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Sewickley garden council to mark 50th anniversary at May Mart

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The Garden Club of Allegheny County is one of the five clubs that make up the Sewickley Civic Garden Council , which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year at Sewickley May Mart May 11. Pictured at a previous May Mart are: (from left, back row) Francye Kinney, Paula Sculley, Kathy Bantleon, Mary Barbour, Carol Weir, Margot Curran, Mary Anne Paul and Shelley Clement. Andrew Curran, son of Margot, is pictured in front. Submitted

As Sewickley Civic Garden Council celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, its May Mart is not far behind.

The annual event, which will be held Saturday on Broad Street between Beaver and Thorn streets, began in 1965.

It was one of the first events held after the council was established in 1963 by local women concerned about the deterioration of Sewickley's business district.

Each year, the council's garden club members sell plants and gardening accessories. Other vendors offer garden-related items, food and information on their services.

Funds from the first May Mart led to the redesign and replanting of Wolcott Park at Beaver and Broad Streets. In 1973, SCGC and the Memorial Tree fund developed the one-acre park on Route 65 at Broad Street.

In recent years, profits from May Mart have paid for hanging flower baskets on light posts each year on Beaver and Broad streets.

Susan Craig, SCGC president, said in past years, garden club members watered and maintained the baskets, but it got too difficult to do by hand.

Now, SCGC contracts with a local nursery to plant, hang and maintain 28 baskets with colorful flowers. Sewickley Borough provides plants for another 12 baskets, which SCGC also pays to maintain. The cost each year is about $3,000.

The five local garden clubs that are members of SCGC are given tables and booth space for free at May Mart each year. They share 30 percent of their sales with the council.

Working together, Craig said, the clubs have been able to provide May Mart and other activities they wouldn't be able to do alone. In the past, when there were as many as 10 member clubs, including a men's group, only those clubs were vendors at the event.

However, Craig said over the years, as the club numbers declined, outside vendors were accepted to sell at the May Mart for a fee as long as they had goods related to gardening or canning.

Featured at this year's May Mart will be: Garden Club of Allegheny County, zinnias, basil, green leaf lettuces and mesclun; Grapevine Garden Club, a variety of heirloom tomatoes; Little Garden Club, pre-designed, “no-brainer” container six packs for sun or shade, perennials from members' gardens, hydrangeas, orchids and garden gloves; Trowel and Error Garden Club, ageratums, begonias, impatiens and vinca; and Village Garden Club, a selection of herbs and exotic geraniums.

Booth space costs $50 for businesses and $25 for nonprofit groups. The vendor coordinator is Lynn Popovich.

In addition to May Mart, SCGC has completed many other projects over the years, changing its name from the original Council of Garden Clubs in the late 1990s to better reflect its influence in preserving Sewickley's green space.

Around the same time as the name change, new plantings were added to Park Place and Wolcott Park. In 1976, SCGC established and supported the Natural Trail Guides and Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association and created the Memorial Tree Fund.

In 2000, SCGC became a partner with Sewickley Borough to develop Riverfront Park on railroad property on Chadwick Street.

Money raised from the first Sewickley Garden Tour in 2008 went toward the project.

SCGC then developed a process by which other organizations can apply for grants. Since then, the council has awarded more than $30,000 to other organizations and municipalities.

“Sewickley is unique in that the gardeners that were employed on the large Sewickley estates around 1900 were nearly all immigrants of Italian descent,” Craig said.

“So it would be natural with such an available corps of workers and workers' sons and grandsons that Sewickley would support so much gardening interest.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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