Along with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swooped over our country like a dark cloud, leaving many of us wondering what to do with the sudden abundance of time on our hands.

Like many of you, several members of Gardeners by the Sea turned to our kitchens on the chilly and bad-weather days for comfort—baking bread (sour dough, of course), cakes, casseroles, and pizzas, giving them away to friends and neighbors. But before long, the sun started making more appearances, the days began warming and the outside was calling us.

In a recent article, Andrew Ketchner of “Market Watch” wondered why gardening during a pandemic is so comforting. His conclusion: “There are certain very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we are feeling shaky.”

In Delaware, garden centers are considered essential as the suppliers for landscaping businesses and quickly found new ways to serve their customers.

Alva Hutchison, president of Gardeners by the Sea, found that being forced to stay at home turned out to be an enjoyable and comforting experience.

“I was out in our garden every day. Like no other year, we watched leaves bud, perennials break through the ground and flowers bloom. I captured photos to keep as a journal.”

During the pandemic, the Hutchisons added a water garden on their deck. They placed their fountain in a small rubber pond and filled it with water plants and a few goldfish.

“It is definitely a learning and soothing experience to have the balance of the water, plants and fish,” Alva told me. She said that Willia from Millville Pet Stop and Sam from Lord’s Landscaping (both located on Atlantic Avenue) helped by recommending products and offering great advice.

From a personal experience, my husband and I have lived in our new home for one year, and until recently I had almost no time to garden. I truly embraced this unique “stay-at-home” time to add color, texture and interest to our yard.

I began by planting colorful flowers purchased from outdoor garden centers (wearing my mask, of course). My mom, a Master Gardener, and I had planted several bulbs back in the early spring, and it was fun watching them come to life.

Recently, I developed an interest in creating a pollinator garden to attract songbirds, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Each day, I see an increased in my winged visitors, including a wide variety of bees.

Sandra Lopez joined Gardeners by the Sea in 2009 and has inspired so many of us with her 30-year-old Edén Cottage Garden. The garden features simple, unpretentious perennials collected over the years, including camellias, lilacs, viburnums, cherry blossoms, crabapples and magnolias. Featured on the Bethany Beach cottage tours, visitors have immensely enjoyed her picturesque, fragrant flowers and year-round evergreen garden.

Lopez is conducting a “Flower Baskets” workshop at our garden club on Thursday, Sept. 10, as we prepare for our “Photographing Flowers” class by Michele Walfred in November. Lopez serves as chair of Garden Therapy for one of the club’s community projects. She plans and coordinates a monthly visit to the CHEER Senior Center at the Pyle Center in Frankford. They work with the seniors on gardening and environmental projects that provide them with creativity, social activity and promotes movement.

Nationwide, Garden Clubs celebrated National Garden Week, June 7-13, to promote “beautification, education of environmental efforts, gardening and involvement of Garden Clubs” in our communities. This year’s Flower Show and activities had to be canceled but many of us celebrated in our respective gardens.

National Pollinator Week (Pollinator.org) is June 22-28. It’s widely known that honeybees are threatened with worldwide extinction due to habitat loss, disease and pesticide poisoning. The Honeybee Conservancy (https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/) shares that “a growing body of research shows that over 40 percent of insect pollinators are highly threatened globally, including our native bees.”

Did you know that pollinators are responsible for nearly one in every three bites of food we consume? This occurs at a time when 40 million people in the U.S. are food-insecure. The Conservancy’s mission is “to address both issues through bee conservation, education and local sustainability.”

Alva and Sandra Lopez’s gardens are filled with native plants to attract bees and birds. Together, we can make a significant impact. More information is available in the “Pollinator Power Book,” which you can download for information and projects, at gardenclub.org.

Gay Austin, president of National Garden Clubs stated, “It’s a wonderful time to be a home gardener, because you’re home. You don’t have to be an expert — your local garden centers are always more than happy to help get you started. You might also want to consider joining your local garden club — there are more than 5,000 nationwide.”

Besides Gardeners by the Sea, there are several other garden clubs in our local communities. For more information, visit delawaregardenclubs.org.

Interested in joining a Delaware Garden Club? Please join us Sept. 10 for our membership information meeting at the South Coastal Library, 43 Kent Avenue, Bethany Beach, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Do you like to garden? Are you interested in home landscaping? Do you want to learn about floral design? Do you support community and environmental causes? Come learn about joining a Delaware Garden Club. No obligation — just information.

To RSVP for the meeting or for more information, contact Maureen at irishmom08@gmail.com or (302) 988-1196. (Sponsored by Gardeners By The Sea & Coastal Gardeners, members of the Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs and National Garden Clubs).

Sandra Erbe is an artist, a passionate gardener and a full-time Realtor with Keller Williams. She is a proud member of Gardeners by the Sea in Ocean View.