Connecticut Horticultural Society

Connecticut Horticultural Society

Awards & Recognition

2013 Service Award: Leslie Shields

Leslie Shields volunteering for CHS at the Hartfordd Flower and Garden Show, shown with friends /members: Adam Wheeler and Lynn Cavo.

CHS members have nothing but praise for Leslie Shields and for what she has done and continues to do for horticulture. Leslie is considered an expert plantsman and her knowledge of plant material is sought by many in the field. You can’t mention CHS without including Leslie’s name in the same sentence. Leslie joined CHS more than 15 years ago and since then has been involved in just about every facet of the organization from running raffles at the monthly program meetings to co-chairing the spring and fall plant auctions to serving on the Board of Directors and the Education Commit-tee. As if that weren’t enough, each year she adds her creative touch to the CHS Hartford Flower Show. And yes, Leslie is also head of The Hardy Plant Society, a complementary organization to CHS.

When asked what keeps her engaged in CHS, Leslie says, “I like the people; the social aspect. I also like being useful and learning new things. Being at the forefront of what’s going on in horti-culture is very invigorating.” CHS offers many opportunities to get involved, and Leslie’s advice to new members is to find something you like to do and do it. There’s something for everyone in this plant community. When asked what she thought when Elaine Widmer told her she had won the 2013 CHS Service Award, Leslie said, “I thought Elaine made a mistake. There are so many other deserving CHS members. I try to follow Fran Schoell’s and Joanne Luppi’s leads. I see them and others in the organization as my mentors.” (Fran and Joanne shared the CHS Service Award in 2012; Joanne passed away in June.

A native of central Connecticut, Les-lie grew up living next door to her ma-ternal grandmother Nana. Leslie credits her grandmother for her passion for life and horticulture. Nana shared her love of gardening, teaching Leslie the names of the wild plants and showing her how to harvest food on an acre of land. “Nana could make anything grow,” says Leslie. Leslie’s personal garden at home in Plainville reflects her roots. It began as an English cottage garden, but she has made modifications one bed at a time, adding conifers, flowering shrubs, and trees. In addition to her passionate for horticul-ture, Leslie has been zealous about educa-tion, having taught biology for 35 years in Southington. During her tenure as a teacher, Leslie was active in the Cetacean Society International, an all-volunteer, non-profit conservation, education and research organization, working on behalf of whales, dolphins and porpoises and their marine environment. A naturalist, a biologist, a botanist, a zoologist, an environmentalist and an ecologist... these are a few of the words that describe CHS’s 2013 Service Award winner Leslie Shields. Congratulations Leslie. You are a wonder. —Marcia Kuck

Tovah Martin Receives the 2013 Mehlquist Award

Roxbury, CT author and gar¬dener Tovah Martin is the 2013 recipient of the Gustav A. L. Mehlquist Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Connecticut Horticul¬tural Society. It is awarded periodically to state residents whose work signifi¬cantly benefits the art of gardening or makes an extraordinary contribution to horticulture.

An obsessed gardener all her life, To¬vah says, ”I came into this world armed with a trowel in one hand and a pen in the other, and I’ve been wielding both ever since.”

Tovah’s career began as a staff horticulturist at the famous Logee’s Greenhouses, but she is better known as an author, having penned eight books (her most recent are “The Unexpected Houseplant” published by Timber Press and “The New Terrarium” published by Clarkson Potter/Random House) and countless magazine articles for publi¬cations such as Horticulture. Country Gardens, and Connecticut Magazine. TV appearances include “The Victory Garden” and “CBS Early Sunday.” Tovah was an editorial producer for the PBS TV gardening series “Cultivating Life.” In addition, she is recognized nationally as a lecturer and blogger.

Tovah’s contributions also have been recognized by the Massachusetts Horti-cultural Society, which awarded her its Gold Medal, and by the Garden Clubs of America for “Outstanding Literary Achievement.” “People, Places, Plants” Magazine named her one of the top 10 educators and on of the 50 most influ-ential people in New England gardening.

The award was formally presented to Tovah at CHS’s Tuesday Sept 17 meeting. It honors the memory of Gus Mehlquist, a long time Connecticut gar-dener, UConn professor and Rhododen¬dron hybridizer, who evaluated tens of thousands of plants to find those most worthy of introducing to commerce. One of his greatest successes is the still popular, tough, compact and showy Rhododendron ‘Ingrid Mehlquist’. The award was established in 1987 to honor exceptional Connecticut horticulturists. Past recipients include Nancy DuBrule-Clemente, Dick Jaynes, and Sydney Eddison.

Preparing a Future Generation

The Connecticut Horticultural Society is mindful of its horticultural legacy and the ways in which it passes the legacy to the next generation.

The lynchpin of these efforts is the award of scholarships for deserving students of horticulture in the state. The fund began in 1959 with the award of a single scholarship of $100 to a student at the University of Connecticut. In 2015, CHS will award  $8000, divided among three students in the plant sciences program at UConn ($6,000 total) and two students in the horticulture program at Naugatuck Valley Community College ($2,000 total).

Since its inception, the fund has awarded a total of more than $150,000. The CHS spring and fall plant auctions are the main ways in which the society raises money for the scholarship fund.