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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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Congratulations to our Scholarship and Grant Winners

We are proud to announce our scholarship and grant winners.

Nancy Surette Memorial Scholarship Winners are:

  • Lauren Brooks
  • Amy Martins

(Pictured above)

Each of our winners were awarded a $2,000 scholarship. Baker Grant Winners:

  • Samuel Walden / Boy Scout Troop 263 for his Eagle Scout Project – Foster Pond Trail markers.
  • Windham Endowment for their project Pollinator Garden at Moeckel Pond
  • Windham Center School for the Life Skills Garden – Learning Experience
  • Windham Academy for creation of a School Garden

The awarded grants amount vary by project and request.