BETHEL — The fragrant blooms in the traffic islands along Main Street have been a constant for 25 years, thanks to a group of dedicated women who enjoy getting “down and dirty” to beautify the town.

The Gardening Club, as Lida Iles calls it, is made up of about 20 women who are mostly around 80 years old, and some who are older than 90.

Iles said even if some of them are past the point of planting, they still contribute by making coffee cake for the others.

“It’s just a great group of gals who are all willing to get down and dirty,” said Iles, the club coordinator. “It’s not like a garden club where you drink tea and eat crumpets.”

Iles said the reins were passed to her by club founder Carol Nielsen, who now lives in a retirement home in Pennsylvania.

Since the club’s beginning, the town has provided “a generous budget,” according to Iles, and has offered the assistance of the town road crew.


“It’s really a community effort,” Isles said. “The highway guys don’t really like to nurture flowers, but they are so good about cleaning up after us. If we call them after we’re done planting and are just too tired to clean up, they’ll do it for us,” she said.

Lucia Schwarz, who has volunteered with the group for about 24 years, said it’s rewarding work. She said she wants potential members to know they don’t have to have a green thumb to help.

“People stop and comment on how beautiful the flowers are and how much they appreciate them,” Schwarz said. “If you know the difference between a weed and a flower, you can help, and if you don’t know that, you can work once the flowers are in full bloom.”

Every year, the group picks one day to meet early in the morning to get the flowers planted, usually in the two traffic islands at the top of Main Street and the large one on the Parkway, Iles said. They also plant the window boxes on the Town Office building and the horse trough on the common.

After that, each volunteer picks one week of the summer to be in charge of watering and weeding the flowers.

“No one person has to do a whole lot of work, and they stay lovely,” Iles said.


This year, the women tentatively plan to meet at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 10, at the head of Main Street.

Anyone interested in helping and/or becoming a member may call Lida Iles at 207-824-2062.


“It’s just a great group of gals who are all willing to get down and dirty. It’s not like a garden club where you drink tea and eat crumpets.”

 Lida Iles, Gardening Club coordinator

Bethel Gardening Club members, from left, Rosemary Laban, Nancy Babcock, Lucia Schwarz and JuJu Buxton, plant flowers in the traffic island on Main Street in Bethel last summer.

The traffic island at the top of Main Street in Bethel was a blooming success last summer, thanks to the Gardening Club.

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