By Carla Charter
SHELBURNE FALLS, MA. -Every summer a Bridge of Flowers comes alive in the town of Shelburne Falls. Behind that bridge of vibrant colors, is an army of volunteers planning and creating the garden long before it opens. “The Bridge of Flowers is a unique bridge and is reputed to be the first of its kind in the country. Planning for the Bridge of Flowers begins as early as February for the upcoming season,” said Carol Angus, of the Bridge of Flowers Committee.
The Bridge of Flowers under the auspices of the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club, is overseen by the Bridge of Flowers Committee, with seats filled by local community members. The flowers on the bridge are cared for by a professional head gardener and assistant gardener. The Blossom Brigade, a team of volunteers, also work weekly under the head gardener, assisting with chores such as deadheading plants and digging out weeds. “The professional gardener makes the decisions as to what to plant and where to plant it. The committee oversees the budget and oversees the upkeep of the bridge itself,” said Angus.
The Bridge of Flowers had its beginnings as a trolley bridge. “The trolley would take raw materials across the river to factories in the hill towns. That continued for a number of years until the coming of the automobile which lead to the trolley being outmoded. The bridge then started growing weeds,” Angus said.
The Bridge of Flowers began in 1927 when flowers were placed on the bridge by Antoinette Burnham and her husband so that the bridge would not look so unsightly. “She thought if it can grow weeds it can grow flowers,” Angus said.
The history of the loving care of the bridge stretches into the modern day as well. “In the 1980’s when repairs to the bridge itself needed to be done, all the plants on the bridge were dug up and we sent the plants to local gardens to be tended. Then they were returned to the bridge when it reopened.,” Angus continued.
Many of the flowers on the bridge are grown locally in greenhouses and local gardens with plants occasionally coming from catalogs as well. Among the plants cared for at the garden include Dahlias, a type of perennial tuber, which are dug up every fall then stored to winter over and placed back in the garden in the spring. “The colors of the dahlias are absolutely spectacular. They have huge heads,” Angus said.
“The Bridge of Flowers attracts thousands and thousands and thousands of visitors each year. We have a sign in book and we attract people from every state and country. We are proud of the range of people it attracts from around the world. People get married on the bridge as well,” she continued.
There is an annual Bridge of Flowers plant sale, this year on May 18 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on the Village Green. Plants for sale include divided perennials from plants on the bridge as well as plants donated from gardens and greenhouses. “The sale is the biggest means of maintaining our budget,” Angus said.
The Bridge of Flowers opens on April 1, weather permitting, and closes on October 31. The bridge is also decorated with holiday lights during the Holiday season. More information on the Bridge of Flowers, including updates on the bridge’s opening can visit the Bridge of Flower’s website at www.bridgeofflowersmass.org