UConn Master Gardners Signature Project on the CT Coastline

The UConn Master Gardners have worked on a couple of projects on the CT Coastline over the years. Read more about the great work that has been done:

Mercy by the Sea, Retreat and Conference Center, Madison


Led by Advanced Master Gardener Jean Golicz, Master Gardeners have worked on various projects at Mercy by the Sea since 2013.  The Mercy Center property, with significant frontage on Long Island Sound, has served as a large estate for several families, the most recently being W.T. Grant, founder of Grant Department Stores.  Grant razed all previous mansions and out-buildings and built his own.  In 1949, the Sisters of Mercy were given the property.  They currently operate a non-denominational conference and retreat center.  Jean Golicz currently serves on the Mercy by the Sea Board of Directors.

One of the earliest projects Master Gardeners tackled was to replace the weak and sickly boxwoods in an outdoor labyrinth with inkberry, Ilex glabra, a native shrub.  The labyrinth looks great and is low maintenance.

Other projects include a brochure of trees on the grounds (as W.T. Grant was fond of exotic trees), invasive plant removal initiatives, a garden that grows produce for the on-site dining area during the growing season, a flower cutting garden, and a composting system for the dining area food scraps, using the “lasagna” or layering method. Master Gardeners have also hosted “create a wreath” workshops during the holiday season. Read more about the projects in this brochure Gardener’s Brochure J. Golicz and the lasagna composting Mercy by the Sea Garden Team Lasagna Garden

In addition, the Master Gardeners offer tree identification sessions for Master Gardener interns as a way to learn their trees and shrubs.  In 2021, Master Gardeners and interns had in-person “office hours” after Saturday morning tai chi sessions.  Many tai chai participants and other visitors took advantage of the opportunity to discuss their gardening and landscaping issues and ideas with Master Gardeners, who provided information.


Hammonasset State Park Gardens, Hammonasset State Park

In conjunction with the Friends of Hammonasset State Park group, Advanced Master Gardener Maureen Egan has led this extremely popular project since 2014.  The gardens began as a simple planting near the Nature Center and have expanded to include pollinator and butterfly gardens, a meadow garden, and a small vegetable garden featuring the Three Sisters planting (corn, squash, and beans), favored by Native Americans.  In addition, the Master Gardeners offer tree identification sessions for Master Gardener interns as a way to learn their trees and shrubs and discuss different plant problem situations at length with interns as part of their training.

The Friends of Hammonset have an annual native plant sale and Master Gardeners help at this sale.

Common Good Garden, Old Saybrook


Founded by Master Gardener Claudia van Nes in 2002, Common Good Garden is now led by Master Gardener Linda Clough.  Other Master Gardeners serve on the Board of Directors.  Non-Master Gardeners also volunteer here. The garden is very large and many types of produce are grown.  With years of experience, this community garden hums every summer and all space is efficiently utilized.  There is an extensive composting system and pollinator gardens. All produce is donated to shoreline soup kitchens.  Produce distribution is also part of this garden’s activities.

Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford


Master Gardeners, in conjunction with Friends of Harkness State Park, assist Harkness Park’s CT DEEP staff with planting, restoration and maintenance of historic gardens, designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1919-1929 (Oriental East Garden, West Garden, Alpine Rock Garden, Boxwood Parterre), greenhouse propagation of (1000) Mary Harkness heliotrope plants, historic roses, germander, grapevines, and miscellaneous perennials, annual pruning of apple orchard, maintenance of grapevines brought over from Italy in 1930s by Mary Harkness, restoration and maintenance of Friends of Harkness day lily gardens, maintenance of cutting gardens, support Friends of Harkness annual plant sale, the day before Mother’s Day. Beatrix Farrand was the founding member and only female of The American Society of Landscape Architects. She was landscape gardener and landscape architect for over (110) commissions, which included The White House, botanical gardens, college campuses, estates, public parks, private residencies, etc.

Stonington Community Center Children’s Garden, Stonington


This garden was started over 20 years by the Stonington Garden Club. The SGC manages this garden for the Community Center (“COMO”). The SGC undertook major fundraising and redesign (inclusive of regrading, new pond, 10 new raised beds (vegetables), blueberry enclosure, flower beds, and two other beds for garlic and potatoes) was undertaken in 2018-2020. This garden is open to the public and hosts a before-school program, after-school program, and summer camp program for ages 6-16. Approximately 200 individual children use this garden from March until December. Activities include removal of invasives, expanding additional garden beds, trimming of trees, age-appropriate horticulture instruction for the different age groups of the children, designing “art-in-the-garden”, and regular garden maintenance. The Master Gardener contact is Advanced Master Gardener Deborah Dodds.

Wild Ones Coogan Farm Garden Projects at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Stonington


Master Gardeners work on the vegetable garden, the orchards, and on ecological restoration of the grounds. These projects are led by the Mountain Laurel chapter of the Wild Ones organization.  Lydia Pan is the current President of Wild Ones and project director.  Lydia is not a Master Gardener, but she is a retired pharmaceutical scientist and my former college classmate!

Here are some of the projects:

  • Garden Wetland conservation – Targeted woody invasive removal to protect native plant diversity in a wet meadow habitat
  • Bioswale Monarch & Pollinator Garden – Plantings in 2019 and 2020 require maintenance and some replanting.
  • Teaching Meadow – A demonstration garden of native plants including shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers is in progress. Maintenance, revision, or replanting as needed, constructing pathways through the garden. Removal of invasives along the rear edge of the garden.
  • Honee’s Meadow – Phase 1 of a native meadow scape planted in Fall 2019. Maintenance to prevent re-infestation with invasives. Phase 2 in 2021, with clearing and preparation of the adjacent site in preparation for fall planting.
  • Barn Foundation landscape – Beds planted with native shrubs and switchgrass segue into “natural” vegetation along a stone drainage basin. Maintenance and replanting to increase visual interest and biodiversity.
  • Wetland edge – A plant community featuring swamp rose mallow, groundsel tree, and wool grass was augmented by planting buttonbush and boneset nearby. Targeted weeding to remove invasives and undesirable non-natives.


Written by Gail Reynolds, Master Gardner