Sunapee Gardeners weave magic with flowers

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Visitors admire blooms in the Clara Osborne Garden, also known as the Long Garden that extends along Main Street at Sunapee Harbor.

By Peggy Chalmers

Sunapee, N. H. — When summer arrives, Sunapee Harbor and other spots around town burst into bloom. Flowers magically appear… along Main Street, on the harbor bridge, at the Town Beaches and tucked into window boxes of Town Hall.

Behind the magic is a dedicated group of volunteers, the Sunapee Gardeners, who tend more than a dozen locations stretching from Georges Mills to Sunapee Harbor.

The Gardeners plan and plant a mix of perennials and annuals, and then religiously water and weed them throughout the flowering season.

Their efforts don’t stop with the first frost. Just before Thanksgiving, the Gardeners decorate the harbor area for the holiday season. Instead of flowers, the window boxes, barrels, lamp posts, and even the flag pole bloom with festive greenery and red bows.

Raised garden by the docks provides beauty and is just the right height so visitors can sit and enjoy the harbor. Photo by Charlotte Carlson, Sunapee, N.H.

Raised garden by the public dock at Sunapee Harbor provides beauty and is just the right height so visitors can sit and enjoy the view. Photo by Charlotte Carlson, Sunapee, N.H.

The Gardeners’ history

The Gardeners trace their beginnings to 1990 when a group of Sunapee residents gathered to discuss how to improve Sunapee and the village center at Sunapee Harbor.

Participant Ellie Goddard with the help of a group of volunteers and then Road Agent Tony Bergeron began with planning and enhancements to areas around the public boat ramp and the Ben Mere green.

The group’s vision was bigger than removing just some bushes and weeds. It dreamed of beautiful flowers enhancing the town. After petitioning the Selectmen, the Gardeners received permission to create new gardens plus an allotment to purchase flowers.

As their efforts expanded, more volunteers came forward and today the Sunapee Gardeners efforts extend from the window boxes on Town Hall and Information Booth to flower barrels at the two town beaches. Flowers also bloom in the old horse trough on Main Street and in Hames Park, a garden gem tucked into the hillside overlooking the Sugar River.

Memorial Garden honors loved ones

In 1997, the original island planter at Sunapee Harbor was dedicated as a Memorial Garden, a special place to honor loved ones. It is fully funded by donations that are recorded in a leather bound book.

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Sunapee Gardeners in their identifying purple t-shirts gather near the gazebo prior to their annual Remembrance Ceremony.

On the first Wednesday in August during band concert intermission, the Gardeners hold a special Remembrance Ceremony during which each remembrance is read, and for every ten names, a candle is lit. The event is a celebration of life, and in that vein, the Ceremony is followed by homemade cookies and beverages distributed by the Gardeners.

Approximately 10 years ago, the Gardeners sponsored a garden tour that unexpectedly raised several thousand dollars. The Selectmen recommended a Town Committee should manage the funds, and so the Beautification Committee was formed under co-chairs Donna Gazelle and Barbara Cooper.


Harbor bridge boxes create an eye-popping view.

The BC tackled major projects, including the installations of a granite raised-planter by the docks, parking lot curbing, a handicap accessible path to the gazebo, and a faux-brick sidewalk to identify the preferred crossings between the dock and gazebo. The Committee also planted trees, as well as a shrub screen along one side of the harbor green.  When the funds were expended in 2012, the Beautification Committee disbanded, but many of its gardening activities were folded into the Gardeners.

Volunteer gardeners welcome

The Sunapee Gardeners are always looking for new volunteers to help them keep Sunapee beautiful. Men or women, full-time or summer residents—are welcome. Gardening knowledge is not required, only a willingness to help and to get your hands dirty. Interested?

For more information, call Peggy Chalmers, the Sunapee Gardeners chairperson, 603-763-5562.


The hidden garden in Hames Park along the Sugar River creates a restful place to sit and reflect.

Photos courtesy of the Sunapee Gardeners unless otherwise noted.

Read related article and see other Hames Park photos: Sunapee’s Hames Park, a gem along the Sugar River tells of times past (

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