4-Hers plant fairy garden in memory of Gail Culver at Fairgrounds
By Kristina Gabalski, 4-H Program Coordinator in Orleans County
KNOWLESVILLE – Something “magical” is now located just outside the classroom entrance to the Education Center on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.
It is a fairy garden planted recently by Orleans County 4-Hers to honor the memory of Gail Culver, a long-time volunteer at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension. Gail, a life-long resident of East Shelby, passed away in April of 2020.
Gail served Orleans County CCE for over 40 years in many ways – as a 4-H club leader, Master Gardener, member of the Fair Board and member of the Orleans CCE Board of Directors. She also worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County for many years.
Robyn Watts, her cousin, and Robyn’s grandchildren, including Makenzie, Jackson, and Charlotte McGrath – ages 13, 11 and 9, all of Medina, were always very close to Gail and wanted a way to keep her memory alive.
“She loved the fair,” Robyn Watts said. “She would bring my kids and then my grandkids. My children and grandchildren always called her ‘Aunt Gail.’ She was my children’s 4-H club leader and then started the Abundant Harvest 4-H Club with me.”
Watts explained that Gail had an extensive fairy garden outside the front of her own home.
“It had lights and houses and was built around a tree,” Watts said. “She loved fairy gardens. I think she found them to be magical.”
Back when Gail’s health began to fail, her son, Dan, asked Robyn’s grandchildren to help tend her home fairy garden. They cleaned it up and installed new lights, Watts said. After Gail’s death, her house was sold.
“The fairy garden was so important to her,” Watts said. “Her fairy garden accessories were given to Makenzie to do with what she wanted.”
It was decided a memorial garden for Gail on the fairgrounds she loved so much would be a wonderful way to make use of the materials. The idea was brought before the 4-H Family and Consumer Science Program Development Committee, of which Gail was also a former member, and was unanimously approved. The garden was planted just prior to the start of the 4-H Fair, which was held last week.
“First, we put down weed-suppressing fabric, planted the plants and then placed mulch and fairy garden accessories (which belonged to Gail),” Makenzie McGrath explained. “We didn’t really have a plan, we put items down as we went.”
Makenzie has many happy memories of participating in 4-H with her “Aunt Gail” who encouraged both Makenzie and her siblings and taught them so much.
“She was very active in 4-H,” Makenzie remembered. “She helped us with our own fairy gardens.”
Her younger sister, Charlotte, also helped with the fairy garden installation.
“My favorite thing in the garden is the big tree stump,” she said. The big tree stump is a planter made especially for fairy gardens.
The 4-Hers had some help installing the garden from Orleans County CCE Master Gardener Deanna Poczciwinski of Barker. Poczciwinski provided some of the plants and guidance as well as help in getting everything planted and placed.
Robyn Watts said the family and members of the Abundant Harvest 4-H Club will work to maintain the garden. It currently includes succulents and evergreen shrubs along with annual flowering plants.
“We will work to replace the annuals with more perennials next year,” Watts said.