Since its founding in 1913, Chautauqua’s Bird, Tree & Garden Club has worked to preserve and recognize the many gardens and parks around the grounds. One of BTG’s main focuses has always been providing education, said Angela James, BTG president.
“Being beautiful is no longer enough,” James said. “We’re trying to create habitats.”
One of the ways BTG is trying to accomplish this is through their Garden Walk series.
The Garden Walk series will take place at 4:15 p.m. every Tuesday, beginning today on the lake side of Smith Wilkes Hall. The series is hosted by Joe McMaster, a certified arborist who grew up in the Chautauqua community and has worked on the grounds as a landscaper.
McMaster will lead participants through the grounds, helping identify different plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. The routes will vary week by week depending on McMaster’s preferences and topics. Questions are encouraged.
“I have a well-rounded perspective of what’s going on here,” McMaster said. “I had purposefully not been on the grounds yet this year because I like to be surprised each year.”
McMaster worked for three years with the Peace Corps on an agricultural stay. He received a bachelor of arts degree in comparative literature, and started a landscaping company in Denver before returning to Chautauqua County.
McMaster will share his knowledge of the varying trees and plants around the area with visitors that might be unfamiliar with them.
“His level of knowledge and the way he’s observed those gardens change over the years; that’s why he has 40-75 people coming each week,” James said.
An updated part of BTG programming in recent years is the Eco Garden Walk series. These walks will take place at 9:15 a.m. every Wednesday this season. The walks, hosted by Sara Baker Michalak, will begin at Fletcher Music Hall and conclude at the Amphitheater in time for participants to make it to the 10:45 a.m. lecture at the same location.
“The eco gardens were conceived of a few years ago, really at the cusp of the idea of gardening for the environment rather than just for the eye candy aspect,” Baker Michalak said.
The series will introduce participants to some of the ecological gardening practices and techniques related to water conservation and run-off management. Baker Michalak will inform people on the use of native plants in gardens and the practice of planting rain gardens to protect against these issues.
A main focus will be planting the “right plant in the right place,” she said, to invite pollinators and natural wildlife into your garden.
“Native plants, in particular, have existed in the geological and climatic environment for hundreds of years, so therefore they’re very well adapted to the timing of the season, the animals that are here,” Baker Michalak said. “There’s really a symbiotic relationship that exists.”
Baker Michalak has carried her creative process through a career in the visual arts. She draws heavily from nature for her subject matter and developed an increased focus on the native plant species while studying nature and culture at SUNY Fredonia.
Baker Michalak’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Upstate Gardeners Journal, Nature Photographer Magazine and Buffalo Spree. She currently owns and operates Canadaway Wildflowers in Fredonia near Canadaway Creek where she lives with her family. She maintains her garden as well as operating her own art studio.