Nearly 30 years ago, while on a tour through Europe, local couple Bob and Joyce Byers were in awe over the abundance of public gardens they encountered. There was a sense of pride as each town united to care for these scenic projects. Upon returning to the states, the Byers’ wanted to create a similar atmosphere. Thus, with the help of former Betz Laboratories CEO Jack McCaughan and his wife Carol, the 501(c)(3) Bucks Beautiful was born in 1991.
Though Bob passed away just before Christmas last year, his legacy lives on. The organization continues to promote the development of gardens in communities along roads, on business premises and at private homes throughout the county. Dozens of volunteers make this work possible and now, Bucks Beautiful wants to give back to them.
A membership program was recently launched, giving locals the opportunity to become charter members and take advantage of special perks. These include being the first to learn of upcoming events, and enjoying free admission and early access to the upcoming Garden Tour.
“We’ve always had supporters in the community and we’ve played with the idea of having memberships in the past. We wanted to get a feel for it and see if the people who have supported us through the years would like to get more deeply involved,” said executive director Denise Sezack. “We can have them actively work toward our projects in the community.”
The program launched a little over a month ago, and almost 100 people have already signed up.
“It was better received than we even thought,” said communications manager Laurie To. “A lot of what we do happens in the warmer seasons, so there’s a little bit less awareness of what we do right now. It’s nice to see people thinking about Bucks Beautiful in January.”
Membership support will help bolster several of Bucks Beautiful’s initiatives. One example is the reforestation effort RePlant Bucks. To date, the organization has installed 1,525 native trees at parks, historical sites, schools and nonprofit facilities. Contributions will help reach the goal of 10,000 new trees for future generations.
Another example is the Bulbs for Bucks Daffodil Tour, which runs March through May. Bucks Beautiful has installed over 1.6 million daffodil bulbs throughout the county. This past fall, 20,000 were planted in honor of healthcare employees, first responders, essential workers and loved ones.
True to Bob’s legacy, gardens are also planted at various sites throughout the county. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many were constructed outside nursing homes. Since visitors were not allowed inside, steps were taken to bring color and life outdoors.
“There’s many different projects, a lot of plantings, a lot of upkeep and maintenance on the gardens that we do,” said Sezack.
Bucks Beautiful regularly partners with other groups, organizations and landscape companies to make various projects a reality. It applies for as many grants as possible, and is generous with any funding it receives.
“If there are groups that want to get involved, we will support them. Most of our projects are 50/50 grants. So, if an organization has a project where they can support it in some way, we will help them out with a grant. We encourage them to ask us for grants to help them get to their goal,” Sezack said, adding that there was an uptick in requests during the pandemic as more people spent time outdoors. “We can supply plant material, we can supply the funds, and they can take ownership of whatever plantings we do.”
To help fund its beautification endeavors, Bucks Beautiful is hosting a Garden Tour on the second Sunday in June. Usually a Kitchen & Garden Tour, the event has been modified to promote COVID-19 safety measures. Charter members will receive free and early admission to the event.
Additionally, in place of its annual Spring Fling fundraiser, Bucks Beautiful will offer an online auction at a TBD date.
It’s also hosting the second annual daffodil photo contest, which runs through April.
“When our daffodils were blooming, it gave people something fun and positive to do while they were stuck at home during the pandemic,” said To. “We had a really nice response to that and some beautiful pictures that we’re still getting a lot of mileage out of.”
Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place, with the winners able to choose a Bucks Beautiful mug or tote bag, or a gift certificate to Bucks County Gardens.
Visit bucksbeautiful.org for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org