Messages from the Garden

From Susan Lewis Baines, ESMG Committee Chair

For more information, or to discuss volunteering, contact us by emailing

Fall 2022

The Eliza Steele Memorial Garden has thrived incredibly this year, this autumn showing off the most impressive colors.  Designed to have at least three seasons of interest, the fall is proving to be when the garden truly sings!  The focus of the work this year was to further care for and establish the young plants through soil adjustments, purposeful pruning, and plant placement considerations.  We continued planting and are very close to realizing the original plan as laid out by our garden designer.

In the spring, I was approached by the mother of a teen looking for community outreach programs for graduation credits.  As the garden is still in the establishment phase, I considered ways to enhance the emerging beds.  The student helped by painting multiple small and beautifully intricate rocks, which we together placed around the garden ~ a treasured moment for me.  One rock now sits proudly in the RDNA nursing office.  There are so many meaningful ways to nurture this garden.  I am excited by the multiple possibilities, especially for involving younger members of our community.

We continue to need volunteers and funds for further planting, improving the garden borders, and general upkeep.  You can help:

  • Donate your time.  We are always in need of volunteers to weed, water and plant.  During the dry season, we hand water each plant to be sure they receive a good, deep watering.  No previous gardening knowledge required, but is certainly welcome.  I will happily give direction.  Volunteer shifts are pre-arranged.
  • Donate funds.  The garden is built and maintained solely through designated individual and corporate donations.  No property tax dollars or RDNA operating funds are used.  Annual memorial donations will be accepted at a future time.  For now, simply donating to the garden is much appreciated.
  • Visit. Walking the garden is important for the well-being of the garden. Flowers and plants require your presence to thrive!  And this act is so good and therapeutic for you as well.

Spring 2022

The Eliza Steele Memorial Garden will never be completed.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Although that may sound daunting to some, to me there are no more beautiful words.  What this means is the garden will never be stagnant.  Will never lose interest.  Will always require love and care and thoughtfulness.  Oh, happy day!

As we come into our 3rd full year, we continue to need more plantings, replacing a few as well as finishing the plan so thoughtfully detailed by our garden designer, Jason White.  We will be marking the plantings with identifying signs.  And we will begin the discussions on how all of us can remember and honor loved ones, while supporting the continued beauty and peace the garden inspires.

Always in need of eager garden helpers to weed, plant, and fuss over our community garden.

Fall 2021

The Eliza Steele Memorial Garden is winding down its first full season and what a joy it has been ~ savored by many, sparking numerous memories of Eliza Steele, and genuinely appreciated as a positive addition to MacDougal Park and the community.  Being at the garden has afforded opportunities to talk to folks about Eliza Steele, Rockland District Nursing, and community nursing in general.

At this writing, we are preparing the final plantings of bushes and perennials, with a few still anticipated in Spring 2022.  Next year we will focus on finishing the ADA path, replacing the temporary borders and resurfacing with ADA compatible crushed granite.

The ESMG is overseen and maintained by volunteers (I thank each and every one!) and sustained solely through generous designated donations from individuals and local businesses.  RDNA is the garden’s fiscal agent.

Spring 2021

Spring has sprung, the grass is ris’
I wonder where the birdies is?

Well, I can tell you, the birds are busy at the ESM Garden, and so am I!

McDougal Park is waking from a long, slow winter and many things are happening, particularly in our space.  The Higan Cherry Tree is just starting to flower with its tutu pink flowers.  The Legacy Maple, the cornerstone of our Memorial Garden planted in honor of Eliza Steele, is strong, standing tall, and preparing to bud out.  The three fat balsams I call The Tweedle Sisters are looking a little stressed, but that is to be expected after such a dry winter.  One looked like she was trying to lie down to take a nap.  My husband and I tapped her on the shoulder, though, and reminded her there was no sleeping on the job.  It took a couple of hours to straighten her out, but she now stands upright like her two siblings.  All of the 70 bushes and trees have survived the winter, as far as I can tell, and I call that a win!

While working there today, I was serenaded by a pair of cardinals.  Cardinals are memorial birds.  Legend is that visiting cardinals are actually the spirits of those we have loved and lost ~ so appropriate and comforting.  Just before I left, I watched an osprey fly overhead, fighting with the crazy strong winds.  It then dove into the community veg garden next to us.  I guessed it was in search of a mouse or such, but no, the osprey grabbed a talons-ful bunch of seaweed laid down as mulch.  It flew around with its prize, squeaking and calling to its mate ”Look! Look what I found!”  Such a treat to behold.

There is not a day I work there that someone doesn’t stop and tell me how much they appreciate the hard work.  Today was no exception.  A mother and her daughter who visit the garden regularly spoke to me.  The mother has enjoyed watching the garden develop, and looks forward to what is in its future.  She shared that the past couple of years have been a challenge, but she feels she is on the other side and has applied to Habitat for Humanity for a house of her own.  The garden is her inspiration for her new outdoor space, and is a place of respite for her and her daughter.  THIS is why we work in this garden ~ green, open space for EVERYONE to enjoy.  This small part of the MacDougal Park is now for flowers, bushes, and trees and their visitors;  for kids to discover sights and smells;  for all ages and physical abilities to wander through (our garden paths are ADA compliant and accessible).  We envision simply sitting (on the benches in our future), taking in the beauty and smells of the plants, the buzzing of bees, the sight of hummingbirds and butterflies, dragonflies and all variety of happy pollinators. 

And so, I find myself very blessed to be a part of such a wonderful, and long overdue venture.

You can help.  We still need funds to complete the garden ~ donate to the garden on this page.  If you have other interests, such as gardening, please e-mail me at

Regardless of your ability to help or donate, we invite one and all to join us in the garden at MacDougal Park!