Keeping the grounds of the Florence S. Shanklin library in east Lincoln tidy and beautiful takes an entire communityâ€™s green thumb.
Every Thursday morning a group of volunteers â€” both Master Gardeners and amateurs â€” gather to plant, rake and keep up the memorial garden and walking trail dedicated to the libraryâ€™s namesake.
â€œThis is all in memory of Florence, because of her love of gardens,â€ said her husband Walt Shanklin, who heads the volunteer club. â€œYou wouldnâ€™t believe the gardens she had at home. She was in the garden everyday. It was her lifeâ€™s work.â€
Shanklin donated the slightly more than 4 acres the library and memorial garden sit on in memory of his wife, who passed away eight years ago in June.
A retired engineer, Shanklin also played a big part in the library and gardenâ€™s design, and can be seen outside working in the garden almost everyday.
At 87-years-old, however, Shanklin realized he could not do everything himself and has since gotten the community involved.
Since the library opened in 2004 and the garden the following year, volunteers have played a big part of the facilityâ€™s success.
On Thursdays, upwards of 20 people can be seen digging and raking in the garden to make sure it stays beautiful. The group is always looking for more helpers, experienced or just outdoors lovers.
In fact, the group is looking for more people to clear away debris and weeds. Of course, experienced gardeners are also always welcome.
â€œYou donâ€™t have to be accredited,â€ said Master Gardener Anne Henderson. â€œJust bring your gloves and come on.â€
While the weekly garden club provides a good amount of maintenance, Shanklin wanted to make sure that the grounds were tended to in between visits.
To do that, he started an adopt-an-area program, where community members can select an area to tend to for as long as they can and as often as they can.
John and Jean Hester were Shanklinâ€™s first adoptive members. The couple planted and maintain one of the gardenâ€™s focal points, a tiered rose garden that sits near the road and can be seen through the libraryâ€™s windows.
â€œThe library is special and the garden is too,â€ said Jean Hester.
Other adopted groups include the East Lincoln and Westport garden clubs and even three of Shanklinâ€™s eight children, daughters Alice Green, Mary Brown and Linda Elliott.
While not everyone has a green thumb, the community has found a way to help out in other ways.
A young scout constructed two of the walking trailâ€™s bridges as a project for his Eagle Scout. Hwy. 16 Produce also donates a lot of pine needles.
Mikeâ€™s Growers Outlet in Lowesville donated a good portion of the gardenâ€™s plants and flowers. Shanklin says he is never allowed to pay when he goes in the store for supplies.
â€œHe never charges for anything. Heâ€™s absolutely the best,â€ Shanklin said.
Shanklin himself has gotten 100 azaleas through a grant from the state preservation program North Carolina Beautiful.
He hopes to get more in the near future to help to continue to beautify the area and educate the public on different flora and fauna, especially the children.
â€œBefore (the children) go into the library they get out of their car and you think they are going to the library but they want to come to the garden,â€ said Shanklin.
Having a beautiful place for the community is one of the biggest reasons that drives the dedicated volunteers to come every week.
â€œYou just canâ€™t beat a childâ€™s glee, they are so excited,â€ said Master Gardener Gaile Broom. â€œItâ€™s so worthwhile.â€
It also continues to drive Shanklin, who still has great plans for his love letter to his wife. He hopes to eventually add a gazebo, an amphitheater and childrenâ€™s benches for outdoor reading and learning to the garden.
â€œItâ€™s a work in progress,â€ he said. â€œPeople always ask when it will be finished, but it will never be finished.â€
The volunteer garden club from the spring to the fall at the Florence S. Shanklin Library, located at 7837 Fairfield Forest Road in Denver, meet from 9-11 a.m. on Thursdays. Volunteers can simply show up. For more information, contact the library at (704) 483-3589. For more information about the Master Gardener program, contact the Cooperative Extension at (704) 736-8452.
by Mary Williams