By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
ATLANTIC CITY – A group of concerned citizens, gardeners and community activists have united to bring back the Hydrangea Trail to Atlantic City and Downbeach towns on Absecon Island.
On Sunday, the group was set up at Margate’s Fall Community Farmers Market inside Steve & Cookies By The Bay restaurant. On display was a rusted old tricycle that was decorated with colorful flowers and tinsel to be used as a garden ornament and several old bicycle wheels decorated as wreaths. The group, Hydrangea Trail 2.0, was selling them to raise money to plant hydrangea bushes in areas around Atlantic City.
“We want to bring back the Hydrangea Trail, which was so popular but kind of petered out in the 1970s,” volunteer Elsa Sanchez of Atlantic City said. “They used to have contests for the best hydrangeas and even had a Miss Hydrangea Trail. We want to bring back the trail to make the area more beautiful.”
The group has obtained small grants from several sources, including Sustainable Jersey and the Atlantic City Community Fund, to plant hydrangeas at Gardner’s Basin and along New Hampshire Avenue in the Inlet area of the city. More plantings are planned. The Casino Reinvestment Development Corporation is also supporting the effort. The Home Depot and Bob’s Garden Center has offered hydrangea plants to the group at a discount, she said.
The group, in collaboration with the Gardeners Coalition of Atlantic City, has planted 400 hydrangea plants in public spaces over the last two years.
“We wanted to start in Atlantic City and then branch out to other towns on the Island,” Sanchez said. “But we encourage private owners to plant hydrangeas on their properties.”
Hydrangea is a popular plant that does well in the region’s sandy soil, she said. Although they are not particularly native to the area, they are beautiful and are not invasive. The group plants many different varieties and colors of the showy flowering bush that can be purchased at area garden centers, including the limelight varieties, which produce large conical shaped white flowers with a green tinge.
Hydrangeas have also been planted at Tony Baloney’s, Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, Absecon Lighthouse.
Mike Hauke of Tony Baloney’s said he loves everything about the effort.
“It’s so positive to be beautifying the area, which makes it very nice for our customers,” he said.
Restaurant owner Cookie Till, who through her nonprofit A Meaningful Purpose, has established several community gardens in Atlantic City, said she is “thrilled” with the idea of the beautification project.
“I found out about their commitment to beautifying Atlantic City which benefits the people who live in the neighborhoods. It’s a big deal for the city,” she said. “They are very committed to see the revival of the Hydrangea Trail, which is something all of us will enjoy.”
Till said she would like to see the trail connect all the vegetable gardens that have been established, including those A Meaningful Purpose built on Arctic and Connecticut avenues, St. Monica’s Church and scattered throughout the city.
According to the organization’s mission statement, the group wants to re-establish a connection between horticultural appreciation and agricultural tourism.
“Promoting the Hydrangea Trail 2.0 encourages knowledge of history and horticulture, conservation of native and introduced plants, and appreciation of the ways flowers reduce stress, create beauty, fuel community pride and attract visitors as well as residents,” the mission statement reads.
The Ducktown Community Development Corp., Chelsea Economic Development Corp., Midtown Community Development and NJ Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlantic City Shade Tree Commission and Atlantic County Institute of Technology are all working to plant hydrangeas in their neighborhoods.
The program started as a suggestion provided to the Inlet Revitalization Committee when it was looking for ways to improve the quality of life in Atlantic City’s 1st Ward.
“Bring back the Hydrangea Trail,” suggested Beverly Constant Bromley. Volunteer Karen Rosnick ran with the suggestion and started the organization, establishing a three-year plan for success. Rosnick has since moved out of the city, but the effort continues.
Gail Karslo is currently heading the 2.0 version of the trail, which she hopes will become one of the great Gardens of the Garden State.
Sanchez said she would bring the display to Till’s organic farm and animal sanctuary in Egg Harbor Township on Dec. 9, when a pop-up holiday market will be held. The market will feature local vendors, festive holiday treats and baby animals from Misty Meadows sheep farm. The pop-up will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Reed’s Farm, 5075 Spruce Ave.
For more information about how to become involved in Hydrangea Trail 2.0, see http://hydrangea-trail-2-0.constantcontactsites.com, email GardensofAC@gmail.com or visit the Carriage House in Gardner’s Basin weekday mornings.
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