America in Bloom contestant Lewisburg overflows with flowers

First published on Charleston Gazette-Mail.

In 1987, the Savannah Garden Club purchased the first wrought-iron baskets that would soon become a welcoming signature for the Lewisburg.

You can’t miss them as you enter downtown and drive along Washington Street. The baskets, brimming with angel wing begonias, are beautiful, and they are just the beginning — flowers and blooms are everywhere.

I have always felt walking around Lewisburg is a special experience — the history, the people and, oh, the landscaping that blends and continues throughout the city.

With a little research, I realized this is because of a coordinated city-wide effort. Taking the lead from the begonias, the city has adopted a red-and-yellow color scheme and works with a local nursery to provide a list of plants that fall within this color palette.

What started out as a small contribution to the city has grown to providing 76 flower baskets annually. This project involves many.

The Savannah Garden Club funds the $4,000 basket project through fundraisers, including a summer raffle (congratulations to Annie and Jeff Jeffus, this year’s winners).

The City of Lewisburg provides care throughout the season, including fertilizing and watering the baskets. This reminds me to feed and fertilize my pots and baskets more often if I want Lewisburg-worthy blooms. It really does make a difference.

Ann Fort and Sissy Isaac are co-presidents of the Savannah Garden Club.

“It’s wonderful to live in a place like Lewisburg, because there is so much participation from the residents that brings such a sense of community to our beautiful town,” Ann said.

I couldn’t agree more. When visiting the city, you can’t help but feel the hard work and pride of many.

The Savannah Garden Club is not alone, as there are several other garden clubs that work to keep the city beautiful.

The Blue Bell Garden Club offers to design and plant containers for business owners interested in working with the color scheme, plus planting pansies and annuals in public gardens. The Lewisburg House & Garden Club works with the elementary schools and the Greenbrier Garden Club landscapes the city’s entrance signs.

These clubs do so much more than I could ever mention here, including coming together for the annual home and garden tours along with the Greenbrier Historical Society. This is a good time to plan a visit and a fun way to explore the private gardens around town.

I can’t forget to mention my fellow Master Gardeners of Greenbrier County and the work they do to support the Demonstration Garden on the State Fairgrounds. This garden is always a highlight of my trip to the fair. There are fruit trees, herb areas, raised beds and the most beautiful zinnias I have ever seen.

Each year during the fair, I’m lucky enough to spend an afternoon or two volunteering in the children’s section of the garden. Children can explore and learn a little about a flowers or insects and begin their love of gardening in this interactive space.

With all of these volunteers, gardeners and clubs working together, plus that fertile Greenbrier County soil, it’s no wonder the city has been nominated again this year (for the fourth time) as an America in Bloom participant for the 3,500 to 9,999 population category. Lewisburg won this honor in 2014.

What is America in Bloom? Its vision statement reads, “AIB envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play benefiting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.”

Judges were in town in early July, and the communities winning this prestigious national award will be announced in the fall. Good luck, Lewisburg!

As I continue my walk up Washington Street, I am happy to know, in this little city filled with people who welcome me into their homes and gardens, who offer me food and drinks, and who always have an empty chair and time to chat in the afternoon, the sense of community is real.

One of the many reasons Lewisburg is cool and bursting with blooms is because of the dedicated efforts of the many groups working together to create an inviting city for visitors and residents. Just like in the garden, where different plants mix together to create a beautiful scene, the gardeners of Lewisburg come together to create a bloom-filled West Virginia small-town gem.

Jane Powell is a longtime West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener through the Kanawha County chapter and has a garden with sunny spots and shady beds, where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs. She is also the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Reach Jane at