Verona gardening enthusiast spreads beauty

| Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, 9:57 a.m.

VERONA — The president of the Verona Flower and Garden Club, Mariann Brayer, can credit her time in Glenshaw with developing her green thumb.

There, an older Croatian woman who lived across the street taught the newly wed Brayer about gardening.

“It just kind of sparked that interest then, and it continued,” she said.

She took that interest with her when she moved to Verona 13 years ago and in time, it helped the borough to blossom.

Starting the group, she said, was her husband, Bob's, idea. Brayer has been president since it began about six years ago. She describes the Verona Flower and Garden Club as something that grew out of the efforts of the borough's community action group, Verona in Progress.

One of the group's main activities is caring for the planters along Allegheny River Boulevard. Members “adopt a planter” and share the work, like changing out summer flowers for mums in the fall.

“That worked out really good because it's hard to keep everything watered,” she said. “People who adopt them are responsible for maintenance.”

The group is always looking for new members, but she has a message for them.

“It's not a tea party,” she said with a laugh. “It's a hand-on, get your hands dirty and plant.”

Members also do things like pick up litter and take care of the flowers around the gazebo in the Verona's East Railroad Avenue parklet, where, initially, Brayer said, they transplanted hostas and daylilies from their own gardens to beautify the area. Those contributions grew to include hanging baskets.

“It really transformed that gazebo from just sitting in the middle of that grass field to something pretty,” she said.

Another Verona structure that's been beautified: the viaduct. The Brayers added hanging planters to the bridge on Allegheny River Boulevard after seeing something similar in their travels

“It certainly does brighten up the viaduct,” Brayer said.

And their efforts certainly don't go unnoticed. Often, when Brayer and her husband are tending to the planters, she said, drivers will honk, wave and give them the thumbs up sign.

Members keep busy practically year-round. When the season for planting is done, they take to decorating just in time for Oakmont and Verona's mid-November holiday parade, adding brightly wrapped presents to the planters and hanging fresh greenery, most of which is donated from residents' yards.

The group also hosts a free garden tour every June that attracts visitors from the Pittsburgh area to see nearly two dozen gardens of Verona residents.

While keeping Verona beautiful is one of the garden club's main goals, not unlike the Verona Improvement Project, Brayer said, it serves a greater purpose.

“It shows that you care about where you live,” she said. “It's the same goal — to make things better.”

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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