By Zenya Molnar, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The Northborough Garden Club recently hosted an event that featured a portrayal of Edith Wharton, known for her novels inspired by time spent in New England and her childhood in New York. Although Wharton's connection to nature at first may not be apparent, she in fact designed gardens and co-authored a landscape design book entitled “Italian Villas and Their Gardens.”
Janice Ferenchick, vice president of the Garden Club, is responsible for choosing the years” programs. She is a third-generation member of the club and has been an active participant for almost 10 years. When determining topics for the meetings, she was drawn to the Edith Wharton presentation by actress Nancy Riggs at a Massachusetts Horticultural program in Wellesley.
Riggs” performance, which was well-received by the Garden Club, was “wonderful,” according to Ferenchick.
“I could picture her gardens and the setting,” said Ferenchick, who visited Wharton's home, The Mount, in the Berkshires a few years ago. She believed that Riggs” portrayal reflected well her own experience in Wharton's gardens.
“I noticed how [the gardens] fit within the natural landscape of the Berkshires. They were more formal closer to the house, and as they stretched towards the woods they became less formal,” she explained.
Riggs, who has been playing the role of Wharton for a few years, started portraying famous women in history for Women's History Month at the high school where she teaches English. Having participated in the school's “Women's History Day” for 12 years, Riggs now portrays six notable women for her “Cameos in Time” program, including Susan B. Anthony and Annie Oakley.
Riggs said that she “felt [Wharton] deserved more of a voice in Massachusetts” and her 150th birthday celebration in 2012 “clinched her interest” in portraying her. One of her favorite Wharton novels, “Ethan Frome,” also inspired her to act out the life of Wharton. She believes that “Ethan Frome” is “what separates a good writer from genius” because it “leaves you with so much to think about.”
An avid gardener herself and a member of the Holden Garden Club, Riggs reads multiple biographies of the women she portrays, and to get into character for Wharton, she read more than half her books “to gain insight into what [Wharton] was like.”
In addition to monthly meetings, the Garden Club raises funds for its scholarship for high school students, participates in town beautification, and creates seasonal floral arrangements to display at the Northborough Library and Senior Center as part of a garden therapy program.
Ferenchick stated that she is an “enthusiastic gardener,” and that the best part about being a member of the Garden Club is “being able to share that with other people.”
The Garden Club welcomes new members and encourages the community to attend their programs. Ferenchick said that they want to “educate the public on gardening” and share their passion for gardening. Members join for an annual membership fee and receive benefits such as discounts at local nurseries and places like Tower Hill Botanical Garden and Garden in the Woods.
The next program, “Flemish Floral Arrangements,” presents Diane Guldner who will discuss the history of Flemish flower design while assembling a typical 15th-century arrangement. The event is Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the Northborough Senior Center, 119 Bearfoot Road, at 6:30 p.m. It is open to the public.
For more information on the Garden Club, visit www.northboroughgardenclub.com or its Facebook page.
To learn more about Riggs and “Cameos in Time,” contact [email protected]