Volunteers revive Ilsley Library gardens

LANDSCAPE DESIGNER JUDITH IRVEN created the new gardens at the front of Ilsley Public Library Photo courtesy Barbara Blodgett

MIDDLEBURY — The time just seemed right. Downtown Middlebury was re-opening after the railroad tunnel project, the longtime gardener at The Ilsley Library, Anna Benson had decided to retire, and the front gardens at the library cried out for a facelift.

Barbara Blodgett initiated the project after consulting with landscape designer, Judith Irven. Irven has a long history of designing public gardens in Middlebury starting with Elderly Services many years ago, followed by the front gardens at The Middlebury Studio School on Route 7 South and then more recently the gardens at The Congregational Church of Middlebury.

Last fall, Irven, Blodgett and Marilyn Needham, president of the Middlebury Garden Club, approached the Ilsley board for their approval. With that in hand, Blodgett then applied to the Middlebury Garden Club for a grant to pay for the design, the plant material, and the installation. With Needham’s help, the grant was unanimously approved and they were off to the races.

Work was coordinated with Bill Kernan of the Town of Middlebury Public Works. Chris Zeoli, much-admired arborist and Middlebury’s tree warden, agreed to prune the two Norwegian Elms at the front of the gardens pro bono. Tammy Walsh of Goshen Mountain Landscaping agreed to do the installation, which included removing the current gardens, along with the multitude of large rocks, repairing the side wall, preparing the new gardens with soil amendments and finally planting them with the new plants, per Judith’s design.

This work was completed over the last two weeks of April, while the rains watered the new gardens. The creators hope all will enjoy seeing the garden grow over the years. Irven’s selection of plant material was intended to introduce the public to some interesting new and not-so-widely used perennials. Andrea Landsberg, who is with the Middlebury Garden Club and is working on volunteer hours for her Master Gardener certification, will be documenting the project as well as identifying all of the new plants in an exhibit inside the library.


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