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.

CHS 2013 Flower Show Exhibitor Award

Linda Lareau presents the CHS 2013 flower show award to John Wilcox for his company's landscape exhibit. 

2013 CHS Flower Show Award Winner: Hillside Landscaping Company
by Linda Lareau

Each year at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, CHS recognizes a landscape exhibit that stimulates an interest in horticulture and also inspires the home gardener through the use of distinctive plants and design. Recipients of this year’s award are John Wilcox and Steven Walowski of Hillside Landscaping Company in Berlin.

Hillside Landscaping’s exhibit reflects important elements of any strong garden design, and includes a distinctive water feature, cohesive design and larger plantings to provide perspective. The plant selection and color are appropriate and timely.

Hillside Landscaping was founded in 1984, and Wilcox and Walowski have attended the flower show for more than 20 years. The company does custom landscape and water-feature design and plant installation, emphasizing structure, texture and color. John and Steven keep the focus on easy maintenance and natural landscapes.

CHS thanks the judges for their evaluation and perspective: John O’Brien of O’Brien Nurserymen in Granby, Sarah Bailey, a University of Connecticut master gardener coordinator, and Kevin Wilcox of Silver Spring Nursery in Bloomfield.

Karen Ellsworth Wins 2012 CHS Service Award


Karen Ellsworth of Farmington (center) displays the 2012 CHS Service Award presented to her at the May 2012 program meeting. With her are CHS Awards Chairman Elaine Widmer and CHS President Steve Silk.

2012 CHS Service Award Winner: Karen Ellsworth
by Elaine Widmer

Consistently, quietly and with a smile on her face, Karen Ellsworth regularly gives back to the Connecticut Horticultural Society.

As chairman for 10 years of the CHS Hospitality Committee, she has ensured that members and guests have coffee, tea and kosher cookies at each CHS meeting. She buys the goodies, sets a beautiful table and then, yes, she cleans it all up. 

You’ll also find Karen helping at CHS plant auctions, giving volunteers sustenance in the form of food and drinks. Over the years, she has volunteered at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, helping to plant the display gardens or serving as a greeter. As Holiday Potluck Chairman Fran Schoell’s right-hand assistant, she helps ensure that the annual event goes off without a hitch.

Karen joined CHS about 20 years ago as a diversion from her full-time job as an elementary school teacher in Farmington. She loved the society’s meetings and the pleasant distraction of learning about plants. She recruited her mom to CHS, and they have enjoyed many overseas and day trips. 

“It’s the camaraderie and friendships that I’ve made at CHS that keep me coming back,” Karen says. “I’ve found the people to be so welcoming.”

Her advice to new members is to “take your time to consider the many opportunities available at CHS, then choose one and just get involved. There’s really something for everyone in this plant community.”

In her garden, Karen has taken the advice of many recent CHS speakers and removed most of the grass in her backyard. Her flower garden includes her favorite spring plants—daffodils, jonquils and hellebores—and she also maintains a small vegetable garden. That garden gives sustenance to the chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits.

Her commitments don’t stop with CHS. She volunteers at her church, where she maintains the memorial garden and has become an expert apple pie baker. Four days a week she is a patient-relations volunteer at the John Dempsey Hospital at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. She also volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages in West Hartford.

Congratulations to one busy lady. 

CT Agricultural Experiment Station Wins 2012 Mehlquist Award

The Connecticut Horticultural Society has presented its highest external award to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) for its focus on solving agricultural, public health and environmental problems.

“Through their research and educational efforts aimed at growers, students and the public at large, CAES employees have touched the lives of thousands of Connecticut residents,” society Awards Chairman Elaine Widmer said. “Their work has made us more skilled, informed and aware as gardeners and as stewards of the environment.”

The society’s Gustav A. L. Mehlquist Award honors prominent Connecticut plantspeople who have advanced the art of gardening or made an extraordinary contribution to horticulture. CAES Director Louis A. Magnarelli and Sharon Douglas, plant pathologist and head of the plant disease information office, accepted the award and $500 check at the society’s June 21 program meeting in West Hartford.

 Flanked by CHS Awards Chairman Elaine Widmer (left) and CHS President Steve Silk (right), Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Director Louis Magnarelli and scientist Sharon Douglas accept on behalf of CAES the society's 2012 Gustav A. L. Mehlquist Award.  

Founded in 1875 with a research-based mission, CAES was the first experiment station in the United States. At laboratories in New Haven, Windsor, Hamden and Griswold, CAES scientists conduct experiments on plants and pests, insects, soil and water quality and provide analysis to state and federal agencies, the horticultural industry and the general public. 

Their many duties include testing food for safety, evaluating new fruit and vegetable crops, diagnosing pest problems and inspecting nursery plants before they leave Connecticut. CAES scientists work to protect people’s health by testing ticks, mosquitoes and bed bugs for a variety of diseases. They work to protect the environment by investigating controls for invasive plants, for plant diseases such as boxwood blight and for pests such as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

“Anyone who has had contact with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and its talented employees will understand just why they are so very deserving of this recognition,” Widmer said.

The Connecticut Horticultural Society is a statewide, mostly volunteer organization dedicated to enhancing the appreciation of gardening. Gustav Mehlquist, for whom the award is named, was a professor of plant breeding at the University of Connecticut. He died in 1999 at age 93.

Check out CAES 2012 Science Day  Aug. 1 at Lockwood Farm in Hamden.


Connecticut Flower & Garden Show awards

2012 Connecticut Flower and Garden Show
Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, Feb. 23-26, 2012
Theme: Traditions of Nature

The CHS landscape display, "After the Storm," received two awards:

-- from the American Horticultural Society for "demonstrating and promoting sound horticultural practices," and

-- from the show's host, North East Expos Inc., for the "Best Naturalistic Garden."  Read more. >