Program Schedule

Meetings were typically held the first Monday of the month, currently at The Woodland at 60 Woodland Ave, Maplewood, NJ,  at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are free and open to the public.  Due to COVID and keeping our most vulnerable friends safe, we are also making our meetings available virtually.  There will be an announcement shortly before each meeting with virtual connection details.  

Sept. 13, 2021  (please note: this meeting is held on the second Monday of the month due to holidays)
Subject: Landscaping with Colorful Native Plants
Speaker: Dr Randi Eckel

We have so many native plants to choose from – there is a plant for every place!  Join us for a look at the fantastic diversity of native plants that can brighten up and enhance our gardens, meadows and forests. Through proper plant selection you can both beautify and greatly enhance the natural environment. Randi will show us how to use native plants in Landscape Design and elevate gardens to a higher purpose.


Biographical information:

Dr. Randi Eckel has been working with native plants for over 35 years, and founded the mail-order native plant nursery Toadshade Wildflower Farm in 1996 to further public awareness and availability of native plants.  A life-long naturalist, lover of nature, entomologist, and confirmed plant and ecology nerd, Randi specializes in the interactions between plants and other living things.  She is known for her lively and engaging lectures and workshops on growing and propagating native plants, and offers interesting, nuanced information on the complex issues facing native plants and native plant communities.

Randi studied at the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland, and earned her Ph.D at North Carolina State University before continuing to research plant and insect interactions through her work at the USDA.  She now follows her passion as the owner of Toadshade Wildflower Farm.  After 25+ years of fielding questions through Toadshade, which she still runs using entirely plants propagated and grown on-site at the farm, Randi is more than happy to address any native plant related topic with her infectious excitement for the subject and accumulated knowledge.

October 4, 2021
Subject:   Growing Great Garlic

Speaker: Lesley Parness

Ancient Egyptians swore oaths on heads of garlic,  early Olympic athletes consumed copious quantities of it, and WW I soldiers used it as an antibiotic.  Now however, garlic is a star ingredient in just about every culture’s cuisine.  So, why not grow your own great garlic? Learn about the various kinds of garlic, and which are best for your cooking style. We’ll cover soil preparation, foolproof planting instructions, winter care, spring care and summer care, important garlic harvest tips, curing and storage.  An updated list of garlic vendors will be provided along with information on great cultivars to grow.  Lesley will sell garlic to plant at $1.00 per clove after her presentation. 

Biographical information:

For the past 5 decades travel, academic studies, and work have provided a rewarding context for her love of plants. She retired in 2017 as Superintendent of Horticultural Education at New Jersey’s Morris County Park Commission where she oversaw programming and interpretation at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Willowwood Arboretum and Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center.

Currently, She enjoys her own garden and spending time with like-minded plant people. She is a member of the Herb Society of America, The Council on Horticultural and Botanical Libraries, and Garden State Gardens, a consortium of New Jersey’s public gardens of which She is a founding member and past President.  Her column, The Garden Historian, is featured bi-monthly in Gardener News Magazine.

November 1, 2021
Subject:   Gardens of Cornwall and Devon

Speaker:  Judy Snow

England is a “must see” destination for garden lovers. In June of 2017, the Friends of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum set off for a visit to Cornwall and Devon. On this trip, Judy Snow relives an unforgettable tour through large estates such as Mount Edgcumbe, Lanhydrock, Antony House, and Heligan, as well as smaller private gardens. You’ll learn about the rich history of the gardens while enjoying views of the lush borders in early summer.  You’re going to want to start planning a trip after her presentation!

Biographical information:

Judy Snow started gardening at age six with a packet of radish seeds and never stopped. She has an undergraduate degree in botany from Duke University, a Master’s degree in horticulture and a Ph.D. in plant breeding from Cornell University. After some field experience in South America, she joined the Rockefeller Foundation’s Agricultural Sciences program. Four years later, she moved to Rutgers University and spent 26 years with the Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, ending her career there as Associate Director.

Now that Judy is retired, she has more time for gardening and garden travel. She has been a member and officer of the Hunterdon Chrysanthemum Chapter for over 30 years, and a member of the Friends of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum for over 20 years. She is past-president of the Friends and currently serves as secretary of the Board. She lives and gardens in Basking Ridge.

December 6, 2021
Subject:  Wildly Floral Arrangements

Speaker:  Josi Stone

A MGC tradition is inviting a local florist to demonstrate floral arrangements at our December meeting.  This year Josi Stone, owner and operator of Wildly Floral Company in South Orange, will show us how to create beautiful floral arrangements.

Josi will demonstrate 4 nature-inspired floral designs of varying sizes and techniques using the medium of flowers, foliages and other natural materials to highlight nature’s beauty. Her inspiration is derived from the movement and beauty of the natural world.

Please join us for a fun and educational demonstration. Arrangements will be raffled off to MGC members at the end of her presentation.

Biographical information:

Wildly Floral Company, owned by Josi Stone, is a floral design studio in South Orange. Out of respect for the future of humanity and the beautiful planet we are all living on, Wildly Floral Co. uses sustainable practices, including composting green waste, utilizing foam-free design practices, recycled and/or recyclable wrapping materials and sourcing as many local flowers as possible. 

January 3, 2022
Subject:  Community Planning, Community Planting

Speaker:  “Our Green West Orange”

OGWO will share with us the green initiatives they have been pursuing in their West Orange community, including educational resources on native plants, tree management and identification, pesticide and weed alternatives, and environmental justice. OGWO have also been successful in engaging youth in their efforts, grooming the next generation of environmental advocates.

Biographical information:

Founded in 2018, Our Green West Orange is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of those in their community, including wildlife and trees. As advocates, they endorse policies but never candidates.

February 7, 2022
Subject: Virtual Visit to Leonard J. Buck Garden, Far Hills, NJ

Speaker: Kathleen Podgalsky

Leonard J. Buck Garden is one of the premier rock gardens in the eastern United States. Begun in the late 1930’s, the garden has reached a breathtaking point of maturity. It consists of a series of alpine and woodland gardens situated in a 33-acre wooded stream valley. Named for Mr. Leonard J. Buck, who developed the garden as part of his estate, it was donated to the Somerset County Park Commission by Mrs. Helen Buck in 1976.

Mr. Buck worked with Mr. Zenon Schreiber, a well-known landscape architect, to develop a naturalistic garden which incorporated several large rock outcroppings found on the property. Their aim was to create a garden that would be ecologically correct and not recognizable as being man-made. Each outcropping is slightly different, creating varying exposures and microclimates which enable different plant associations to thrive.

One of the greatest delights in visiting the Leonard J. Buck Garden is discovering its variety of plants. Tucked among the rocks are rare and exotic rock garden plants. The wooded trails connecting the outcroppings are lined with beautiful wild flowers. The Buck Garden’s peak bloom is in spring, when wildflowers, diminutive alpines, and delicate azaleas all compete for attention.

March 7, 2022
Subject:  Turning Kitchen Trash into Treasure

Speaker:  Michelle Bradley

There are so many reasons that you should compost, and probably just as many excuses why you do not. Composting turns what might become landfill into a supercharged, nutrient-rich soil additive. Have you tried composting unsuccessfully, think you don’t have time, or space, or don’t want to attract critters? Java’s Compost will explain why composting is the ultimate in recycling, share tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of composting and answer questions to help you master the art of composting.

Biographical information:

Java’s Compost is the brainchild of West Orange residents Java & Michelle Bradley. Having successfully managed the composting bins at a Newark charter school, Java convinced Michelle to try composting, and once she saw all of the benefits–enriched soil, healthier plants, less landfill, they made it their mission to inspire others to make composting part of their gardens. Java’s Compost partners with urban farmers growing fresh local produce on vacant lots in Newark, sharing the bounty even more.

April 4, 2022
Subject:  Won’t You BEE My Neighbor

Speaker: Adriana Compagnoni

Adriana became a beekeeper in 2012 with two hives and a lot of enthusiasm.  Having over 20 years of academic experience in computer science, and being an avid gardener, she approaches beekeeping with a scientist’s eye and a gardener’s mind. Because of the susceptibility of bees to pesticides, the synergy between gardening and beekeeping leads to environmentally friendly gardening practices. In this talk, Adriana will share fun facts about bees that she learned in her years of beekeeping, some little-known facts about bees and beekeeping, and share recommendations on what suburban gardeners can do to help the bees.

Biographical information:

Adriana Compagnoni has been a SOMa resident for over two decades. She now lives in South Orange with her husband and two children. Her bees forage in the South Mountain Reservation, stopping at their favorite flowers in the yards and trees of SOMa. From linden, poplar, Japanese bamboo, and a variety of wild and garden flowers, the bees collect nectar to produce delicious honey, which won the Best in Extracted Honey Division at the New Jersey Honey Show in 2020.

Using the surplus of honey and beeswax the bees produce, Adriana strives to offer top quality soaps, lip balm, and other cosmetic products, which have earned numerous awards at the New Jersey Honey Show over the years, including Best in Cosmetics Division four years in a row.

May 2, 2022
Subject:  Secrets of the 85th Annual MGC Plant Sale

Speaker: MGC Plant Sale Committee Members

The MGC Plant Sale is one of the most anticipated events in our town, and draws gardeners from all over NJ and beyond. We will have previews of some of the extraordinary offerings, and tips for veterans and newbies alike. We will also answer the most frequently asked questions about the plant sale, including:  How many plants?