When Holly Nelson moved to Alna 20 years ago, she wanted the town to have nice gardens like the pristine ones in the last place she lived, Long Island, New York.
She said she and some fellow Alna residents into gardening got together back then as an informal club doing projects, and now some of those same people, including her, have new inspiration, the new town office.
They aren’t the only ones.
In a series of gardens in front of and beside the office on Route 218, or Alna Road, town officials and other volunteers, donors and schoolchildren are showing town pride, memorializing loved ones and feeding fellow residents.
The new town office is bringing the community closer, First Selectman Melissa Spinney said. She and others interviewed said it has drawn donations of time, money and plants and, in the community garden, has yielded food for qualifying residents.
Resident Tom Albee of Albee Farm tilled the land for the community garden and Spinney grew and planted the plants. Some people helped on weeding, she said. To date, “a few households and five or six individuals consistently” have had food from the garden and the rest of the new pantry at the town office, Spinney said.
Juniper Hill School employee Anne Simpson said when third and fourth graders wanted to support the community garden, Spinney suggested making a sign for it. Simpson said the students and their teacher talked about ideas, including what it should say, and what makes a good sign. “Each child then drafted a sign design and they shared their ideas. The students combined their ideas into the final sign design which they all painted elements of.”
Simpson shared a comment from third grader Carter Wilson on the result: "The sign looks like it’s for a magical garden." Simpson noted some of the sign’s elements including dinosaurs and flying unicorns “reflect some of the students' favorite things and interests.”
As for the other gardens, in front of the office, volunteer and former selectman Chris Cooper said in an interview there, he wants them to represent Alna well, which takes planning, he added. Cooper has been donating and getting donations, has sought town funds and recently sought more donations, via the town email. The Aug. 2 message with a subject line, “The Greening of Alna” read in part: “We promise good plants, carefully chosen and sensibly and sensitively placed, and maintained in good condition ... Every cent will be returned to you in a landscape as effective and beautiful as our bright new town office.
“We have this chance only once: a blank canvas upon which to make a masterpiece that will keep our memories in good regard for generations as our small starts mature. I thank you for hearing my proposal and for doing as you may be able. Ms. (Holly) Nelson will find you a job; I will find you the choicest plants.”
One of the summer’s blooms out front was the Alna Pride, a Barth daylily. The Alna Pride was one of the last daylilies the Rev. Dr. Joseph Barth, a longtime Alna resident, developed and registered, his son Nicholas Barth of Newcastle said Monday.
Asked for comment on its being part of the new gardens, the younger Barth said: “I think it’s something he would have been quite prideful of.”
As of Monday, donations were at $2,500, Cooper said. For more on the gardens and the pantry, or on volunteering or donating, contact the town office at 586-5313.