Growing season begins at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls

  • Margaret McBride thatches the flower beds on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Marion Taylor and Maureen Flaherty pot plants for the plant sale at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Potting plants for the plant sale at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Potting plants for the plant sale at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Margaret McBride thatches the flower beds on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Judy Harlow fertilizes plants for the future plant sale to benefit the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Judy Harlow, Maureen Flaherty and Carol DeLorenzo pot plants for the plant sale. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2019 11:17:33 PM
Modified: 4/19/2019 11:17:20 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS —  Villagers can breathe a sigh of relief: the Bridge of Flowers is open, signaling spring is finally here. This season is significant as it marks 90 years since the former trolley bridge was transformed into an iconic, blossom-filled walkway by the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club.

It is still early in the season though, and on recent Friday a handful of volunteers and two part-time employees braved a chilly, gray morning to prepare for the upcoming year by raking leaves and planting bulbs in pots. Volunteers known as the “Blossom Brigade,” consist of roughly 20 regular members who garden on the bridge Wednesday nights and Friday mornings. The Brigade is currently considering how to celebrate the bridge’s 90th anniversary, Linda Leitner, who oversees volunteers, said Friday.

Costs associated with running the bridge are covered by its annual plant sale, as well as donations from local businesses and residents — a long list of donors is displayed at its Shelburne entrance.

Leitner began volunteering for the Brigade in 2006. She describes the bridge as her “heart,” saying it carries a personal meaning as her late sisters’ names are appear on the structure.

“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do this,” Leitner said. “It’s also about giving back and it makes you feel good to give back. It’s altruism. I know a lot of people do that in different ways, and this is my thing.”

Carol DeLorenzo, head gardener for 19 years, said her responsibilities include designing the garden as well as creating it with her hands. She says she is always looking for new plants to add to the bridge — thinking “one or two steps ahead” (or even five years ahead).

“Mostly they just want a feast of blossom, so I try to deliver,” DeLorenzo said.

Among her most important priorities is “blossom count,” she says, and she focuses on layering flowers to ensure the bridge is a sea of color and life.

“Bridges bringing people together is the motto,” DeLorenzo said. “Everybody feels it as their garden in some way, and there’s a lot of appreciation for those of us taking care of it.”

DeLorenzo is assisted by a part-time gardener, Elliston Bingham.

Volunteer Marion Taylor became involved with the bridge in the 1970s through the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club. Taylor said the club teaches her a great deal about gardening.

“It’s a wonderful sort of workshop,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t know anything about bloodroot, for example.”

Volunteer Margaret McBride became involved a few days after Hurricane Irene struck, hoping to repair the bridge in time for Labor Day weekend. Luckily, the bridge’s soil and flowers were mostly intact, though much of the gravel had been washed away. She remembers the bridge opened Friday at 3:30 p.m. before the long weekend.

“We were absolutely intent on getting this flower garden open for the people, on the holiday,” McBride said. “I knew that the merchants would all be wanting to open for Labor Day.”

While McBride “loves” volunteering for the bridge, she said she finds it difficult to bear sweltering summer days, which are increasing in number due to man-made climate change.

“It’s hard. The sun of course is beating down on you. It’s humid,” McBride said. “We used to have 10 really hot days a year. Now we have weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks.”

The plant sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Village Green on the corner of Water and Main streets. All proceeds go towards the Bridge of Flowers.

For more information or to donate, visit: https://www.bridgeofflowersmass.org/




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