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3rd annual Summer Solstice Soiree on June 19 features Bonsai

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 15 June 2019 at 9:53 pm

Bruce Kirby will discuss his gardens, Bonsai during the event

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Bruce Kirby puts birdseed into birdhouses made from a white birch limb, which hang from a tree in his yard. Kirby will welcome visitors to his gardens during a Summer Solstice Soiree on Wednesday to benefit the Cobblestone Society.

GAINES – Bruce Kirby may have retired from a lifelong career in farming, but he has still found a way to keep his hands in the dirt.

Kirby, 69, grew up on the Densmore Road, where four generations of his family have farmed, and where he lives with his wife Edna Kriner-Kirby, whom he married in 1998.

It’s not surprising he should transfer his love of making things grow from fruit trees to flowers and shrubs, a love he and Edna share. Edna jokes she had to marry Bruce because he had a backhoe and could move her grandmother’s plants. He also loves to cook. His extensive gardens were developed piece by piece, he said.

When Shirley Bright-Neeper, a friend and member of the Cobblestone Society, asked the Kirbys if they would be willing to open their gardens for a Summer Solstice Soiree to benefit the Cobblestone Society, they were thrilled.

This Wednesday will be the third annual Summer Solstice Soiree and will have a focus on music, as well as art. The Renaissance Musicians, an Irish group from Hamburg, will entertain at 5 p.m. Local artists will include Tom Zangerle of Medina, who will be painting in the garden. Bruce’s cousin’s daughter, muralist Stacy Kirby, will also be on hand.

The Kirbys’ extensive Bonsai collection and interest in fairy gardens provided an added focus for the event, and led to a collaboration with fairy garden designer Betsy Marshall of Rochester. Marshall has created a special fairy garden out of cobblestones, which is on display in Bruce’s garden. She has also given the Cobblestone Society a collection of teacup fairy gardens which will be on display at the Soiree, and one visitor will get to take one home. Doreen Roth-Wilson, co-founder of Albion’s Strawberry Festival, is the fairy garden coordinator for the event.

These lupines line the driveway of Bruce Kirby’s home on Densmore Road.

Bruce became interested in Bonsai after attending the Lilac Festival in Rochester in 1990, where the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York had a show.

“They are the most active Bonsai group in the country, and I became fascinated,” Bruce said. “Now that I’m retired, I have more time to do these things.”

Bruce will give a talk on the art of Bonsai during the Summer Solstice Soiree.

Bruce Kirby of Albion checks the blooms on a giant weigela in his garden. A birdhouse peeks up through the leaves.

Bruce walks through the shaded paths of his gardens, and he knows every bloom, shrub and tree and when it was planted. His favorite spot and the one of which he is proudest is what he calls “Wisteria Alley.” He points out a weeping flowering peach, which amazed him when the pits from the peaches which fell on the ground re-seeded themselves. A tamarisk tree and curly willow tower over the end of his house.

Many of the blooms in his garden were not purchased, but just split from plants he already had, like the hostas. A row of black alders was moved from another farm and transplanted to make a border between the farm orchard and his gardens.

He was sad to see a 100-year-old black walnut in his yard looked like it has finally died. There is one sucker on it, which he is hoping will take hold and grow.

The peonies in his garden were started by his grandmother, he said.

Bruce has started putting a lot of his flowers in pots, which he displays on the steps of his porch and throughout his gardens.

Wine and light refreshments will be served. The Soiree begins at 4 p.m., rain or shine, Bright-Neeper said.

Tickets are available at Kirby’s Farm Market in Brockport, Rusty Relics in Holley, the Book Shoppe in Medina and the Cobblestone Museum in Albion.

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