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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Flo Gris Garden Day shows off flower power

    Visitors Joan Greenwood, left, of Bridgeport, and Kyle Higgins, of Beacon Falls, ask Gardens Coordinator Linda Turner a question while touring the Florence Griswold Museum’s gardens in Old Lyme on Sunday, June 23, 2024. The museum was one 16 locations across Connecticut that participated in the annual Historic Gardens Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Friends, from left, Pam McNall, of Old Saybrook, Emily Berg, of Atlanta, Ga., and Diane Dash, of Buffalo, N.Y., take a selfie at the Florence Griswold Museum’s gardens in Old Lyme on Sunday, June 23, 2024. The three women worked together at CNN in the 1990s in Atlanta and were together for a reunion. The museum was one 16 locations across Connecticut that participated the annual in Historic Gardens Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Brett Levanto, from left, his daughter Ellie, 10, son Noah, 8, and wife Holly, visiting from Virginia, pick out flowers to later paint at the Florence Griswold Museum’s gardens in Old Lyme on Sunday, June 23, 2024. The museum was one 16 locations across Connecticut that participated in the annual Historic Gardens Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Irises are seen blooming at the Florence Griswold Museum’s gardens in Old Lyme on Sunday, June 23, 2024. The museum was one 16 locations across Connecticut that participated the annual in Historic Gardens Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Lauren and Jake Belknat, of East Lyme, walk past a rose bush at the Florence Griswold Museum’s gardens in Old Lyme on Sunday, June 23, 2024. The museum was one 16 locations across Connecticut that participated the annual in Historic Gardens Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Old Lyme ― Linda Turner, having walked Sunday to a small building next to a garden at the Florence Griswold Museum, reappeared with two signed brochures in her hand, and “tussie mussies,” small bouquets of flowers fastened with ribbons.

    Presenting them to Kyle Higgins, of Beacon Falls, and Joan Greenwood, of Bridgeport, Turner explained that if the two got two more signatures on the brochure ― a garden passport of sorts ― they’d win a free set of postcards.

    Greenwood and Higgins were among many visitors to have their garden “passports” stamped Sunday, either at the Florence Griswold Museum garden or 15 others in the state, as part of Connecticut Historic Gardens Day.

    One criteria for gardens to be recognized on the nonprofit’s list is that the property they’re on must include a home on it.

    Meanwhile Turner, the gardens coordinator for the museum, said the day is one for awareness.

    “We give people this brochure and we tell them ‘you know there’s sixteen gardens, with homes, in our state,’ ” Turner said. “Whatever ones are closest to you, you should make sure you go to, too, but today is a day to say ‘Hey, let’s take a drive and go see that garden.’ ”

    If visitors made it to three of the gardens, which regionally also included Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, the postcards they would have won included images of previous winners of an annual contest in which artists paint one of the gardens. The contest has been going on for 10 years.

    This year’s winner was Michelle Hawran, of Windsor, whose winning acrylic painting depicted an archway at the Butler-McCook House and Garden in Hartford.

    But Turner pointed out that several past winners had painted “Miss Florence’s Garden,” where Higgins and Greenwood now joined others in walking the gravel pathways between planters bursting with multicolored perennial and annual flowers.

    The garden is packed with similar flowers and plants to what would have been in Griswold’s garden there in 1910, around the peak of Lyme’s well-documented status as a thriving art colony, with Griswold at the center.

    This garden, which now boasts irises, black-eyed Susans and pansies, is a tribute to Griswold’s passion for gardening, although Turner said Griswold herself was not a gardener, but a musician with a passion for gardening, and self-taught in the practice of it. She “got plants from friends,” Turner added.

    A line written in a museum brochure titled the “Visitors Guide to Miss Florence’s Garden,” reads that Griswold was “constantly in search of new and unusual plants and advertised locally that she had pansies and roses for sale.”

    The reproduction, which is now taken care of by Turner and a group of 25 volunteers, drew visitors from as far and wide Sunday, even as far as Atlanta, Ga.

    “This is a haul for us to come way out here, but it’s definitely worth the drive,” said Higgins, who had planned a trip to commemorate the annual day.

    She and Greenwood mused on the garden’s beauty, and shared plans for the rest of the day that included visiting a winery. They said they appreciated how the event had pushed them to visit other parts of the state.

    “They’re all beautiful buildings,” Higgins added. “And the history is amazing. You know? The gardens are so gorgeous.”

    Pam McNull, of Old Saybrook, was hosting friends Emily Berg, of Atlanta, and Diane Dash, of Buffalo, N.Y..

    “I knew that the garden was here to show them, but didn’t know today was a big, historic day,” McNull said. “But we knew that this was a historic place to come visit ― the grounds.”

    d.drainville@theday.com

    Editor’s note: This version corrects the location of the Butler-McCook House and Garden.

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