Ashland Garden Club Flourishes

Cynthia Whitty
Meet new club president, Gretchen Bravacos
Issue Date: 
August, 2018
Article Body: 

The Ashland Garden Club describes itself as a friendly group of all ages and backgrounds that loves nature and all kinds of gardening. The members maintain public-area plantings, such as at the Clock Tower, the library, Mill Pond, and the post office, and several pots and planters around Ashland. In addition, throughout the year, the club sponsors programs related to horticulture, holds a fundraiser/plant sale and garden tour/luncheon, and takes group trips to visit area gardens and other garden club programs to further members’ learning.
Local Town Pages spoke recently with the club’s new president, Gretchen Bravacos, to learn about her and her plans for the club.

Whitty: When did you become president?
Bravacos: I was elected president in April 2018 following Lois Bennett’s resignation due to health reasons.

Whitty: What other roles have you had with the Ashland Garden Club?

Bravacos: I was elected treasurer in 2009 and functioned in that role until I was recently elected president.

Whitty: What is your background as a gardener?

Bravacos: I joined the Ashland Garden Club shortly after I moved to Ashland in 2004. Joining the club was the best thing I could have done to meet people and get involved in the town! I have always loved gardening and birding. We moved here from Newton where the houses were big and old and the lot sizes were small. What land we had was shaded by huge trees or by the houses around us. I longed for more land with sun so that I could really garden. Every 10 years or so, I would venture out to look at houses for sale, and finally we decided to make the move before we got too old to really enjoy gardening.
I developed an interest in gardening and birds at a very early age. My mother loved her gardens and her birds. She would be thrilled to know that my two sisters and I both share her two loves, although when we were growing up, we would tease our mom when she would run to the window to point out one bird or another. We called her “Harriett, the Bird Lady,” although I don’t know why because that wasn’t even her name!

Whitty: What are your plans as garden club president?

Bravacos: My plans as president include continuing to build recognition and appreciation for all that the members do in carrying out our mission to beautify public spaces in the town and educate members and the public about horticulture, and in the pleasures, benefits, and rewards of gardening.
Our biggest fundraiser each year has been our annual plant sale that takes place on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. With the support from Boston Athletic Association (BAA) grant monies to help pay for the plantings we do around town throughout the seasons, we have has been able to really focus on the educational component of our mission, offering seminars ranging from topics about specific flowers—such as roses, hydrangeas and begonias—to advice on tool maintenance and soil composition. Our annual wreath and table decoration-making workshop is always very popular!
Our greatest need is to expand our membership. We have been collaborating with a variety of other organizations as a way to increase our presence in town, and hopefully, attract new members. For example, we helped facilitate a number of make-and-take workshops, including making a terrarium with the Care Givers Group at the Senior Center and an herb planter with the Friends of the Library art group. We will be running children’s activities at the Corner Spot and the Ashland Farmers Market. Last year we collaborated with the Senior Center and the Recreation Department to present lessons to preschool-aged children about pollinators and their importance to our environment. We then helped build a raised pollinator garden.
Over the years the club has evolved from a small group of people dedicated to beautifying the town to include more members, more public sites, and a new focus on educational opportunities.
Every president brings something new to the position. When Diane Roberts was president and I was treasurer, we became more organized and become a non-profit organization. Lois Bennett brought her suburb people skills to her role as president. In addition to reaching out to other groups in town, Lois was determined to find ways to provide benefits to our own members as a way to thank them for the tireless hours they put into designing and maintaining the planters and in-ground gardens around town. In that spirit, Lois planned educational outings for members and started a tradition of what we call Wine in the Garden, where we visit each other’s gardens to socialize. I am not sure exactly what I will bring to the role, but I hope to build on what Lois Bennett started.
The Ashland Garden Club meets the second Saturday of the month, June through September, in the library. All are welcome to attend. For more information, visit or email [email protected].