Garden recognizes president’s passion

Photo Courtesy of Dirk Phillips
Past and present Glen Ridge BOE members stand together at the dedication of the pocket park for Elisabeth Ginsburg, seen forefront, fourth from right.

A flower garden, along a portion of the front facade of Central School, has been dedicated to Glen Ridge Board of Education President Elisabeth Ginsburg for her more than 20 years of continuous service leading that governing body.

Planned for 2020, but disrupted by the pandemic, the ceremony occurred this past July.

“To honor Betsy for her service, and acknowledge her love of gardening, we planted a fun, colorful ‘pocket garden’ of perennials in front of the newly renovated Central School,” said Duval Graham, a BOE member who, along with board colleague Tracey St. Auburn oversaw the creation of the garden.

“Plantings included rhododendron, purple salvia, echinacea red, yellow and orange echinacea, iris, geum and blue fescue,” Graham said. “We also punctuated the bed with some bright annuals including begonias and impatiens.”

In a telephone interview, Ginsburg said the garden was an idea originally for her 20th anniversary, in 2020, and that it was constructed in 2021.

“The ceremony was organized by Superintendent Dirk Phillips before the July board meeting,” Ginsburg said. “He invited board members and the superintendents with whom I served.”

Attending the ceremony were former superintendents John Mucciolo and Daniel Fishbein.

“The garden was a wonderful surprise,” Ginsburg said. “It is beautiful and I’m appreciative of it. But seeing those people who have made meaningful contributions all these years was the best part.”

The garden was especially meaningful to her, she said, because she is a gardener herself. In fact, Ginsburg writes a popular weekly horticultural column for this newspaper, “The Gardener’s Apprentice.” She has written 1,332 nearly consecutive columns, missing only one. Likewise for her presidential term. In 20 years she has missed only one monthly meeting.

“I walk by the Central School all the time and have the pleasure of seeing it in all seasons,” she said.

Ginsburg, who grew up in western New York state, said she received her appreciation for gardening from her father who was “a great gardener.”

As for heading the local school board, Ginsburg said she previously was involved with the home and school association and was on the nursery board of Christ Episcopal Church, in Glen Ridge, and is a founding member of the nursery board of the Middleton Early Learning Center, in East Orange.

“As a school volunteer, I became interested in policy,” she said. “The board of education seemed like a logical thing.”

St. Auburn said that during the pandemic made it difficult to publicly honor Ginsburg for her service.

“Superintendent Phillips set aside a small patch at Central School so that board members could install a garden in her honor,” St. Auburn said. “A number of hardy perennials and small bushes were planted. Board members who planted the garden were taxed with creating a simple, sustainable garden to honor a devoted public servant who also happens to be an amazing gardener.”

More than 20 past and present board members were at the ceremony, St. Auburn said, which included the unveiling of a plaque.

Prior to the July Board of Education meeting, Phillips arranged for a small reception to dedicate the garden with more than 20 past and present board members in attendance.

“A number of administrators and all three superintendents who have served during Betsy’s tenure as board president also came by to honor her dedication and commitment to our schools,” Auburn said.

The dedication on the plaque, according to Graham, begins with an Indian proverb: “All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds today.” It continues: “This garden is dedicated to Elisabeth Ginsburg/Glen Ridge Board of Education President/For her long-standing service to our school community/Board of Education member since 2000.”

In a statement, Phillips said that Glen Ridge Public Schools are fortunate to have had Ginsburg serve on the board of education.

“Her dedication to the schools, respect towards the families and devotion to the students have helped the district flourish throughout the year,” he said. “Her leadership and educational insight helped guide the district through some of the most challenging times in education. President Ginsburg has consistently demonstrated a deep appreciation for being part of the Glen Ridge Schools and enjoys serving the community.”

The garden that was dedicated to Glen Ridge Board of Education President Elisabeth Ginsburg.