Planted in one intense day in early June, the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center is already in bloom and thriving. It’s a gorgeous tribute to the Garden Club member who inspired it, Gerrie Shapiro.
A Garden Imagined — and Planted
The garden was imagined, planned, sketched, and planted by Cathy Ludden, GCI’s conservation chair from 2012–2016 and the Garden Club of America’s 2021 Zone III (New York) Civic Improvement Award winner. She’s perhaps better known as a longtime Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) board member and its immediate past president. Since retiring from corporate law, Cathy has devoted herself to conservation matters, especially the benefits of native plants to the environment. She began the project last year by planting a small pollinator garden and GNC as part of the Town of Greenburgh’s Pollinator Pathway project. This June, GCI co-president Anne Myers worked with her to significantly enlarge it to frame the woodland path leading to the existing Native Plant Meadow.
Made possible through the generosity of friends and family in memory of Geraldine “Gerrie” Shapiro, the new Native Plant Garden encompasses more than 800 square feet at the sloping woodland edge of the Great Lawn near GNC’s honeybee hives. Working with landscape designer Bill Boyce and colleague Guy Pardee, Cathy created a path to circle the beds so that the garden’s native grasses and perennials—which provide nectar and pollen for pollinators including bees and hummingbirds—can be viewed up-close and from various vantage points.
It was “all hands on deck” to get more than 400 plants—which had been collected and staged in Cathy’s driveway—in the ground and to keep the beds weeded and watered. Although the planting was completed in one hot, intense day, maintenance is ongoing by volunteers including GCI members and GNC staff and interns. Educational signage about the importance of pollinators, native plants and native bees will soon be added.
Cathy’s passion is educating and encouraging homeowners to plant natives instead of non-natives in their gardens. She speaks and writes about how native perennials, shrubs, trees and grasses can offer blooms early in the season and add dramatic fall color to the landscape. And, more importantly, that they offer specific, valuable benefits: they provide nutritious fruits for birds and other wildlife; contribute to biodiversity; flourish without pesticides; offer food and protection for wildlife; support beneficial insects that help control garden pests; contribute to clean air and water; and deter soil erosion. Most natives, when established, are drought and deer resistant.
The garden’s plant list includes nearly 50 species including the familiar flowering perennials baptisia, coreopsis, dicentra, echinacea, monarda, penstemon and rudbeckia—plus others that should become better known, like Waldsteinia fragarioides and Zizia aurea.
Inspiration of Gerrie Shapiro
A woman of many talents and interests, Gerrie served in many positions in GCI and actively volunteered her time and expertise to protecting and improving the quality of Westchester’s natural environment. After earning her certificate in landscape design from the New York Botanical Garden, she established an Irvington-based consulting business and designed public and private gardens in the area and served on conservation and gardening-related boards.
Planting native plants, supporting pollinators, educating the public and beautifying public parks are all activities consistent with Gerrie’s passions and of the values of the Garden Club of Irvington. Thus, GCI established the Gerrie Shapiro Memorial Fund in support the creation of this garden, dedicated to her memory. Many who knew and loved her gave their support to the project. Remembering Gerrie with this garden and honoring her devotion to nature and to beneficial gardens are fitting tributes.
Come and See
Earlier this week, Cathy Ludden led a tour for GCI members, who were delighted and impressed not only by the plants themselves, but by the droves of insects and butterflies who were buzzing happily through the air and alighting on the flowers.
Although the blooming season is at its height, the beauty and life of the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators will continue through the fall. We invite everyone to explore, discover, and connect with native plants and their pollinators over several visits to GNC. Attached is a PDF of Cathy Ludden’s “Plant This” booklet, The Beauty and Benefits of Native Plants,” which you can view or download via this link and which we hope will inspire you to plant natives in your garden.
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Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583, just off Central Avenue, north of Ashford Avenue.