History of The Rowayton Gardeners (Events, Awards, Presidents)

Historical Timeline

1956             Mrs. John Falsey formed a group with an interest in gardening.  She and two friends, Mrs. Lewis Gage and Mrs. Peter Leavitt, formed what would become the Rowayton Gardeners (RG). The first meetings were held at a Bell Island home. First Civic Beautification projects:  Lilacs were trimmed at Jenkins Boatyard flower boxes were installed atop Bayley Beach Pavilion.

1957             RG was formally organized, officers named and By-Laws were written. First meetings were held alternately at the Rowayton Library and the United Church Meetinghouse. Membership was limited to thirty members, ten associates. Guest fees were fifty cents. Window boxes for village store fronts were purchased and planted. Bayley Beach Pavilion window boxes were replaced with ground- level planters which are maintained to present day. First fundraiser was a Garden Tool Sale; profit $2.67.

1959             Donation of $50 for United Church Meeting House foundation plantings. Fundraiser Flower Course, profit $33.  Terrariums were purchased for the Rowayton Library (now Rowayton Arts Center building).

1960-61      First plant sale made a profit $125 and white elephant sale which made $63, were held at a member’s home. First workshop: books made with wallpaper covers. First program, “Gardening under Artificial Light” with a member speaker. First Christmas Workshop was geared towards home decorations. First environmental letter written to protest desecration of lakes and rivers in national parks by motorboats. Winter boxes planted with yews outside the post office. Library flowers were provided weekly on a year-round basis.

1962              Planted shrubs at the village cannon.

1963              First evening meeting, spouses invited.   Program with speaker on “Pruning.”

1964              First waiting list for membership. Donation of $20 for plantings at the Fairfield Children’s Center.

1965              Donation of $50 made to the Stamford Arboretum for their purchase of sixty-two acres.

1966              Library moved to the new Community Center at 33 Highland Avenue.  All RG’s meetings were then held there. Members made flower arrangements for the grand opening, decorated doors for Christmas and purchased a clock for the Library reading room.

1967             Garden Therapy: Created May baskets for patients at Stamford Hospital. Community Center: foundation plantings commenced and Christmas tree was decorated. First watering can purchased for Library. Dogwoods planted by paddle courts at the Community Center. Donated children’s magazine, Ranger Rick. Provided flowers for PTA house tour. RG joined Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut and members of the National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc.

1968              Community Center: Purchased tulip bulbs for flagpole. Garden Therapy: Provided Norwalk Hospital with Christmas decorations. First bake sale is combined with plant sale. Flowers provided for Library Silver Tea.

1969             Village: Planted Dogwood in village parking lot and made a donation towards other plantings. Rowayton School Pond: Directed Boy and Girl Scouts in cleanup of Rowayton School Pond. Rowayton School: Bulbs planted with fifth graders.

1970             Pinkney Park: Dogwoods transplanted from Village Restaurant to Pinkney Park.

1971-72       First Junior Activities “Teach-In” for children, held at Community Center. Rowayton School: Purchased educational guides “People and Their Environment,” and Audubon film. Village: Planted pachysandra and laid down chips in village parking lot. Pinkney: Daffodils planted at Pinkney Park.

1973              White Bridge: First bulb planting at White Bridge Triangle and is maintained until present day. Rowayton School: Planted 150 daffodil bulbs around flagpole with children. Farm Creek: Donated $1,000 to Farm Creek Marsh upon becoming part of Nature Conservancy (now Norwalk Land Trust). First all member holiday flower show.

1974              First Christmas Show and Sale: profit $389. Cudlipp Triangle: First plantings. Pinkney: Flower boxes placed at Pinkney Park entrance.

1975-76      Flower Show “Our Gardening Heritage” with Norwalk Garden Club held at Norwalk Armory. Pinkney: Light Posts planted with clematis. Rowayton School: Extensive Plantings at the Rowayton School courtyard for bicentennial celebration. Field Trip to CT Audubon Society for members’ children. Town Signs: “Rowayton” oyster sloop signs for White Bridge and Wilson/Witch were paid for and installed by RG. Signs designed by artist Donald Schultz and were built by Morgan Sign Co. in South Norwalk. Award: Received for village signs. White Bridge Lights: Initiated the proposal to have White Bridge Lights refurbished; completed by the District. Garden Therapy provided plants for Leisure Timers at Christmas.

1977               Flower show: Children’s flower show for fifth graders from Rowayton School held at Community Center.

1978-79       Flower show: “Le Grand Tour” flower show, Lockwood Mathews benefit for the Conservatory restoration. Darien, Norwalk, Weston garden clubs also participated. Logo: Oyster sloop Logo appears as yearbook cover.  RG aprons sewn by members and boats silk-screened by Jean Hill (79, pattern in history archives). Pinkney Park: Proposed long term planting plan drawn by UConn (copy in Archives). American Land Trust Award received for village plantings. Cookbook – RG’s members favorite recipes printed and sold as fund raiser accumulated by Heidi Winfield.

1980                Christmas Door Decorating Contest. First pot luck supper, spouses invited.

1981                 Flower show: “Sailing into Autumn” solo flower show, Community Center and Library. Pinkney: Raised bed constructed and herb garden planted at flagpole.

1982-84         Hill Top landscaping and vegetable gardening initiated. Raised beds built.

 1985               “Salute to Lady Liberty” flower show fundraiser at Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, with Norwalk Garden Club. White Bridge Triangle: new planting plan which included lilies and French marigolds.

1988                 Garden Therapy began regular monthly meetings at Hill Top.

1989                “Tides of March” flower show: Community Center.

1993                “Sounds of Music” flower show: Community Center.

1996                 Memorial Day Parade: First year of participation.

1997-2000        Native Garden installed at Rowayton School.  Signs “Native Garden” and “Please Take Care of our Garden” were purchased and installed. Rowayton School children planted four hundred vinca plants by lower parking lot.

1998                Bayley Beach central bed was planted with grasses, perennials, shrubs and Rosa rugosas.

1999-2000       Silver Tray Award received from FGCCT for outstanding service to the community. Flower Show: “Rowayton in Bloom” held at Rowayton Historical Society and Rowayton Arts Center. Boat Logo: Flower wreath, trowel and clippers was created by Kathy Draper for “Rowayton in Bloom” flower show. Community Center garden bed: extensive rejuvenation project began.

1999-2005      26 Carefree Wonder roses and lilies planted in parking lot raised beds, peony field bed re-established. Highbush blueberry bushes planted. Scout Project: Gardeners sponsored Eagle Scout Project to improve walkway between Community Center and Rowayton School. Garden Therapy: “Butterfly & Tranquility Garden” installed at Fairfield Manor Health Care Center.

2001                Flower Show: “Down by the Sea” in house show.

2002                Flower Show: “Floral Tour of Literature” held at Library

2003                Sprinkler system installed at Community Center.

2004                Community Center: Espaliered pear tree and fothergilla planted in refurbished stone courtyard planter.

2006                Bayley Beach “Dune Project” begun. Two rock garden beds with seven boulders installed at Bayley screening picnic area from parking lot. Silver Bowl Award received from FGCCT for beach “Dune” project.

2007-2008       Donation: Farm Creek Preserve of $5,000 to commemorate RG’s 50th year anniversary. Received Silver Bowl Award from FGCCT for Farm Creek. Community Center: Cement benches and planter original to the estate, were found in the ice house and placed in field garden bed along with extensive plantings and an armillary sphere.

2009             “Award of Merit” received from the 6th Taxing District. Flower Show: “Sailing Through Rowayton” held at Community Center and Library. McKinley Triangle: Formally adopted in an agreement with the city of Norwalk. White Bridge Triangle: Rejuvenated with perennials, bulbs, shrubs, seasonal decorations. Letter sent to Norwalk Parks Department requesting help in clearing to control the invasives at Rowayton School Pond.

 2010             Bayley Beach:  “Dune Garden Beds extended.  Two  additional beds created with four boulders at beach. Members planted shrubs and perennials. McKinley Triangle: Redesigned and planted with  boulders and drought resistant plantings. Rowayton School Pond: Wetlands Rejuvenation project began with the coordinated efforts of Norwalk Department of Parks and the Gardeners to clear invasive vines and shrubs, add mulch and extensive plantings. 1,200 bulbs were planted by members, parents and children. Flower boxes installed at Roton entrance for seasonal plantings. Dogwood donated by PTA for Arbor Day for pond rejuvenation project. Rowayton School Native Garden clean up was led by members on Rowayton Spruce-Up Day. Community Center field garden bed were extended to Highland Avenue with shrubs and perennials.

2011              Bayley Beach: Shrubs added to new dune beds. Community Center: Field Garden extension was completed.  New shrubs and trees were added, including Redbud tree “Forest Pansy”, Arborvitae Green Giant, hydrangeas, and spireas. New urn planter installed by front drive. McKinley Triangle: Front section completed with purchased and donated shrubs. Rowayton School Pond: Two new benches installed with grant received from 6th Taxing District. By Laws changes:  Co-presidents, Assistant Treasurer added as officers.   Dues eliminated for lifetime members.  RG’s Cookbook printed in 1978,  accumulated by Heidi Winfield, was scanned and published on website: rowaytongardeners.org.


2013    Developed and updated our new website.

2014    Entered into a lease agreement take over the stewardship and management of the Potting Shed,  The Gardeners agreed to provide high quality educational garden-inspired programming to the community. We began to assemble and publish an annual photographic manual of annual events. Among community activities debuting was the much beloved Carvathon.



2017   RG sold “Pesticide-Free” signs to individuals and began our mission to eliminate the use of chemicals in lawns and gardens in Rowayton. Subsequently our District Commissioners agreed to make all the public properties in Rowayton would be pesticide-free.

2018  RG established an award-winning Xeriscape garden on one of the berms at Bayley Beach. Also ran the “After the Bell” (a Norwalk-wide after school program at the Potting Shed).

2019  RG collaborated with the Rowayton Library and the Norwalk Land Trust to present the award-winning “Our World: Your Call “environmental series.  Also assisted with the Rowayton Turkey Trot.

2020  Mid-year the Covid-19 pandemic hit and we ran meetings from that time forward virtually using Zoom. Our Christmas Market occurred online with the help of Shopify, plus RG collaborated with the Rowayton Arts Center (RAC) in their Christmas sale and February “In the Garden” art show. Established  FIG (Financial Initiative Group) to find new ways to raise funds.

2021  Working with a Girl Scout troop, RG built and distributed bat boxes throughout Rowayton to provide homes for these animals in town. RG was able to hold the Spring Market once again and followed up with a wildly successful Community Gardens Walk and Great Gnome Hunt.



1957-1958      June Leavitt
1958-1960      Mrs. Walter Deckman
1960-1961      Mrs. Newbury LeB. Morse
1961-1963      Mrs. Daniel Laughlin
1963-1964      Mrs. D.B. Magruder
1964-1965      Mrs. James Beale
1965-1966      Clara Bergamini
1966-1968      Priscilla Billingslea
1968-1970     Mrs. Sydney Ward
1970-1972     Pat MacDonald
1972-1973     Marge Albertson
1973-1975     Sue Anderson
1975-1977     Emily Snow
1977-1978     Barbara Allen
1978-1979     Ruth Mackey
1979-1980     Muriel DeWitt
1980-1982     Barbara Allen
1982-1984      Christine Thompson
1984-1986      Kathy Draper
1986-1988      June Klopfer
1988-1991      Janice Garten
1991-1993      Doris Friend
1993-1994     Marty Price
1994-1995     Martha Cook
1995-1997     Eleanora Smith
1997-1999     Mary Louise McColpin
1999-2001     Marny Smith
2001-2003    June Klopfer
2003-2005    Beth Holden
2005-2007    Karen Larocque
2007-2009    Sally Tepas
2009-2011     Phyllis Padro
2011-2013      Erin Combs & Sally Tepas
2013-2015      Erin Combs
2015-2017      Betsy Bain
2017-2019      Kathy Leeds
2019-2021     Betsy Bain & Kathy Leeds


Rowayton Gardeners Awards

                       2010 National Garden Club Awards – New England Region

*Silver Tray Marie E. Lewis Conservation of Natural Resources Award
The Rowayton Gardeners were concerned about invasive plants which were destroying trees at the Rowayton School Pond next to the ball field. The group obtained two grants to help pay for their restoration project. The City of Norwalk Parks Department did the initial clearing. New trees and shrubs have been planted some of which were donations from the community. The project will continue to focus on controlling invasives.
*Mary Louise Marks Smith Flower Show Schedule Award (& $25)
Schedule for “Sailing through Rowayton”
*Golden Days Project- Commendation and Appreciation Certificate
Daffodil plantings at Rowayton School and White Bridge Triangle

                                                           2010 Federated Garden Clubs of America Awards
*Silver Tray Lillian M. Rathbun Award for All Around Excellence
June Klopfer of the Rowayton Gardeners is an accredited NGC Flower Show Judge, a Master Gardener, former FGCCT Board member(Youth), and served as Evaluations Chairman for FGCCT Judges Council. She is two-time past president of her club, chaired a Standard Flower Show in 2009 and has guided her club in many outstanding civic beautification projects.
*Connecticut Tribute:  Horticulture
Sally Tepas for excellence in horticulture work and inspiration.
*Certificate of Merit Brochures – Horticulture
Phyllis Padro  for “Trowels Up” Horticulture Hints
*Citation Civic Development
The Rowayton Gardeners added three new gardens to the three major garden sites they already maintained in the community.
*Silver Tray Environmental Awareness and Conservation Award
With the help of local Public Works and Parks Departments, the Rowayton Gardeners have cleared a large tangle of invasive shrubs and vines from alongside the Rowayton School Pond. After advertising the beautification project they have, with the generous help of the community, planted seven trees and 19 shrubs. They plan to fill in with perennials, ferns, grasses and more trees and shrubs. The site will be carefully monitored for invasive returns.
*Award of Achievement for a Flower Show
“Sailing through Rowayton”
*Silver Tray Garden Therapy Award of Excellence
Rowayton Gardeners meet monthly with residents of Hilltop Homes creating seasonal arrangements. They also host an annual tea for the residents at a member’s home and host summer beach luncheons. Their program also includes spring planting of flowers, vegetables, and herbs at Broad River Homes and planting the flower bed at Elder House, both in Norwalk.
*Certificate of Historic, Memorial, and Public Gardens
Achievement Rowayton Gardeners maintains the extensive rose garden they developed at the Rowayton Community Center and Library.
*Silver Bowl Luckner Youth Award
The Rowayton Gardeners work with three elementary school classes planting daffodils, tulips, installed a butterfly garden and participate in club’s flower show.

                                                           2011 National and Federated Garden Club Awards

*National Garden Club Award for Publication 

Tommy Donnan Certificate of Merit for the Horticulture Pamphlet “Trowels Up” to Phyllis Padro

                                                           2011 Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut Awards

*Civic Development – Certificate of Achievement
For planting 1200 bulbs at Rowayton School Pond and for the landscaping around the Community Center flagpole.
*Garden Therapy – Certificate of Achievement
For monthly meetings at Hill Top Homes to do outdoor plantings and create seasonal arrangements. They also host an annual tea and a picnic lunch for the residents. In addition, they plant containers with flowers and vegetables at two senior residences in Norwalk.
*Connecticut Tribute Conservation for Marny Smith
*Connecticut Tribute Conservation (Youth) for Carol Giunta

                                                                 2012  Federated Garden Club Award

*Lee Bauerfeld Award -Silver Cup
The Lee Bauerfeld Award was awarded to The Rowayton Gardeners for an outstanding Civic Project for the Rowayton Pond Invasive Control Project. The Pond Project started in 2009 and is ongoing.