We Will Never Forget…

Photo of the WTC memorial lights by Colin Hopkins

We Will Never Forget… Photo of the WTC memorial lights by Colin Hopkins, Local 580 Iron Workers. Colin was on week three of work when the towers fell, a day when these folks and many others who never expected to be such, came to serve as first responders and who continued working at the site for weeks after the attack. Later, Colin was also among those present at work who got to witness the Freedom Spire rise…

We Will Never Forget…

Over the last two decades, we have learned a new rhythm….The end of summer comes, there is a flurry of activity about getting kids prepared for and off to school, and then, the moment all settles down the weight of solemn remembrance overshadows everything but the realization of how lucky we are to have that terrible event cast such a pall over our beings only once a year. Our hearts go out to so many others who lost so much…who experienced so much…who have since endured so much…

We remember the first puzzled and then stunned and horrified voices of the professionals whose job it is to tell us the bad news every day. We recall the images that replayed, the bells that rang, the world that all but stopped.

We remember the selfless bravery of firemen who went in where anyone in their “right mind” would be running out.

We remember the horrific loss of 2.977 innocent lives, including 343 of those firemen, 60 police officers and 8 EMTS. We remember the probability that anyone we encountered may have just lost someone dear. We remember how some of those who perished did so heroically apprehending hijackers and crashing their own plane.

Our hearts twist in the simultaneous gratitude for the miracle of how, despite intense confusion, so many lived to tell their tale or simply were not there.

We remember the people walking over the Brooklyn Bridge…covered in dust…the people being rescued from the end of Manhattan Island…the people desperately seeking people who would never be found.

We remember the school children who did not know. We remember the teachers who did, but could not tell them. We remember the beautiful day slowly overcast by those beautiful, yet terrible clouds. We remeber the taste. We remember the smell.

We remember the iron workers, the dock builders and the other hard working Long Islanders who heard of the disaster and raced to the scene to see if they could be of service. We remember those who spent weeks upon weeks shoveling through the twisted debris. We remember the price so many have paid for their commitment.

We remember being implored to go out and live. We remember being told it was patriotic to shop. We remember wishing there was something more meaningful to do. We remember Paul McCartney and the musicians he gathered to play for the world and those first responders. We remember Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick who were on Broadway as The Producers, and how they epitomized the notion that “the show must go on.”…how meaningful it was to simply carry on.

We remember the brave men and women who have been at war ever since that fateful day. We pray that they and all the others who bear intense burdens and indelible scars will be properly cared for. We pray for a peace that seems so very far away.

We look down at children, and now young adults, who never knew the days before then; who never wondered at those impossibly tall buildings but may have marveled at those even taller beams of light; who never felt that fateful day; who look at us in bewilderment at the ongoing challenges, both at home and abroad…who wish, sometimes loudly, other times in quiet sighs, that the adults of this world would finally grow up.

We remember the noble ideals that we stand for. We remember how innocent we were. We realize on how much has changed since then, including an explosion of communication that somehow seems to have opened chasms between good people of different perspectives, and tidal waves of information that seem to only muddy any sense we once had of the truth. We reflect on how much we still have to learn, and on how much we seem to have forgotten…

We remind ourselves that while the battle may rage on within our hearts and across this world, we must never let terror win. We must never let the blind hatred that enables it to win. We must overcome.

But how?

The words of many sages come to mind; visionaries and scholars of so many cultures and kinds. We keep coming back to the wisest ones; the ones who seem to have mattered the most…

Over and over they whisper from the ages the same small, powerful yet humble, healing, overcoming, uplifting light of a word…

And so…we reflect…on Love.

A 4th of July Reflection on US

The 4th of July honors the US Declaration of Independence. Its most well-known passage is the foundation upon which the colonists’ grievances were justified and a bold declaration of human rights…

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Juneteenth

Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

When I think of Juneteenth, I see one hard-won step on a very long journey. May we continue to climb that mountain and reach a higher place. Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

This second official Juneteenth happens to fall on Father’s Day. I find that fitting somehow, as I pause to consider what it means to be a good man and to give gratitude for all who father.

The official site for Juneteenth is here. It commemorates that July 19th day in 1865, 2-1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and over a month after the last battle of that hard, bloody war, when the last black american slaves in Galveston, TX were finally set free.

The date has been celebrated in black communities for years with street fairs, parades, concerts, and prayer. In 2021 it was finally, recognized as a federal holiday. It is good to see the growing acknowledgment and honoring of its significance among broader communities through events and such. Some are listed here in the LI Press . Others are in this piece from News12 LI.

Of course, being forcibly set free and actually realizing the stated promise of this nation are two different things. Another good way to honor this day is to study history, both before and after that day, and to reflect on how, while Juneteenth itself recalls a moment of triumph worthy of celebration, it was just one hard-won step on an ongoing journey toward “a more perfect union,” and far from the end of disparity in the treatment of human beings.

I am grateful to all who have given their best to advance civil rights and to create a more just world. May we honor ongoing endeavors to more fully realize the acknowledgment and admonishment entailed by our nation’s Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

One local organization focused on just that is ERASE Racism. Here, in their most recent newsletter they ask how folks are celebrating Juneteenth, share some of what they offer and are focused on, and offer a wealth of diverse and broader resources for exploration.

Check it out

Heroes Take the Field: USA Patriots Amputee Softball Team

Photo of the USA Patriots with Joe Bartumioli. Photo Credit: Steve Caputo

Come to The Firefly Artists 7/22 starting at 5pm for a special reception with extraordinary heroes: The USA Patriots Amputee Softball Team.

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Memorial Day Meaning and Events on Long Island

WWII Veteran Gus Scutari leads children in honoring fallen soldiers at the 2015 Syosset Memorial Day Parade

Every Memorial Day, Gus Scutari would invite veterans, Long Island dignitaries and the children up. Learn about the 2022 Syosset parade here in the Syosset Patch.

Here is a guide to resources for honoring Memorial Day 2022 on Long Island.

The last Monday in May, this three-day weekend at the dawn of summer, is set aside to honor the tremendous sacrifice made by soldiers who gave all. It is a time to pause and acknowledge how veterans offer their very souls to our Nation, and to give solemn consideration to the responsibility we have as citizens to ensure they are treated well and that we give it our best to create a nation somehow worthy of such sacrifice.

While the specific focus is those lost to war, it is also important to recognize those left behind. For many, this is a very personal affair. Please do not say “Happy Memorial Day” as many are honoring lost loved ones and reckoning with memories, knowledge and feelings that are incredibly difficult. It is better to offer gratitude for service, and to offer a listening ear and an open heart.

I have been told by several veterans that this does not mean the day should be entirely without joy. The barbecues and the lighter sides of the parades are important moments of community and, yes, even celebrations of life and nation. May we do so with a mind to surround service families in love, light, and gratitude for the blessings they seek to offer so much to preserve.

Veterans in Syosset assemble for the 2018 Memorial Day Parade while a local child prepares to hand out flags to onlookers.
Veterans in Syosset assemble for the 2018 Memorial Day Parade while a local child prepares to hand out flags to onlookers.

Various Guides to Memorial Day and Where They’ll Lead You

Here’s a Guide to Memorial Day Parades from News12 Long Island including Island Park, Airshow Cruises in Freeport, Hempstead, a Riverhead Painting Festival, Bay Shore, Elwood, Farmingdale, Freeport, Little Neck, Long Beach, Malverne, Massapequa Park, Mastic, a Parade and Open House at Raynham Hall in Oyster Bay, Merrick, Northport, Painview-Old Bethpage, Sayville, St. James, Smithtown, Southold, and West Islip

This one of parades and events from the LI Press includes the Bethpage Air Show, Hempstead (the oldest parade on LI), The Largest Parade of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst, an Air Show Cruise in Freeport, Little-Neck Douglastown (one of the largest in the nation), Massapequa, Wantagh, Port Washington, the Parade and Open House at Raynham Hall, Levittown, an event of music, food, and fun at Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck, Babylon, Southold, and Lindenhurst.

From Greater Long Island we learn about parades in Bay Shore, Babylon, Patchogue, Stony Brook, Fire Island, Huntington, Rockville Centre, Center Moriches, Farmingdale, and Ronkonkoma.

Festive marchers with red white and blue balloons at the 2018 Syosset Memorial Day Parade
Festive marchers with red white and blue balloons at the 2018 Syosset Memorial Day Parade

A Bit of History and More Current Stories on Honoring the Day

Here is the encyclopedic definition of Memorial Day from Britannica.

You can learn more on the History website.

Here is a meaningful piece in the LI Advance offered by Dave Rogers in 2021. He was a tremendous asset to veterans, the arts, and local business in Patchogue for many years. Thanks to social media, he continues to serve veterans everywhere from his new home.

Here is a piece on a call for a county-wide moment of silence by Long Island leaders featured on Texas Public Radio.

This story from News12 LI is about Ron Errickson Jr, who be spending this weekend cleaning up Tinton Falls, a cemetary in New Jersey of African American soldiers who weren’t permitted to be buried with white ones.

Here, the National Park Service looks back over 150 years of Memorial Day traditions springing up across the nation. It also offers links to specific major memorial sites in its care, including The Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial.

In another piece from History, did you know that one of the earliest Memorial Day events in the USA was held by freed slaves?

This feature in Almanac offers some more history including why the Poppy is important, the poem “On Flanders Field,” and a bit about the flag and distinguishing holidays honoring those who serve in the military. There are also recipes and the Memorial Day calendar for the next several years.

Finally, here is my own piece honoring Costantino “Gus” Scutari. Gus was a World War II Veteran who long served as a champion for good citizenship and thoughtful Americanism, and who dedicated his later life to the Syosset Memorial Day Parade. He passed at the age of 99 in April of 2020. He is now a namesake of Underhill Blvd, where he long held the ceremonies following the parade, and the Syosset VFW, where he would invite everyone for hot dogs and refreshments after.

It is fitting to hear that in honor of his memory and an enduring spirit that is likely leading it anyway, there will be no Grand Marshal of this parade.

Learn about the Syosset parade on Syosset Patch.

Veterans in Syosset assemble for the 2018 Memorial Day Parade
Veterans in Syosset commence the 2018 Memorial Day Parade

Grand Openings! Congrats to all Involved with the Cinema Arts Centre and the Half Hollow Hills Community Library!

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Grand Openings of Wonderful Things! Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Congratulations to Dylan Skolnick, Charlotte, Skye, the full CAC Membership and the entire film-loving community on the grand reopening of the Cinema Arts Centre! It all began back in the early 1970’s with two movie buffs, some friends, a sheet and a reel-to-reel projector. Now, a full generation or so later, there are 10,000 members and approximately 150,000 attendees per year at this very special theater.
The CAC offers “compelling American and international films, restored classics as well as entertaining popular films, adventurous and cutting edge films and a remarkable array of monthly film series, often coordinated with music, art exhibits and more. Educational programming includes workshops in screen-writing and filmmaking.”
There’s really nothing else like it. We are so glad to see it’s doors reopened! Read about the theater and its renovation in Huntington Now, TBR News Media. Newsday (subscription required), and LI Business News (subscription required)
 
Congratulations dear friend, Helen Crosson, Board and Staff, and everyone involved in the Half Hollow Hills community on the grand opening of your new library! The brand-new, forward-looking, $24.7M Half Hollow Hills Community Library is located at 55 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Dix Hills. Here’s a sampling of press regarding the achievement, including the Half Hollow Hills Community Library’s own updates over the years. This is the SECOND library Helen has had a major hand in spearheading. Here is a past article about Helen, written back when this whole latest chapter started. You may also be interested in our tribute to America’s Public Libraries and great philanthropy in general, which also includes a little bit about Helen!

Nassau County Museum of Art: Touring the Grounds in Preparation…

A photo of a scout photographing a site while Jean Henning surveys the brush

Above is a photo of my Life Scout son, Max and my dear friend Jean Henning on the grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art. They’re considering how they might craft an Eagle Scout Project that provides a gateway to a larger grasslands restoration endeavor. A primary objective will be to educate visitors about the local ecosystem, sustainable landscaping, and the need to address damage already completely out of hand.

It is a HUGE delight to me that, somehow, I don’t think I ever thought of the Museum as we brainstormed potential projects. Max remembered it himself from childhood and found Jean’s email address on the website. I am thrilled that for Jean the timing happens to be perfect. It is wonderful to witness them consulting. My job remains to hold myself back and just watch them work.

It is not easy! I am glad I get to help a little and am consoling myself by happily getting to tell the story.

Jean Henning

When I first met Jean in 2008 she was both the former Museum Educator and the Senior Museum Educator of the Nassau County Museum of Art. She told me this meant she was actually slowly retiring. Together with Patricia Lannes, they were guiding school children, general visitors, docents and others through incredible arrays of exhibitions.

In addition to art, art history and cultural understanding, they were developing observation, discourse and diverse “21st Century Learning Skills” with visiting school children from all over Long Island. They taught me a great deal about the value of BOCES as a vehicle for their deeply enriching school field trips, and cutting edge thought in teaching and learning. A primary focus involved groundbreaking programs using art as a vehicle to English Language Literacy. There was much more. She was always good for an interesting conversation! Among her favorite topics were the grounds themselves.

Jean assures me she is still slowly retiring, “Honestly, I hardly even go into the building anymore. I thought I’d miss teaching in the galleries but, while I really loved it, I find I have other things to do now.”

Photo looking up at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 2016
Photo looking up at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 2016

The Nassau County Museum of Art

The Museum has been an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit since 1989. It occupies a late 19th century neo‐Georgian mansion on 144 acres in Roslyn Harbor. The property’s first owner was poet and longtime NY Evening Post Editor William Cullen Bryant. The mansion was built by US Representative Lloyd Stephens Bryce. It was all later purchased by US Steel Corporation Founder Henry Clay Frick, though it was his son, Childs Frick, a well-known paleontologist and naturalist who actually owned it.

The grounds include multiple structures and formal gardens originally designed in the 1920s by Marian Cruger Coffin. She was one of America’s leading landscape architects. The rest involve relatively large parcels of relatively untouched lands that back up to Cedarmere Preserve. There are fields and forests, including a pinetum with over 100 rare species of conifer. There are ravines and ponds. All of it contains diverse plant and wildlife species.  

Photo of Porcelain Berry by Katheryn Laible
Pretty poison Porcelain Berry in my own back yard in late October, 2021. It quickly spreads to strangle trees... If you've ever seen Stranger Things, it's root network is reminiscent...

Rare Species...and Invasive Ones: Moving From Preservation to Stewardship

“Honestly, it’s now a catalogue of invasive species.” Jean notes with a grim look as she guides us on a survey of potential sites. We discuss the bigger picture and note relevant details as Max takes it all in.

She leads us down a path that is much wider than I remember.

“COVID” she says, seeing my expression, “SO many people came here walking. I hope they keep it up. They created some really great paths. It’s actually helping us get inside and see what’s going on.”

She navigates under a large fallen tree noting that it’s, “good exercise for people, especially someone my age.” As we go along, she shares resources she’s gathered and what she’s learned since she really got to focus on this.

Jean reflects that while the problems associated with invasive species have been developing under our noses for decades, solving them is something of a new field. Dealing with it all is a process of debate and experimentation. So far, there’s been a lot of mowing and letting-growing. She’s long been determined to minimize the use of poisons, but also knows many are recommending thoughtful applications. She considers that a bit as she eyes some of the more intractably infested areas.

A main focus has been the pretty poison that is Porcelain Berry. English Ivy, and Multiflora Rose run amuck. As she points her plant app at species she’s unsure of, some results make her smile. Others furrow her brow.

She makes it clear that if the gateway garden Max plants could actively replace invasive species, that would be wonderful. Max responds that weeding would be considered more of a Service Project than an Eagle one, but he agrees with the need and will see what he can do.

We discuss wonderful volunteers. She lights up and tells me she’s learned something heartening from a biologist she’s been consulting:

“He tells me that in the ground are living seeds representing a record of 100 years.” She explains further about this wonderful news: The Earth is a living seed bank, especially in these undisturbed lands. If the now smothering invasives are removed, diverse native species, rare ones even, may spring up as payout.

 

Photo of unfurling fern in my backyard, May 2022
Photo of unfurling fern in my backyard, May 2022

Fun to Watch This Take Off

Jean points out spots where she’s witnessing a reemergence already, delighting at ferns with slowly unrolling fronds. Pulling out her phone again, she recommences indentifying things along the edges of land they’ve been reclaiming.

As she finishes the tour, Max offers a few of his evolving thoughts. He explains a bit about his project application process, and how he’ll next consult with the Scout Master and Eagle Coach. He tells her a main purpose of the project is not just to build something for the community, but to exhibit leadership, project management and community connection. He notes there are other scouts who have been intrigued by his ideas. They brainstorm a few options…

It’s going to be fun to see where this goes.

A photo taken of an ascending eagle in Georgeton, Maine in 2015
A photo taken of an ascending eagle in Georgeton, Maine in 2015. Have you seen the ones in Centerport?

For more information on sustainable landscaping, check out our full list of Native Garden and Ecolandscaping Resources. We look forward to adding information on the Museum’s projects and others we’ve come across soon!

Synchronicity Open Doors Reception Featuring Lionel Chitty

Invitation information available in body text

Join us for our first ever “Open Doors Reception”

This will be an evening of networking, light refreshments and good fun. It will be held at The Firefly Artists Gallery in the beautiful historic village of Northport, home of the Engeman Theater, excellent restaurants, lovely shops and a gorgeous park and harbor.

The shops mostly close around 6pm but a few of us, like our neighbors at Artisan House, like to stay open.

 

What: Synchronicity Open Doors Reception
Honoring: Lionel Chitty as nominated by Lois Howes
When: Thursday, May 26th at 6pm
Where: The Firefly Artists, 162 Main St., Northport
Please RSVP: to katelaible@gmail.com Space is limited!
 
 

A Little Bit About Lionel

Here, we will celebrate community and make good connections with a special focus on our friend Lionel Chitty.

Lionel is now the Executive Director of the Nassau County Office of Minority Affairs and, by the way, just found out he’s also about to receive a much cooler honor than this. Stay tuned!!!

When I met Lionel, He lived out east, worked out west and was deeply involved in the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce. I met him through Vision Long Island, who reaches out to and builds community with local business folk across Long Island.

One of the very first things Lionel Chitty ever told me was that he was about to prepare me to never forget his name.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“Go for it,” I chuckled dubiously.

“Lionel Richie.

Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.”

…and that sums up a good little bit of what I love about this guy.

Lois Howes

Vision may have been where Lionel met Lois, whom I just call “The Queen of Freeport” to keep things simple. She’s a wonderful local travel agent who was involved with the Chamber…and the Arts Council…and a few other things here and there…She perhaps got most deeply involved with Vision as a champion of the “Friends of Freeport,” a community organization that, a decade later, is still gathering neighbors to assist neighbors in recovering from Superstorm Sandy.

We’re looking forward to this being a first of many lovely evenings bringing people together at a beautiful place in the name of human connection.

Hope you can pop in! Please RSVP ASAP as space is limited. Have a wonderful day!

Image of event invitation. Details are in the body of the text.

Northport Native Garden Initiative: Building Community, Healing Our World, One Plant at a Time

Photo of Nicole Tamaro, Matt Goreman and Sara Abbass at the 2nd Annual Northport Native Garden Initiative Plant Sale

Northport Native Garden Initiative Co-Founders at their second annual Native Plant Sale. From Left: Nicole Tamaro, Matt Gorman and Sara Abbass.

Photo Credit: Meghan Fisk

Meeting a Northport Native Garden Initiative Founder: A Very Busy Bee!

I met Sara Abbass when she came into The Firefly Artists one day in early 2021. She was walking around the Village of Northport sharing a cool fundraiser for the Ocean Ave Elementary School PTA. The endeavor was designed to also support local businesses, and to be a booster for the masks that were helping us all get to be a little more human again.

We soon started brainstorming children’s art classes. Somehow, we got onto plants. She then shared a really cool idea of an organization she’d helped start with some friends that seemed to set a fire behind her eyes: The Northport Native Garden Initiative (NNGI).

The next time I saw her, Drigo Morin and I were at the monthly Northport Village Board meeting to inquire about Plein Air. She and Trustees were excited about a demonstration garden of native plants that they were installing at Village Hall, right there on Main Street.

Buzzing About the Second Annual Native Plant Sale

Now. Wow. The first thing I see when I come to get my plants and help out at the 2nd Annual NNGI Spring Plant Sale is a table in the driveway manned by kids and a sweet black dog. They’re selling lemonade, cookies and other treats to raise money for Grateful Greys an organization that serves Greyhounds. They tell me they have a $300 goal and are pleased to report that they’ve already earned well over $200.

Around back is a yard full of plant orders, several tables filled with specimens not yet spoken for, and a bunch of busy bee volunteers helping folks find what they are seeking.

“This is nothing,” one tells me, “Before, the whole yard was filled. It’s so much bigger than last year!”

Nicole Tamaro, another co-founder, provides a quick rundown of a nicely organized setup. She then directs us to wagons, and leads us to find our own orders. We laugh at the irony that the Iron Weed will be late because the spring has been so cool, but today is more like muggy July.

Mostly, though, conversation swirls about the large variety of plants they are fetching and brainstorming with neighbors as they guide them in placement and care. Honeysuckle and certain ferns are in short supply – everywhere. They ponder solutions and earnestly brainstorm other options.

A photo of my wagon of plants.
Part of my Northport Native Garden Initiative haul: A native honeysuckle I was luckier to get than I knew, and two switchgrasses to replace some pulled invasives -- Can't wait to get these guys into the ground!

The Hard Work is Paying Off!

“We are so happy people have been so receptive and that this is taking off,” says Sara when she finally has a moment to recognize me and chat. She laughs at how tired she is. This exceptionally multitasking mother usually does manage to get her sleep, which is wonderful, thank you, but last night they came home exhausted and exhilarated. They finally crashed and then sprung up to do it all over again!

She doesn’t look tired, though. None of them do. They’re having a good time and thrilled that their efforts to help folks make more thoughtful landscaping choices seems to be making a difference. 

“Until you know, you don’t know,” says Sara, “and you can’t learn unless there are folks willing to teach.” She looks at me, “That’s why we’re so committed to offering lectures ourselves, and to bringing in outside speakers so we all can learn more.”

NNGI Co-Founder Nicole Tamaro educated attendees about their native gardening options.

Not Just Natives

They’ve been to schools, churches and libraries, spreading their passion for ecologically friendly yards. The native plants are a huge part. “But it’s more than that,” says Sara. “It also involves things like offering homes for mason bees, understanding the need for storm water mitigation, thinking about things like light pollution, and…just pausing to think about how what we do and how we choose to landscape impacts the health and well being of the world around us.”
 

In addition to serving neighbors yards, they’ve also raised and matched funds to seed oysters that will help filter the water in Northport Harbor. The truth is, we live on a densely populated island of many harbors and depend on our groundwater. How we live impacts all of that for generations, and there’s already great damage to repair. It’s a lot to deal with, and it’s nice to know there’s something folks can do that makes a difference, one yard at a time: Ecologically supportive landscaping.

“Rain gardens are great!” says Sara, “So are plants that have deeper root systems, because they provide filtration of what’s going into the ground.” There are so many things. Our conversation turns from problems to solutions as we share love and wonder for plants and she hurries to tend to the event.
 
“I say it all the time,” she says, “Let’s get jazzed about plants!”
 
I am totally jazzed.

A bit of Matt's Garden and his Gazebo with Plant Sale activity in the background.
A bit of Matt's Garden and his gazebo with plant sale activity in the background.

Garden Tour

As Sara and others offer guidance to customers regarding their selections, another co-founder named Matt Gorman offers an informative tour of his own increasingly diverse native gardens. He shows me native Blueberries and Joe Pye Weed, Goldenrod and New England asters.

“The Chokeberry is aptly named,” he says, pointing to a plant with beautiful clusters of white blossoms.

“Oh, yeah?” I say, “Is it toxic?”

“No, but if you eat them when they first ripen they will really pucker your mouth.” His eyes gleam, “You can make good jam out of them, though.” He explains they’re actually considered a “superfood” with nearly twice as many antioxidants as blueberries.

He indicates native honeysuckle and clematis vining around the gazebo, talking about how the slightly different conditions on either side of the structure impact growth. Then, he shows me one of his favorite elements: Little birdhouses filled with bamboo that mason bees are busily entering and exiting.

 

photo of Mason Bee House
A Mason Bee House peacefully hangs out on the gazebo in Matt Goreman's garden.

Love the Pollinators...

“We got these guys as cocoons,” he smiles. The Initiative has a workshop they ran with Blossom Meadow Farm about these important pollinators on their website. There’s also a 101 on native gardening. Once they get through the sale, they’ll upload more.

“I loving hanging out with my bees,” I say, “but I’m surprised you have them right here on the gazebo.”

“They won’t hurt anyone,” he answers, “The males don’t even have stingers. The females….you basically have to squeeze them to get them to sting you. They’ve got better things to do than bother us.”

He is a fount of information and clearly totally jazzed about his plants. “How’d you get into this?” I ask.

“It all started with some Butterfly Milkweed I got. I noticed how many pollinators it attracted and I just started thinking…what else could I add? I started researching, and bringing things in…pretty soon I had a lot of native plants and SO much wildlife in my yard. Birds, bees, butterflies, more…it’s really cool.”

Photo of Chokeberry Blossoms

Professional Design Services

I marvel at one particularly large order in the yard. It’s going to a client’s home in Asharoken for, in addition to the non-profit, Sara has now founded Sara Mairéad Landscape Design, Inc.

“It is so much fun to design for different areas,” she says, “Full sun is easy. I like hard to plant spots and hard to find plants.”

“Woodlands may be my favorite,” she continues, “I love taking areas where people say, ‘I can’t do anything with this’ and creating something special.”

“I love naming them, too. ‘Woodland Oasis…” you can see she might start to daydream, but she quickly turns earnest, “I try to bring it all to a different level, to create a really good feeling for clients…one that gets them excited and invested, too.”

Photo of Native Plants

Building Community

Although they are very locally focused on their Northport community, the NNGI is also totally jazzed about the partners they have found to jam with in their endeavors. They mention Kimberly of KMS Plants, who supplies much of their inventory, as well as others they have befriended. In addition to a very active Facebook page the group is really happy about their new website, which empowers them to host all sorts of information.

“You know what I think is the coolest thing about that?” asks Nicole, “We’ve now got an interactive map where people can add themselves and tell us how many native plants they have.”

“Why do you love it?” I ask

“Because it shows people how involved others are becoming in this, and how even one yard can make an impact. It connects our community through native plants.”

While gardens are often places of delicious solitude, they are also community touchstones. You can see it in the friendships here and on their map. It is evident in the folks they are connecting with and amplifying island- and even nation-wide. You can find it right here in their conversations with neighbors seeking guidance, who are talking to each other as much as to the busily working friends, family and volunteers.

It is clearly evident that they are totally jazzed, and making their deepest difference one yard, one plant, one person at a time.  

It’s really cool.  Check ‘em out.

For more information on sustainable landscaping, check out our full list of Native Garden and Ecolandscaping Resources, It has just been updated to now also include contact information for Sara Mairéad Landscape Design, Inc.

In Memoriam: Ken Christensen

From Left: Ken Christensen, Libby Hubbard, Craig Riger, Dianne Parker, Lou Giordano at a Leadership Huntignton Founders Dinner in 2014

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ~Google tells me this quote is attributed to Nelson Henderson but to me it belongs to Ken Christensen, who spoke those words often and took them deeply to heart.

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