PARIS – It was obvious to Lee Dassler.

Plants need water.

And the garden owned by the McLaughlin Foundation, Garden and Horticultural Center, needs plants.

So day after day, employees had to drag hoses either along wildflower lane, or over to the lilac bushes or to some nook and cranny in the 2.5 acres of flowers and vegetation in what’s known as McLaughlin Gardens.

Watering took a long time and Dassler said other chores went unattended, such as restoration work, weeding and redefining the edges of garden spots and the paths.

All that changed on Memorial Day when the garden began its seventh year of operation with a new underground sprinkler system.

Dassler, executive director of the nonprofit organization, said she is happy that the system is finally in and working. The installation marked an end to a process that began more than three years ago.

Dassler submitted the first grant application in 2000 but was turned down by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal group in Washington, D.C.

“They were exceedingly competitive grants,” Dassler said. “We had to compete against people that had staffs to write grants.”

She praised the institute, which critiqued the foundation’s grant application and pointed out weaknesses.

The garden center resubmitted an application in 2001 for funding in 2002 and learned in September that it was approved.

Dassler said they were hoping to have the work done last fall, but it took a while to get support letters from all the contractors and other parties involved in the project.

“Then last fall we got an early frost,” Dassler said. “We wanted to do it in April, but couldn’t because the contractors need a certain level of earth to be thawed to go in.”

Things finally lined up for the garden center in May.

Dassler said she was nervous before they started working a week before Memorial Day because the garden center was set to celebrate its anniversary with the annual Lilac Festival from Saturday to Monday. She had visions of the garden being scarred from the installation of the underground water lines.

“This is an historic garden so there are root and collection issues,” she said.

She said the crew from Irrigation Systems in Yarmouth began work at midday on Monday, May 19, and finished up Friday, May 23, at 3 p.m.

And it’s hard for the layman to tell there is even a sprinkler system in the garden.

Dassler said much of the line was laid in by hand and a tractor was used that raised about a 4-inch ridge in the dirt and then pulled an irrigation tube through. Some of the paths were so narrow that the tractor could not be used.

“Four men came in and did their work quietly and efficiently,” Dassler said.

Now sprinklers stand at varying heights throughout the garden. Some are level with the ground and rise to 6 inches when activated. Others are about 10-feet high and programmed to send an even spray over the lilacs.

Dassler said the $15,000 grant requires the center to raise an additional $15,000 and so far, including in-kind donations, it has $8,000. The center is trying to raise the remaining $7,000, she said.

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