Friendships Cultivated in the Kalmia Club Garden

Friendships, like gardens, need time and effort to blossom. There is a proper time to sow the seed and then the seedlings and plantings need nourishment and sunshine to thrive. There may be some false starts along the way, but it is easy enough to move plants around to find their proper home.

Over the years, various Kalmia Club members and community groups have volunteered time and energy to the maintenance of the land around the clubhouse on York Street. For the past three years, Lambertville resident and Kalmia Club member Susan McGrath has devoted much time and effort and now the Club is home to both new friendships and lovely gardens. Susan has toiled, tilled the soil, planted and nurtured – both plants and people. Club members have embraced her enthusiasm and local residents now know who is behind all the new plantings at the clubhouse and adjacent Mary Sheridan Park.

Susan has been a member of Kalmia since 1998 – more than 10 years – but it was not until the past few years that Susan has felt the camaraderie and friendship of the group. When Susan first joined the Club, she resided in Pipersville, worked as a nurse and had a life-long friend with whom she spent her leisure time – antiquing, gardening and traveling together. She and her friend had gone to nursing school together, raised their children together and enjoyed social activities together. During that time, Susan’s involvement in the Kalmia Club was to attend an occasional meeting where she often slipped out early. Susan and her husband, Joe, own rental properties in Lambertville and enjoyed their visits to town. With their children grown and on their own, they talked about moving to a smaller house in Lambertville when Joe retired. Susan noticed how everyone sat on their porches, chatting with neighbors and passers-by. Lambertville appeared to be a very social, friendly town with something always going on. The time came in 2006 – time to move to a smaller home in Lambertville.

Woodcrest was the perfect compromise between Susan’s vision of sitting on the front porch and spending time with neighbors and Joe’s desire for quiet and a little more privacy than Lambertville homes allow. Susan could very easily walk into town and at Woodcrest everyone “comes out around their gardens.”

In a relatively short period of time, Susan’s mother, her sister-in-law and her life-long friend passed away. And she moved from the big house in Bucks County to a townhouse in Woodcrest. When Susan first moved to town she felt lost and lonely after abandoning all the family history of the Pipersville family farm. Working in the garden brought her comfort and let her keep in touch with those she’d lost. It was gardening that saw Susan through a most difficult time and brought new friendships to life.

In closer proximity to the Kalmia Club, Susan now made a concerted effort to become a more active member. With her love of gardening, she joined the “Hidden Gardens of Lambertville” Tour Committee and became liaison to that committee and the Clubhouse Committee. And she began to spruce up the area around the Clubhouse – little by little, each year adding more plants; the gardens have taken shape along with new friendships. Both instill a renewed sense of pride among Kalmia members.

For the past two years, Club members have spent the May meeting cleaning up the park, laying fresh mulch and adding plantings; and cleaning the Clubhouse, washing windows, organizing the kitchen and supply closets. With the Garden Tour held each year in June, the May meeting is the perfect time to get the clubhouse and grounds in order.

This past spring, Susan decided to tackle the “mud patch” of a driveway that sits in Mary Sheridan Park. It took six weeks and meetings with various City officials but approval was finally granted to use bricks left over from the restoration of the George Street sidewalk. With Kalmia Club money, a bricklayer was hired to lay out a perimeter and create formal flower beds. Susan did what she could in the way of grading and when muscle was needed, local resident Tim McKenzie came to the rescue. Tim generously donated gravel, its delivery and manpower for proper grading to complete the driveway. The project was completed in the nick of time – the same day as the Kalmia Club’s last meeting of the year.

With financial support from the Kalmia Club, its supporters and Susan McGrath; as well as plants from her personal garden and those donated by Woodcrest homeowners, the gardens are established and so too are new friendships.

The Kalmia Club is a women's non-profit civic organization dedicated to providing opportunities for education, leadership, and community service to its members. One of the oldest continuously running women's clubs in New Jersey, Kalmia Club is a member of the NJ State Federation of Women's Clubs and the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Meetings are held the second Monday of each month, September to June at the Clubhouse at 39 York Street, Lambertville. Call (609) 397-2537 for details or visit

The Kalmia Club, 39 York Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530 • (609) 397-2537

© 2010-2011 The Kalmia Club. All rights reserved.
Kalmia Latifolia illustration painted and donated by Anna Anisko.
This site designed and maintained by Furia Rubel Communications.