Not just a pretty space: Gardens help communities bloom

Summer is in the air and the flowers are in bloom, as gardeners all across Michigan ready their yards for the season ahead. But gardening is far more than just bright, fragrant flowers, it is a great way to enrich our community. From home values and neighborhood restoration to conservation and education, gardening makes a difference in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Jim Begick, of Begick Nursery and Garden Center, likens gardening in the community to being interviewed for a job. “If you show up in an old shirt and a pair of jeans that haven’t been washed in weeks,” said Begick, “how do you expect to get the job?”

Home buyers look at the green spaces around nearby homes and businesses before deciding on a neighborhood. When residents work to beautify their homes, they send a clear message that they care about their neighborhood. “They are making a statement. They are making a community they would want to live in.” said Begick.

Michigan State University backs up Begick. "Unlike many home improvements or updates one does to their home landscape holds and even increases in value," according to an August 2012 article by Dixie Sandborn on MSU Extension website. The article is even titled "Landscaping: Money really does grow on trees."

Gardening impacts our community in ways beyond home values as well. With a focus on community involvement, the Bay City Garden Club is a large reason for the effect gardening has had in the Bay City.

Founded in 1927, the group has contributed to the area by planting trees and establishing nature trails at the state park. With over 50 members in the club and 15 master gardeners, the group also shares valuable information between members.

“If you have a problem with a plant, there’s always somebody in the club that you can go to and ask for help.” said Cathy Schell, a master gardener and member of the Garden Club for 20 years.

Schell's grandmother introduced her gardening. It grew into a passion for her. “I dig into the dirt and the world falls away.” said Schell, describing her garden as a type of therapy.

In 2015, when the Ash Emerald Borer killed over 500 Ash trees in the Bay City State Recreation Area, the Garden Club dedicated funds to replant trees in the area now known as the Bay City State Park.

The Garden Club has placed recent focus on maintaining the Kantzler Memorial Arboretum, a 12-acre landscaped plaza located on John F. Kennedy Drive along the riverfront and near the Bay County Community Center. The Garden Club founded the arboretum in 1978. Before the Club’s involvement, the area was full of litter and in need of a clean-up. The group decided that the area would serve as a prime location for a beautification project. The new growth in the area sparked a commitment in the community that coincided with other renovation projects.

As environmental issues become a greater priority for residents, the Garden Club works to bring important information to the community with public meetings to address special topics.

“We had an excellent speaker at our open meeting,” said Club Member Jill Urban, “She talked about wind, solar, and other renewable energies. It was very informative.”

Previous public meetings have included discussions about water issues, saving seeds and food sources, as well as a presentation at Begick Nursery on new plant and shrub species. Public meetings are announced in advance and are open to the public.

The Garden Club has partnered with the Garden Club of America for over 60 years. The national group works to raise awareness of environmental issues and works with the legislature to find solutions. The national group furthers environmental education as well, offering scholarships for gardening related studies such as botany and ecology.

The Garden Club is preparing for the Garden Walk on June 20. The event showcases beautiful yards in the area. This year’s proceeds benefit the Kantzler Arboretum project. The Garden Walk also serves as a way for residents to get inspiration for their own yards and talk with local gardeners. Visitors are able to see the various garden layouts, plant placements, and types of plants to use.

This year’s Garden Walk will highlight five gardens, starting on Center Avenue and continuing to Hotchkiss Road near Auburn. Master gardeners will be present at each location, with a number of vendors involved with the event. Two lectures also are offered during the event. 

For tickets and additional information, please visit the Bay City Garden Club website here.

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