By Carol Stiffler
Nestled in the ground just outside the fence of the Forest Home cemetery in Newberry are about 5,500 flower bulbs. You couldn’t guess it now, as they are working underground, but they’re preparing to put on a color show in just a few weeks.
By Memorial Day, the fenceline will be a backdrop for yellow daffodils and red, pink, purple, and white tulips.
The flowers were originally a project of Newberry’s General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which tackled the first phase of the project in 2017. Marie Irene Nicholson of Lakefield was instrumental then, when they planted 2,400 bulbs at the cemetery.
“It was cold,” Nicholson said. “I thought ‘I don’t know if I can ever do this again.’ But it looked too thin. I wanted it to be impressive.”
This year, Nicholson carried on and raised funds to add another 3,200 bulbs. She planted them in five back-breaking days over recent weeks, finishing days ago. Pockets of forget-me-nots and sweet peas will burst through in some areas – maybe the sweet peas will tumble down the slope, she hopes..
“I’m doing this to do this,” said Nicholson, who is a member of the Gardening Club. “There’s going to come a day when I can’t bend over and plant bulbs. I don’t expect my children to come back here and plant bulbs for me. But I hope this will continue on.”
Nicholson considers it a beautification project and hopes it will bring joy. She hopes the Stay Home order will be lifted in time for Memorial Day so people can visit the cemetery. And she’s holding her breath in the hopes the flowers will be in their full glory for that occasion.
Residents across the street, which include Yooper Chook creator Cynthia Dorie, know how lucky they are to be able to look across the street and watch the flowers bloom each year.
“I have such a horrid black thumb that I kill plastic plants, so this is quite a treat for me,” Dorie said.
When Dorie sees the flowers, they give her a sense of spring and the feeling that someone cares.
“I’m very impressed with Marie and her diligence to the cause,” Dorie said. “She has a very positive, forward-thinking spirit about her, and the world needs more Maries.”
As for Nicholson, she is determined that this isn’t really about her, but about what she can do for the community. The way she sees it, this is just a beautification project for anyone to enjoy.
“I’m not a painter. I can sew, but I’ll never be a quilter,” Nicholson said. “Gardening is my thing now. Wherever I can give a little joy, so be it.”
She doesn’t mind if no one knows she did it, because it’s not about her. It’s for anyone who can see the beauty and get joy out of it.
“I’m not doing this for rewards or honors,” Nicholson said. “Rewards are in heaven, when you get there. When I pass through those gates, I’ll be looking for a garden.”