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Windham Garden Club John and Joan Szoke

By R. Rodgers

Joan and John Szoke

“I’ve always had a fondness for snow,” said John Szoke with that secret glance at Joan that all couples know.  He touched her with his eyes and, of course, got the response he was looking for.  You see, the two met during the historic Blizzard of ‘78!  Both had lived in an apartment complex in Worcester at that time but were unknown to each other.  After the days of snow finally stopped, Joan went out to her car, only to find it buried in literally eight feet of snow!  Standing there deciding what to do, John appeared with his shovel, and the rest as they say is history.  The two have been digging together ever since!  Only now they dig in the rich soil of their beautiful three and a quarter acre yard here in Windham. 

Let’s take a walk through the Szoke garden, shall we?!  We begin with a row of giant lilac.  “We put them in because they are so fragrant and because they are the state flower,” said Joan.  The lilacs combine with a  shady-mixed border that includes monks hood, ligularia, clematis, and roses.  Moving on, we find a circular sundial garden.  This boasts blue mist spirea, Persian coneflower, iris, penstemon, and various colored daylilies which surround grass that John hates to mow!  Also, there is variegated dogwood, turtlehead, and a large mock orange tree that smells delicious! 

Sun-Drops – John’s favorite!

Landing then at the patio garden surrounded by roses, azaleas, and queen of the prairie, a North American native, you can sit and enjoy the afternoon with the birds taking their bath.  Tall Rose of Sharon in white, rose, and blue fill in the corner, and potted citrus trees take up residence on the steps.  Down those steps to the pool area, where the Szokes were aiming for a peaceful look, we find red leaf plum, Japanese holly, astilbe, and Japanese painted ferns.  The above ground pool is surrounded by a built-in deck with seating and a beautiful rock wall to show off the plantings.  Then, the edible garden takes form with yummy “woodchuck-proof” veggies.  In addition, there are many herbs and berry bushes, along with hazelnut, crabapple, pear and pluot trees.

Variegated Weigela

Speaking of digging, the couple has been working on the final frontier by putting in a pond and woodland garden.  “We dug the pond to solve a water problem, and we have been working on in for two years,” John explained.  Around the pond are planted soft perennials, such as iris, boxwood, mallow, and rhododendrons.   Daffodils bloom there in the spring.  Beyond the pond, we finish out the walk with a natural setting of woodlands.  All of this is on one acre of their property with the remainder left to the wildlife.  There are countless other plants too numerous to name.  They need to be seen to be appreciated.

Drift Rose

Joan is a founding member of the Windham Garden Club, having answered an advertisement in the local paper placed by Claire Todisco, back in 1990.  She jumped in with both feet!  John found himself too busy with work for the group, he was always there to help out though.  Joan stuck to the group, becoming president from 1995-1997 and holding pretty much all the jobs throughout the years.  “We love this group.  Gardeners tend to be active people, and we’ve had so many programs.  We did lots of planting around town.  It’s a great group of people.  If you want to meet people and get involved, this is the group for you!  We have made so many good friends over the years.”    Joan remarked.  For 32 years the Windham Garden Club has been meeting and growing friendships along with flowers all over town.

With so many plants to choose from, Joan refused to choose a favorite.   “I can’t choose, I wouldn’t want to offend any of them,” she said with a smile.  John, on the other hand was quick to share his favorite.  “I like the Missouri Sun Drops.  They are such a happy little plant!  When the lavender blooms next to it, I just love the contrast of yellow and purple!” explained John.  This pair of gardeners do most everything together, including enjoying a drive around town “to see people involved in things and what the volunteers are doing.  It’s nice to know we are a part of that.”

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Windham Garden Club Allison Sjolund

By R. Rodgers

It all started with a tiny cactus and a girl who loves to shop!  Allison Sjolund has always loved and cared for indoor plants, beginning with cacti at a young age and continuing on from there.  Her home is filled with trees and plants all thriving in their surroundings and nestled in just the right places.  “I love to shop,” said Allison.  “We went to Lake Street Gardens for a couple of things and stumbled onto their outside plants!”  A perennial gardener was born!  “I have always been a house plant person until we moved here.  I was amazed at the variety of outside plants available!”

Allison and her husband John moved to a new development in Windham 7 years ago.  After their experience at Lake Street, all the contractor shrubs came out, and Allison designed her own landscape for their new home.  She joined the Windham Garden Club just before Covid hit and met a few members.  When she was able to return to the group, she was overwhelmed by the greeting she got, thinking that she would have been forgotten.  Robin Heider, long time member, welcomed her with a smile and a hardy hello.  She continues to attend meetings and helps out with the Plant Sale.  Allison also writes press releases for the Club and keeps the community informed of the Garden Club happenings. 

The Windham Garden Club offers a variety of education through monthly meetings with timely topics, member mentoring, and various “digs” that give members hands on learning.  Allison has been able to expand her perennial knowledge and her garden by joining this club.  “I love the plant sale for inexpensive plants.   It’s so fun and you learn stuff!” said Allison.

Allison leans towards trees and shrubs outside as she does inside.  One of her favorites is Rose Mallow Hibiscus, which comes up late.  It always worries her and everyone else!  Clematis is on her list of fav’s and so is Spiderwort.  A word to the wise had her corralling that super spreader in!  Touring the garden found many special treasures, – a sunken firepit surrounded with flowering shrubs, a built-in herb shelf right off the deck, and wide open space with soft color sculpting the lawn.  Truly a perennial landscape to behold. 

At the seven-year mark, some of her bushes are getting to the overgrown stage.  Ever the hands-on learner, Allison has hired an arborist to come teach her how to properly prune them.  Her “Magic Wand” wish would be for “Good Soil.”  Allison shared that her soil is a little rocky and sandy.  Every gardener has been there at some point, and she will overcome this problem along with the next. 

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2022 Plant Sale Raffle Winners

Thank you to everyone for supporting the Windham Garden Club by purchasing raffle tickets. Here are our winners!

A Touch of Garden Magic

Order 2177 Pauline R.

Grace and Elegance

Order 2093 Kristi D

A Very Berry Strawberry Planter

Order 2122 Mary M.

Herb Your Enthusiasm!

Order 2290 Janet S.

Beautiful Hanging Plant and Plant Stand

Order 2083 Betsy C.

Beautiful Herbalicious!

Order 2181 Maureen V.

Berry Delicious

Order 2241 Carolyn H

Home Sweet Home

Order 2105 Lisa S.

Brilliant Bartzella Itoh Peony Plant

Order 2011 Siri W

Hosta Amour

Order 2011 Siri W.

Cocktails in the Garden

Order 2145 Julia S.

Husker Red Cherry Tomato

Order 2095 Danielle A

Colorful Hanging Plant Basket

Order 2095 Danielle A

Pure of Heart

Order 2007 Deborah D

Garden Gazing Ball

Order 2288 Katherine Q

Sedum Turtle

Order 2242 Jerry J.

Gardeners Delight! Basket

Order 2017 patty m

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Cheryl Cravino – Master Gardener Windham Garden Club

by R. Rodgers

Cheryl Cravino

About how many different Hosta do you have in your yard – 2, 3, maybe 6?  Cheryl Cravino can’t say that.  Her secret love affair with Hosta has turned into HostaAmour with 1,108 different varieties of the leafy beauties in her yard!  The Pelham resident has been a Windham Garden Club member since 2006.  The Windham Garden Club is a powerful, positive force in Windham.  The Club is 50+ members of strong women and men who share their passion of gardening with the community in many ways.  Cheryl is currently the only non-Windham member, and she’s a keeper!  She has consistently donated to the Annual Plant Sale and has allowed overflow plant storage for the Club at her home.

Cheryl’s commitment to the Windham Garden Club and horticulture stems from a long line of gardeners in her family.  Her grandmother Myrtle Flynn was the first person known to hybridize water lilies.  To hybridize a plant is to cross two different plants to create a third.  Her mother had beautiful gardens, and all her sisters have green thumbs too!

After moving into her husband Rick’s childhood home 21 years ago with the challenge of making a garden from scratch in the woodland 1¾ acre property, they set out for what seemed like the impossible.  All these years later the gorgeous property has manicured gardens, complete with creative structures and stone walls, designed and built by Cheryl on 1½ acres of their property.

Mira tucked in Hosta

Cheryl’s favorite perennial, of course, is a Hosta, but which one!?  She also has the knack for hybridzing plants, creating “H. Matilda Jeanne,” her favorite plant, named after her beloved bulldogs.  Mira is her Garden Greeter these days.  The friendly bulldog is very polite and welcoming, starting visitors on their search for their “favorite” Hosta!

Cheryl started her elicit love affair with Hosta as a weekend hobby with about 100 varieties of Hosta that she liked to grow and share with family and friends.  That has turned into a side business that she does on the weekends after working a 50-hour week as a Marketing and Creative Service Director.

Aside from being a successful entrepreneur, Cheryl is also a Master Gardener.  In 2009 she attended a 30+ week program at the UNH Extension, a program that covers everything there is to know about gardening from invasive species to bird movement.  The class finished with Cheryl was more than capable to answer the questions on the UNH garden Hot Line.  “They would call about literally everything from bugs to zucchini bread recipes!” laughed Cheryl.  Part of the program also calls for the student to design, supervise, and execute a major gardening project in the community.  Cheryl worked with a Hudson Junior Women’s Group and installed a Butterfly Garden at Benson’s Park.  The Butterfly Garden is now well established and has been designated as a Monarch Waystation.  By creating and maintaining this garden, she has contributed to the conservation of monarch butterflies and helped with their preservation and the continued spectacular monarch migration.

HostaAmour, a shabby chic garden experience, is now available for you to explore.  Cheryl shares her gardens and her “Chic Shed” with the public throughout the summer months on weekends beginning Mother’s Day.  Cheryl proves that there is magic in nature and that gardening does make a difference in the world.  “My wish is that people would look at the beauty that surrounds them and not take it for granted,” said Cheryl.

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Meeting April 21, 2022

Town Hall, 3 N. Lowell St, 7:00 PM

“Attracting Birds, Bees and Butterflies to Your Yard,” Betty Sanders

There’s no better way to wake than to birdsong and no better insecticide than a hungry bird. Bees and butterflies add beauty and life to a garden. Some plants will lure them to your property and keep them there year round. Lifetime Master Gardener Betty Sanders presents this program to help gardeners bring song, beauty, and pollinators to our gardens by including plants to attract them. Betty will suggest a few carefully selected plants to make gardens a better environment for the gardener, plants, and the world we share.

Betty Sanders is a widely recognized speaker on gardening and environmental subjects. She has lectured at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Boston Flower Show, the Boston Public Library, the USDA, and at numerous garden clubs and civic groups throughout New England. She is also a nationally accredited Master floral design judge. Her gardens have been open for the Garden Conservancy Garden Tour. Betty has a lifetime of gardening experience as well as classes in horticulture and landscaping from the New York Botanical Garden and the Arnold Arboretum, among other institutions.

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Windham Garden Club Baker Grant

The Windham Garden Club is accepting applications for the 2022 Arthur Baker Community Investment Fund Grant. Proposals should relate to beautification, conservation, preservation, education, or horticulture in the Town of Windham.

To be considered, applicants must be non-profit Windham organizations or non-commercial individuals. Previous winners include Windham Rail Trail Alliance, Windham Historic Commission, Windham Co-op Kindergarten, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and Boy Scout Eagle and Girl Scout Gold Award Projects.

The attached Grant Application details the requirements. Application and all required supporting materials must be submitted to the Windham Garden Club by April 30, 2022 to be considered.

The committee will announce the award recipients no later than June 1, 2022.

Download the Grant application here WGC Baker Grant Letter and Application 2022

If you have any questions, please email

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Windham Garden Club Scholarship

The Windham Garden Club will award two $2,000 scholarships this year. These annual scholarships are named in memory of Nancy Surette, past Club president and Windham Town Conservation Commission Chair. Letters of application must be sent by mail and postmarked no later than April 30, 2022. 

The applicant must be a class of 2022 graduate or older. Already matriculated college students and second career applicants are encouraged to apply. Scholarships will be awarded to applicants planning to study life sciences including but not limited to biochemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, conservation, landscaping, environmental science or a plant related course of study. Applicants must be Windham, NH residents or Windham Garden Club Member’s direct family (spouse, child, stepchild, grandchild) residing in a neighboring town. Eligibility will be determined by the Scholarship Committee.

The attached notice details the requirements for a Letter of Application. The committee will announce the two award recipients in May 2022.

Download the application here: WGC Nancy Surette scholarship letter and application 2022

If you have any questions, please email

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March 17th 2022 Meeting

Windham Garden Club March Meeting – “Climate Change, Impacts, and Solutions

The Windham Garden Club’s March meeting will be Thursday, March 17th, 7:00pm at the Windham Town Hall. This is an open meeting and all are invited to attend. The guest speaker will be Robert Dewey MD of the NH Healthcare Workers for Climate Action presenting “Climate Change, Impacts, and Solutions.”  The talk will include climate science basics, health effects, and climate solutions including clean energy solutions and what we can do as individuals.

NH Healthcare Workers for Climate Action is a diverse statewide group of healthcare professionals that includes physicians, nurses, PAs, nurse practitioners, mental health workers, dentists, physical therapists, and medical and nursing students.  Their mission is to educate other healthcare workers and the public regarding the severe health effects of climate change. They hope that this increased awareness will mobilize the public in support of climate solutions to improve health for all.  For more information visit their website at

Robert Dewey is a retired Cardiologist who worked over 30 years at CMC in Manchester, NH.  He is a Board Member and Co-Chair of the Speakers Bureau at NH Healthcare Workers for Climate Action. he has had a special interest in maintaining green space and protecting our local forests.

For more information or questions contact We hope you can join us for this informative presentation!

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Meeting February 17th, 2022

Town Hall, 3 N.Lowell St, 7:00 PM
“State of The Loon – The Natural History, Challenges, and Successes
of Loons in New Hampshire”, Harry Vogel

Have you ever wondered why a loon’s eyes are red? Why loon chicks
ride on their parents’ backs? What loons are saying with those eerie calls
in the night? Join biologist Harry Vogel as he talks about this unique
symbol of New Hampshire’s wild lakes and its special place in the hearts
of New Hampshire residents. Harry will talk about loons, challenges
facing loons, and the Loon Preservation Committee’s work to safeguard
New Hampshire’s threatened loon population.