Cynthia Fisher has been gardening for more than 75 years, and is now focusing her energies on perennial gardens, as she loves seeing new plants bloom every month. From January, when pussy willows and Lenten roses break through the snow to the Chrysanthemums that bloom in November, she loves being consistently surprised with new growth in her gardens. She and her husband recently moved to a cottage at Woodland Pond, after living on an 80-acre farm for the last 47 years. Fisher has transplanted many of their farm’s plants that she nurtured during that time – such as her daffodils, irises and peonies – to her new garden. She even has an heirloom pink lilies-of-the-valley that has been passed down for many generations by her English ancestors who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. Since moving to Woodland Pond, Fisher has added red and yellow climbing roses to the mix. Fisher recently shared her garden and newly added climbing roses during Woodland Pond’s Fifth Annual Garden Tour.
“When plants do well and take off it’s a very exciting for me” said Fisher. “I love to propagate plants – it’s not nearly as much fun if you just buy them. I prefer to nurture them from the very beginning when they are seeds or cuttings. It’s a continued experiment, which keeps it entertaining and fulfilling. I like to share my garden with others as well, so they may experience some cheer. I swap plants with my neighbors so we can try growing new things in our gardens, and I give flowers to fellow neighbors in the community that I think would enjoy receiving them. Back in colonial times, when there were no plant nurseries or seed catalogues, people simply traded and shared plants from their “friendship gardens.” My heirloom pink lilies-of-the-valley were given to me by my paternal aunt.
Fisher’s love for the outdoors and growing things was imprinted on her at the age of two, when her parents spent a summer canoeing and camping in the pristine lake region of Canada with her two triplet sisters and her three older siblings. Although she lived in a high-rise apartment in Queens, New York, for most of her childhood, she started gardening during WWII in an empty lot that had been converted into a “victory garden.” Later, at New York City’s High School of Music and Art, she and her identical triplet sister both won the prestigious Westinghouse Talent Science Search. In college, she majored in biology at the University of Wisconsin, and then went on to earn a Master of Science and Ph.D. in biology at Rutgers University. She also attained a postdoctoral fellowship in the newly-established Rutgers Medical School.
There was not much time for gardening in those busy days, but when she and her husband moved to the Hudson Valley and bought an 80-acre farm, she suddenly had endless space in which to experiment with perennials, fruit trees and shrubs. Her mark is still embedded in the property. She acknowledges that bringing all her flowers and “black gold,” also known as well-rotted horse manure, to Woodland Pond has been hard work. However, she is enjoying the process of transforming her back yard into a flourishing garden. She is also happy with the design of the cottages, as it allows abundant natural light to spill into her indoor garden in which orchids, cacti and hoya bloomed for the first time. The feelings she experiences in her garden run from pure joy when she watches the growth and beauty of her plants to pure frustration when creatures like bugs and deer consume her hard work.
“One of the fun elements of gardening is being reminded of loved ones and friends who have contributed to my garden,” said Fisher. “With a Christmas check from my older brother, I bought a yellow climbing rose for the split rail fence along our back yard. I have named this plant for him. The heirloom pink lilies-of-the-valley remind me of my father’s family. My grandson, who also has a passion for gardening, gave me a package of Shasta daisy seeds last year. We planted the seeds together, nurtured the tiny seedlings and this year they are two and a half feet tall and covered with hundreds of white flowers. When I see those, I am reminded of him and the memories we shared bringing the seedlings to life. It is heartwarming when you associate people with the plants.”
In addition to private gardens, such as Fisher’s, the garden show also showcased The Resident Community Garden and The Memory Care Garden, which groups of residents tend together. This event is sponsored by The Garden Committee and it is held for fellow residents, their friends and families.
“We are genuinely a community here, and because my neighbors are much closer than the neighbors we had around the farm, I am able to swap flowers and gardening tips with them,” said Fisher. “I‘ve been inspired by fellow residents’ gardens with elaborate displays spreading over their patios and porches. We also have many bird feeders and compare which types of birds are stopping in which gardens. I am a retired biology professor, so experimenting in the garden is a longtime passion of mine. On my wish list for Woodland Pond is to add a red bud tree at the head of the Branche Trail. This type of tree is covered with lovely lavender flowers in May, and the heart-shaped leaves would provide shade to those who sit on the bench at the trail head.”
“There are so many talented gardeners that live in our community, and more than 60 participated in this year’s garden show,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “Just like Cynthia’s, each garden has its own stories and rich histories. Not only was the tour a time to feast our eyes upon the natural beauty that embodies the yards of the cottages and the common spaces in the community, it was a time to reminisce and share meaningful stories with each other. We are so thankful that we have many residents who strive to make Woodland Pond the beautiful place that it is.”