SCHENECTADY — Bettering a community takes a variety of people, plans and ideas. For Schenectady resident Mary McClain, it takes a garden.
“I think that it definitely improves the community around it,” Schenectady resident Patricia Reed said of the garden, which she drives by frequently.
But the careful planting, arranging and weeding that McClain has spent on her garden this summer has been picked over and destroyed.
“They’re not vandalizing. They’re burglarizing,” McClain said of the garden she tends to between Grand Boulevard and Nott Street.
McClain has devoted much of her time over the years to being active in the Schenectady community. In 2013, McClain ran for city council and she still attends the majority of council meetings. She is involved in the Republican Women’s Club and has also volunteered her flower arranging skills for several area churches.
McClain first began working on the garden, which is only a quick walk away from her home in Schenectady, about five years ago.
Part of her inspiration to start it came from her mother, who had always kept a flower garden outside of her home.
“I’ve been taking Japanese flower arranging classes for the past 26 years,” McClain said.
She specializes in “Ikebana,” a style of arranging. The line, form and shape of the plant is brought out by the artists’ eye in this art form.
The craft is another piece of inspiration behind McClain’s garden design.
“It’s in the shape of an oval. On one side I had perennials going up and down Grand Boulevard. Then I had black-eyed Susans going between the two poles,” McClain said.
Half of the black-eyed Susans have recently been pulled up. In years past, McClain noticed some of the flower heads had been cut off.
This summer, she noticed entire plants go missing.
“People are completely uprooting them,” McClain said.
An abundance of plants remain intact, but they are interspersed with weeds where some of the deracination took place.
Although she’s noticed this destruction over the last three years, McClain said she’s refrained from calling authorities about the issue.
The idea behind the garden is to spread the appreciation for flowers and their beauty. McClain believes that because people have been uprooting entire plants, the plants are probably wanted. She believes that people may be planting them elsewhere.
“There’s more than enough to give away, but they should ask me. The entire arrangement of the garden is destroyed,” McClain said.
McClain hopes that the people who are taking the plants will contact her so she can give them cuts of whatever plants they desire from select sections of the garden.
“I started this because I had too much for my own garden,” McClain said.
Michael Mastroianni, of Michael’s Shoe Service on Union Street, has been a long-time supporter of the garden. He contributes flowers every year and said that he enjoys doing it because the garden brings a bit of positive spirit to the community.
“It did seem to be not as full as it has been in years past, though,” Mastroianni said of the state of the garden.
Because it’s planted at an intersection, drivers tend to cut into the garden when they turn onto either Nott Street or Grand Boulevard. This has led to the destruction of many flowers that McClain has planted on the edge of the garden.
To prevent this, McClain placed bricks all around the garden.
But those were shuffled and pushed further into the vegetation.
So she tried another tactic: placing several flower pots where drivers tend to drive through the garden.
Those have remained over this summer. But McClain remains frustrated by the other destruction.
The humidity and intense heat of the summer have also deterred McClain from keeping up with the intended arrangement of the garden.
“I need help desperately with this,” McClain said. The weeds have overgrown well past what she would usually allow and they are now overtaking some of the areas that would normally hold black-eyed Susans, obedience flowers or peonies.
Want to help with the garden or want a cut of the flowers? Call Mary McClain at (518) 372-1257 or send mail to P.O. Box 76, Schenectady, NY 12301.