Value can be a very nuanced word, and one which was chosen very carefully here. The Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens hopes to create value in a number of ways and through various definitions of the word.
Most tangibly, in economic terms, we strive to ensure that there is an economic value received by our members when they sign up and pay their dues. These benefits come in the form of various discounts and perks that we extend as our thanks for your membership. Discounts at our Shop in the Gardens, reduced fees for various classes, seminars, and programs, advance notice of upcoming events, a free New Members Gathering –these are just some of the ways in which we say thank you and welcome.
A more important kind of value that the Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens endeavors to achieve is the moral value. We are entrusted by our members to make responsible and ethical decisions on behalf of the organization in pursuit of the mission, “…the promotion, improvement, and preservation of Fellows Riverside Gardens.” Unable to be separated from that mission is the inherent need to promote, improve, and preserve the environment to which the Gardens are forever linked. This moral obligation has spurred the Board of Directors to conduct ongoing research and education in the fields of sustainable horticultural and building practices. The Gardens and Grounds committee is currently conducting an extensive pollinator study at the Gardens, using several factors to draw conclusions and recommendations on better practices for a safer and more sustainable environment. An interesting project initiated this summer at the Gardens is a volunteer study of the pollinators found on various flowering plants, especially within the Perennial Garden. Over 80% of flowering plants depend on bees, insects and other pollinators to enable them to produce fruit and seeds for reproduction. At the Gardens, we are striving to increase the environmental sustainability of our landscape plantings. The information from this study, along with continuing research on the plants themselves, will be used to guide our choices as we add additional plants to the Gardens in the future. Two outstanding native plants which are highly attractive to pollinators and at the same time are wonderfully decorative in the garden are Vernonia noveboracensis, New York Ironweed and Eupatorium purpureum, also known as Joe Pye Weed. Ironweed and Joe Pye Weed are often seen growing alongside each other in meadows, along roadsides and in other natural areas. Both of these plants are standouts due to their impressive height and large clusters of flowers. New York Ironweed easily grows to 6’ tall (7-8’ in our fertile Perennial Garden soil) and has striking dark purple flowers. Joe Pye Weed grows 4-6’ tall with large clusters of pinkish flowers which contrast beautifully with the darker ironweed. Both of these attractive native plants are easy to grow, needing little to no additional maintenance and are highly attractive to pollinators. They make a wonderful addition to any sunny, moist, well drained garden site. Their exceptional ability to support our native pollinators, while providing beauty to our gardens, is an important added bonus when growing these striking native plants. Eupatorium purpureum in the Perennial Garden
More often, though, the value that Friends hopes to create is not so easily measured. The most important value Friends creates is broader than a membership benefits package. It’s more socially aligned than making environmentally sound choices. It is about adding cultural value to Fellows so that all of the community might come and enjoy this Free Public Garden. I repeat for emphasis: Free Public Garden. Our most important role as an organization is to help lift up the quality and type of programming and horticulture that can be achieved here, to support those efforts with high level facilities, and to promote it far and wide, beyond just the Mahoning Valley, and for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone.
To explain that role more, some additional information is necessary. The way in which Fellows Riverside Gardens is financially operated is at times unclear or misunderstood, with the mistaken assumption that the entirety of the facility is funded through taxpayer dollars collected through Mill Creek MetroParks. While it is absolutely true that the vast majority of operational dollars for Fellows Riverside Garden comes from MCMP, Friends helps to supplement those operational dollars by supporting much of the highly regarded programming that is held at Fellows and creating the added value mentioned above.
Throughout the year, Friends helps underwrite or otherwise support various cultural programs ranging from cooking classes to communitywide events such as Pumpkin Walk at Twilight and Winter Celebration to children’s activities in the Family Garden. It is only through that symbiotic relationship of MCMP and Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens that we are, together, able to elevate the Gardens to the nationally regarded cultural institution that it is. (For more on how highly the Gardens is valued, see the article on the upcoming American Public Gardens Association’s Small Gardens Symposium on page 3.) The value established here is that investing in this cultural institution makes it special to the public who use it. Thus, creating more than just the sum of its parts, and encouraging them to want to make it even better. It is that immeasurable quality, that contribution to the quality of life in our Valley, which makes Fellows Riverside Gardens such a special place.
The only way in which Friends is able to support these features and events is through its broad base of members who are passionate about the Gardens and are excited to share it with their friends. You support Friends both financially and by helping to spread the message and mission to an ever-widening base. In return, we attempt to provide benefits to our members so that they might continue to enjoy the gardens and enhance their experience, but we know we can never truly thank our members enough other than to say how much we value you.