History of the New England Chapter, The Gesneriad Society 1986-2011, compiled by Lilya Veneziano
Our New England Chapter celebrated its 25th anniversary in October 1986. President Helen Freidberg arranged a catered luncheon held at the Josiah Smith Tavern Barn in Weston. It was our special pleasure to have many of the Chapter's Charter members as our guests and Michael Riley, National President, as our guest speaker.
In 1987, we invited the Berkshire and Connecticut chapters to join us on a trip to Holyoke Community College where Dr. William Hutchinson presented a program on "Propagation of Gesneriads by Tissue Culture." Following the lecture, we had a picnic at Jessie and Tony Crisafulli's. The lecture was a fun-filled learning experience, and the picnic was added fun.
In 1990, we made a trip to Connecticut to tour Buell's Greenhouses and see a great variety of gesneriads from micro-mini Sinningias to huge hanging baskets. Seeing so many gesneriads in bloom was truly magnificent.
That same year, our New England Chapter agreed to host the 1992 National Convention; and we embarked on two years of planning and preparation during which our chapter members did their utmost to present a convention of which we were justly proud. It was held at the Holiday Inn Crown Plaza in Natick during the usual convention week of July 4th. All of our members are to be congratulated for working together and doing a super job presenting the 36th Annual Convention of the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society.
With the Convention over, in August of 1992, a group of us accepted the Berkshire Chapter's invitation to join them for a meeting at Judy Becker's Lauray of Salisbury. Here we enjoyed seeing a variety of genera.
Procuring exhibition-quality plant material is always a problem when staging an exhibit, and the chapter is most appreciative of the plant material provided by two commercial benefactors. Mark Phillipo of Carlisle had donated magnificent Sinning speciosa (Florist Gloxinia) plants. The Paduch family of Crystal Lake Greenhouses in Carver have, for two generations, been very special friends of our chapter. Since 1989, they have donated both show and sale plants whenever we've asked. At our 1992 AGGS Convention, they entered an extensive collection of large gesneriads and, at the close of the show, donated all of the plants to the Smithsonian.
Speaking of the Smithsonian, in June of 1993, our chapter had the opportunity to have Dr. Larry Skog of the Smithsonian as our guest speaker. Dr. Skog spoke on the "Gesneriaceae of China" and his research in that area. For this special meeting, we returned to the Josiah Smith Tavern Barn in Weston. A potluck luncheon followed the lecture.
At the 1993 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Flower Show, the "Ralph Werman Award for Educational Excellence" was awarded for the first time. Our New England Chapter was especially pleased to receive this award as Ralph had been our Chapter Treasurer for many years.
In October of 1993, it was time for another trip to Connecticut for a Buell's Open House.
The Anne Crowley Award for "Best Gesneriad in Show" was awarded for the first time in 1994, and our Dee Dee Bundy was the recipient. Over the years, several of our members have received this award; one member, Mary Bozoian, has received it six times.
Our Chapter celebrated its 35th Anniversary, in June 1996, with a chapter party at the house of Bob and Dee Stewart. On their beautiful grounds, we enjoyed a delicious potluck luncheon, which ended with the serving of a beautiful and delicious birthday cake procured by President Lilya Veneziano. We were all surprised to receive special gifts presented by Vice President Ruth Cameron. She had prepared attractively wrapped flower pots which contained a wealth of assorted horticultural items collected from several vendors. As chapter members know how generously Bob and Dee Stewart share plant material at meetings, it isn't hard to imagine the volume of greenhouse cuttings and garden clumps that found new homes that day.
For our June 1999 meeting, Bob and Dee Stewart invited us to have a picnic at their home. Little did anyone realize that this would become an annual affair to which we all look forward to. As you tour the greenhouse and outdoor garden, there is always some new plant material to see or, with the Stewarts' generosity, get a cutting of. Our June 2011 meeting, however, was different. Bob led tours of their huge, newest-of-the-new greenhouse. We wish them much happiness as they master its operation and fill it with plants.
In 2001, we experienced two firsts: participating in Russell's Garden Center Winter Garden Fair and the Tower Hill Plant Sale. Over the years, our members have represented the Chapter at a number of other sales, such as Elm Bank's Society Row, Arnold Arboretum's sale at the Case Estates and Berkshire Botanical Summer Fest. Other members have set up displays such as the Chestnut Hill Mall display, "Step Into Spring," chaired by Sharon Rosenzweig and the workshop at Tower Hill entitled "Windowsills, Terrariums and Shade Containers: Gesneriads, the Perfect Plants" -- a discussion and demonstration by Stuart Hammer, Bob and Dee Stewart, Sharon Rosenzweig and Wanda and Dick Macnair.
2001 was also the year in which the membership voted to increase dues to $10.00
For many years, our New England Chapter met and held shows and sales at the University of Massachusetts Suburban Field Station in Waltham. When that facility was no longer available to us, we met in a variety of places. Considering the advantages of having a regular meeting place, President Wanda Macnair and others checked out a number of locations. The members finally settled on Russell's Garden Center, in Wayland, as our regular meeting place.
We also used to hold our annual plant sale at the Field Station in Waltham. After first combining with the Begonia Society to present a joint sale, the undertaking grew into the Plant Societies Sale, and annual event where a number of groups and individuals offered a wide variety of plants, horticulture-related items and advice to the public. Unfortunately, when the Field Station was closed to groups such as ours, we had to move to a new site. This created a number of problems, which finally resulted in the sale being discontinued. In December of 2006, President Ruth Cameron arranged a bus trip to Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses in Dodgeville, New York. We all had a great time on the trip, and most of us probably bought more plants than we intended.
Major changes at the national level occurred in 2006. The name of the national organization changed from The American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society, Inc. to the Gesneriad Society, Inc. The national journal name changed from the The Gloxinian to Gesneriads.
In an effort to increase the number of certified judges in our chapter, we held judging schools in 1997, 2006, 2010. The first school was taught by Frances Batcheller, the second by Paul Kroll and the third by Ben Paternoster.
A major effort of more recent years has been the presentation of award winning bay windows. The first of these was entered in the 2007 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Show at the Bayside Exposition Center. It was chaired by Leslie Milde who organized the plants that members contributed into a most attractive display. In 2008, a similar award winning Bay Window was entered at Bayside with Anne and Gene Kosinski as chairs. However, 2009 brought a change in location. Our gesneriads moved to Boston's financial district where Anne and Gene Kosinski again chaired our exhibit.
The next year's show, renamed the Boston Flower and Garden Show, moved from the financial district to the Seaport World Trade Center. Anne and Gene Kosinski again organized a great Bay Window. Also at the Seaport World Trade Center, our outstanding 2011 show was chaired by Leslie Milde and Ruth Cameron.
The past several years, December meetings have been special, as current President, Stuart Hammer has invited both the Gesneriad and Begonia chapters to celebrate at his home. Following a great potluck luncheon, Wanda Macnair has conducted a Yankee Swap of the horticulture related objects that the attendees have brought. Then comes every plant lovers' dream. Stuart not only welcomes everyone into his wonderful greenhouse filled with gesneriads and begonias, but also encourages the taking of cuttings--providing identification and/or packaging if needed.
In a change from gesneriad shows, in July of 2011, we visited the spectacular garden of member Barbara Jones. Barbara's beautifully groomed garden features a great variety of hostas in a lovely setting, complete with many special areas and a delightful fish pond.
Many of our members have been active not only in our local chapter but also at the national level. Each year, The Gesneriad Society presents a limited number of "Awards of Appreciation" to members who have made significant contributions to the society. Since its institution in 1977, ninety-one of these awards have been presented. Twenty-one have been given to present or past members of the New England Chapter. The recipients are Frances Batcheller, Carol Saylor, Bill Saylor, Renee White, Albert Buell, Alice Courage, Michael Kartuz, Margaret Belanger, Joseph Batcheller, Ruth Webster, Judy Becker, Anthony Crisafulli, Ellen Todd, Diantha Buell, Anne Crowley, Mary Bozoian, Helen Freidberg, Susan Grose, Dee Stewart and Bob Stewart.
As our New England Chapter celebrates its 50th Anniversary, much thanks for its success goes to the many dedicated members, both old and new, who have unselfishly given of their time, talent, knowledge and plant material.
Come join us at our monthly meetings - 12 Noon to 4PM 1st Sunday of the month (October thru June) POMpositticut Community center, 509 Great Road (route 117) Stow, MA. 01775