LeRay Mansion Espalier cr wb.jpgLeRay Mansion sign wb.jpg



LeRay Mansion Shade Garden cr wb.jpgClockwise from top left: Tulips planted three years ago during the inaugural Beautify LeRay Day are in bloom, serving as a reminder of community efforts to help revitalize the landscape in the Historic LeRay Mansion District at Fort Drum. Heather Wagner, Fort Drum Environmental Division education and outreach coordinator, is using a horizontal Espalier design to grow three varieties of apples. The fruit tree is trained to grow flat against a wall so that it can absorb the maximum amount of heat from the sun, which accelerates the ripening process. The shade garden is a place where visitors can usually sit and rest, but participants of the 3rd annual Beautify LeRay Day at Fort Drum will be active in this area as they help to remove fall foliage and weeds. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)


Community gardening events at Fort Drum begin with 3rd annual Beautify LeRay Day


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 21, 2021) – The tulips in front of the Historic LeRay Mansion Natural Resources and Cultural Center sign are in bloom, with their red and yellow petals serving as a vibrant reminder of what the Fort Drum community helped to accomplish only a few years ago.

It was during the first Beautify LeRay Day in 2018 when a large group of volunteers planted the tulips, along with dozens of flower beds, trees and bird feeders.

While the inaugural event was made possible through a National Public Lands Day grant, the Fort Drum Environmental Division’s Cultural Resources and Natural Resources teams continued their efforts toward the beautification, restoration and resilience of these historic grounds.

Community members are invited to participate in new gardening opportunities at LeRay Mansion, starting with the 3rd annual Beautify LeRay Day from 1 to 4 p.m. April 24.

Heather Wagner, Environmental Division education and outreach coordinator, said that the events will serve not only to educate people but also to instill community pride.

“The hope is that we can organize a gardening day once a month, which would be like a garden-and-learn type program,” she said. “During the pandemic, a lot of people have turned to gardening as a way to relax and spend time outdoors.”

She said that gardens gave people a sense of achievement and food security as they began growing fruits and vegetables to cut down on trips to the market.

“So we had a lot of questions from families who aren’t familiar with our frigid North Country zone and they had bought seeds and plants too early,” she said. “Usually in this zone it’s a hard and fast rule to plant around Memorial’s Day.”

Wagner said that Saturday’s main project will be cleaning the gardens of weeds and fall foliage, clearing debris along the wood line and re-mulching and prepping raised beds.

“A lot of what we will do this weekend will be preparation for future gardening activities,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to talk about why we’re not planting anything right now but how it’s the perfect time to do all the prep work.”

The next gardening event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon May 22, when participants can learn how to grow a vegetable garden, in addition to planting annuals.

“I have something for people of all ages,” Wagner said. “If families come with little kids, I’ve got some pots where they can plant beans to take with them. If it grows, and they bring it back to me, then we can plant it in one of our gardens.”

Masks and social distancing will be required during these events. Wagner said that if community members are not comfortable with participating in a group activity but they still want to contribute to an outdoor gardening project, arrangements for a garden segment can be made by contacting bookleraymansion@gmail.com.

“This is a chance to do some gardening if you don’t have the space or ability to do this at home right now, or want to learn more about it,” she said. “Or if you’re like me, you just want to be outside and get your hands a little dirty.”