Volunteer Effort to Revitalize A Victorian Residence on Tolland
Teri Gerry, Hicks-Stearns Family Museum
Bea White-Ramirez, Hicks-Stearns Family Museum
Dr. Mark Brand, University of Connecticut
The Horticulture Club at The University of Connecticut
This former private residence in Tolland, CT, once played home to Ratcliffe Hicks, benefactor and founder of the two-year agriculture school at the University of Connecticut that bears his name. But its previous owners ran it as a colonial inn which explains the quirky mashup of Victorian and Colonial stylings in the architecture and trimwork.
While the residence itself was kept in excellent repair, the grounds languished after the passing of the last member of the Hicks family when the property was transferred to a non-profit trust. Many of the heirloom specimens declined or died out.
In September 2010, the Horticulture Club at the University of Connecticut took on the cleanup and redesign of the grounds as a volunteer project. A comprehensive site map and catalog of surviving plants was undertaken and completed that Fall. The Club also began planting flowering bulbs such as crocuses, daffodils, and tulips.
The following Spring, the club began grubbing out the weedy overgrowth and the dead material from various beds. Trees and shrubs that had been used in the Connecticut Flower & Garden show were planted here instead of being sold as they had been done in previous years. Dr. Brand donated (6) large clumps of Aronia (Chokeberry) as well as a Lacebark Pine and Korean Mountain-ash. Ronald Brine,one of the ABL Greenhouse staff at UConn, donated approximately four-dozen small Rudbeckia plantlets from his garden.
From May to August 2011, Oliver finished planting and mulching operations including the creation of a functioning rain garden. He spent approximately four days a week at the weeding, grubbing, and watering to ensure that the new material would establish. Rejuvenation pruning on the roses, Panicle Hydrangeas, etc was also done.
In Fall 2011, the club did a major cleanup following Hurricane Irene. In November, following the freak blizzard, there was yet another storm cleanup and more tulip and daffodil bulbs planted.
In April 2012, there was a major community planting effort over two days in late April. Over two dozen Hort Club and CANR Ambassador students from UConn helped with grubbing, pruning, edging, planting, and mulching new planting areas. New planting material was sourced again from the Club's award-winning display in the CT Flower & Garden Show. Prides Corner Farms of Lebanon, CT supplied additional trees and shrubs at a 50% discount. Casertano Farms of Chesire, CT donated approximately 100 assorted perennials.
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Alamanc