zoom meeting featuring artist Chips (Hank) Feeley from his home in Vero Beach, Florida. Chips’s artistic talents, art history expertise, and hands-on approach educated Membership about the grand masters and their unique painting styles. We enjoyed Chips's engaging enthusiasm for his discipline.


Kathy Kauhl, head archivist of Essex County Parks, gave a historical tour of our county parks in her presentation, “Not Just Cherry Blossoms —  the History of Gardens in Essex County Parks”. We gained an appreciation for the vision and planning of our county forefathers in the creation of our county park system.


A snowy February afternoon introduced us to Deb Ellis, founder of the New Jersey Native Plant Society, Essex County chapter. During her presentation, “Feeding Butterflies, Not Bambi: Deer Resistant Native Plants”, we learned best garden planning practices for the coming season.


In March, Linda Williams introduced us to the art of jewelry design using botanical specimens. Linda presented an overview of the techniques used to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry from our garden’s bounty.


Our final Zoom program featured Marta McDowell, a favorite Garden Club speaker. Her presentation, “Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life” included excerpts from her book about the famed American Poet. Marta shared interesting stories about Emily Dickinson and her gardening life in Amherst, MA. We received such a favorable response from our members that we expect the Club to plan a trip to the Dickinson Family homestead when we are able to travel again.

2019-2020 — Charlene Connolly, Michele Trevenen, Co-Chairs

The Program Committee scheduled a diverse and rich offering of presentations this past year. Our intention is always to capture the many and varied floral and gardening interests of our Membership. The programs were well attended with more than 60 members and their guests participating at each meeting. Although we hit the pause button in mid-March, we are excited to announce that our March and April 2020 speakers are now scheduled for the 2020-2021 programming year.


Our first Program Meeting on October 21st featured Althea Llewellyn, a Master Gardener who is a certified instructor in Square Foot Gardening. Althea shared her enthusiasm for gardening in a limited space as she demonstrated the principles of square foot gardening which, we learned, produces a bountiful yield of vegetables, flowers, and herbs.


The Garden Club returned to its home base, the United Way Building, on November 12, when we proudly introduced our first evening Program Meeting that welcomed over 110 members and guests. Coleen Christina Burke, author, designer, and historian, presented "Christmas with the First Ladies." Coleen served on the White House Holiday Decorating Team working under the guidance of Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. While sharing her experiences working with our nation's First Families, Coleen gave the audience an insider's view of how the White House occupants prepare for the December celebrations. The holiday spirit was embraced by all in attendance that evening.

On February 24, the Garden Club returned to Van Vleck House & Gardens when Bruno Leyssène, husband of one of our own, shared his expertise as a perfumer with his program, "From Flowers to Fragrances." Bruno presented an overview of the many facets of the fragrance industry and how flowers, herbs, and spices are processed. We sampled fragrances while Bruno infused his presentation with interesting facts of how industry professionals develop the fragrances and scents for the products we use in our everyday lives.


We wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to our very able Program Committee members: Marie Donnelly, Susan Dumont, Debbie Fitzpatrick, Sue Lotz, Sydney Milliken, and Patricia Rodie for their willingness to help take attendance, set up, and reassemble the space for every Program. We thank Chuck Fischer, Executive Director of Van Vleck House & Gardens, for his assistance and guidance on using the space and the audio/visual equipment for Programs.