Altenating rows of pink and purple petunias now dot the side of the Memorial Bridge due to the efforts of the Hooksett Garden Club.
Benjamin C. Klein
Working hard to help Hooksett keep up appearances, the 20 or so members of the Garden Club have taken on increasingly larger challenges in their never-ending battle to keep their town beautiful.
For many in the club though, being a member is as much about the camaraderie with their fellow members as their love of planting flowers. Along with their monthly meeting, many of the members meet every Thursday at the historic Robie's Country Deli and Store for breakfast, discussing everything from getting grandchildren ready for summer camp to their children's love lives.
Club president Mardy Lemon joined the Garden Club in 2006 after moving to Hooksett and being encouraged to join by a neighbor.
"I love the people. I was never that big a gardener, but I really enjoy the club, especially the flower shows. But the people are what makes it so special. And when people move away, new people come in, but everyone is always really special," Lemon said.
Tess Schmidt has only been in Hooksett for a short while after living in Belmont for many years, but said she has already made a lot of friends through the Garden Club.
"They are wonderful people, they are friendly, and when you walk into a meeting everyone gives you a hug," Schmidt said.
Current Club President Doris Sorel said that the club just completed what might be their biggest project, putting planters filled with purple and pink petunias on Memorial Bridge.
Sorel said she has long had the idea, but had to jump through hoops since it is a state-owned bridge. Finally given the go-ahead, Sorel said the club just recently finished the project.
"They are pretty now, but wait a month when they really come in, then everyone will notice them," she said.
Along with planting a memorial bush at the Congregational Church, Sorel said the club is already planning its next project.
"We are going to start fixing a planter by the safety center on Route 3 by Shaw's. It has been neglected, so we are donating the plants for it and I have leftover dirt from a previous project to fill it."
Sorel said that the club, which has been in existence for 15 years and is currently in the process of trying to apply for nonprofit status, does not take any money from the town.Along with constantly looking for new projects, an important part of gardening is maintaining projects from the past."We spend a lot of time maintaining the gardens at the Hooksett Library," Sorel said.
For many members, their hard work brings a sense of pride. Mary Fardell has been with the club since its foundation, and said, "I am just proud that we took on a project of this size. Beautifying the library was hard work, but I love hearing from people how pretty they think it is."
Fardell said that one of the main reasons she decided to become one of the clubs founding members was so that she could learn how to garden from those more experienced in the field.
"I have killed many plants, putting sun plants in the shade, so I needed to hang out with people who know more than I do. Now my thumb is greener than it used to be," Fardell said.
The club is also a valuable resource for retirees, because it keeps them busy, Linda Hobben said.
"As you get to retirement age it gives you something else to do than just watch your grandchildren, which I do," she laughed.
To help raise money for the club, Sorel said the club has an annual bake sale, plant sale, and Christmas wreath sale, all of which bring the club more than $1,000 a year.
To be a member of the Garden Club an annual fee of $25 must be paid. Monthly meetings are at the Hooksett Library the last Wednesday of every month.