Gardener Grows Scenes of Home for Visitors
December 3, 2008
Much like a corsage on a prom dress, a flower garden can dress up a building and make it look extra special. Redstone Garden Club member Pat Hamilton gives her own time and resources to put those finishing floral touches on the post library and Army Community Service.
"I really have a passion for gardening," she said. "This is a place where I can come and exercise a great deal of free will in how I do it and where I do it. It's also my way of giving back to the community."
Hamilton has worked as a volunteer on the library site for about four years, although personal commitments kept her from spending as much time as she wanted on the projects in the early days.
"It was kind of hit and miss when I started getting things in," she said.
Now, she spends several hours a week digging happily in the dirt on post. She uses plants from her own garden, the gardens of other club members and some donated flowers and shrubs. Those she buys come out of her own pocket.
"I haunt every place in town that sells plants and pick them up at sale prices," she said.
The ACS garden got a complete overhaul this spring. A fellow garden club member designed the new plan for it. Hamilton admittedly doesn't always stick exactly to the plan. Sometimes specific plants called for are not readily available. However, she tries to stay true to the spirit of the design.
"I have tried to follow it, if not entirely for every plant, in the spirit of how she laid it out," she said. "They wanted a red, white and blue garden. So, we have limited it to red, white and blue flowering or blue-leaved plants that have the patriotic feel to them."
She credits the Community Based Warrior Transition Unit and 1st Sgt. Pamela Horan with getting the ball rolling at the site, removing the overgrown bushes and clearing the garden area for new plantings.
"They wanted to do a community service project," she said. "They came and partnered with ACS to take out all of the stuff that was growing there before. They pulled all of it out and practically sifted the soil to get all of the debris that was down in there out. They helped a lot with the planting and mulching. They were just wonderful."
The library garden is a little more free form, she said. Hamilton mixes hardy tropical plants that people may not be used to seeing with traditional favorites. The plant selections are designed to attract visitors, both human and not.
"One of the goals I have in doing both gardens is to be a visible gardener. I want people to stop and ask what I'm doing and why. I feel like I have an opportunity to educate as well as engage in my own passion," Hamilton said. "I want to draw a lot of action into the garden in terms of bees, butterflies and dragonflies, too. It's planted with a lot of things to draw them in."
The overall idea is to evoke a feeling of hominess. Hamilton wants library patrons, particularly Soldiers, to see things they recognize from their own yards and gardens. She hopes that recognition makes them feel comfortable far from home.
"I wanted a place where the Soldiers can sit and look out and say 'That reminds me of home.' That has actually happened, too," Hamilton said. "I wanted it to be a place of peace and comfort for them."
Even during the winter, Hamilton is hard at work. In the cold months, she is up to more than people might think. She is already preparing for spring.
"This is the best time of year to be planting," she said. "As soon as I start bringing in trees, shrubs and bulbs, I will be pretty busy through January depending on how cold it gets."
To help combat the nemesis of all gardeners, weeds, Hamilton uses old newspaper to cover the ground under two layers of mulch. She also uses a pellet product to help keep weed seeds that find their way into the garden from sprouting. No matter what she does though, she quips that the most determined weeds will always find a way.
"I try to garden smart," she said. "The biggest challenge is that we don't have grass at either of these locations. It's all crab grass. Those seed heads seed thousands and thousands of crab grass seeds. This year I'm making a concerted effort to come in and (treat) the entire area. It may end up all being bare dirt."
Hamilton said many people contribute their time to Redstone.
"I'm only one of many volunteers who give their time on post, especially the retirees," she said. "It's our way to give something back to the military."