A Thousand Flowers to Bloom at the John Jermain Memorial Library

A rendering of the John Jermain Memorial Library Community Reading Garden.
A rendering of the John Jermain Memorial Library Community Reading Garden.
A rendering of the John Jermain Memorial Library Community Reading Garden.

By Douglas Feiden

The Dianthus firewitch is about to descend on the John Jermain Memorial Library.

But children should not be frightened. It isn’t clad in black cloak or pointed hat. It isn’t arriving on a broomstick. And it doesn’t posses evil magical powers.

It does, however, announce its presence in a pretty dramatic way, through the power and the majesty of its scent. That’s because the Firewitch, more commonly known as a gillyflower, is a dark pink carnation that exudes a lovely, spicy-clove kind of fragrance.

The perennial is one of 18 varieties that will be planted as part of the new Community Reading Garden, a 1,170-square-foot, tree- ringed, scented garden space that is expected to debut later this year on the Jefferson Street side of the library,

Underwritten by Jo Malone Inc., which markets its luxury colognes under the brand name of Jo Malone London, the garden will offer deep aromas, visual appeal and a tranquil, perhaps even spiritual, gathering place to all patrons who approach the library around the corner from its traditional Main Street entrance.

That means seniors using the wheelchair-accessible ramp, or kids scampering down the seven steps from the landing on Jefferson Street, will traverse a path through dogwoods, Spanish bluebells, winter jasmine, purple geraniums, coral bells, candytufts, grape hyacinths and fragrant purple re-blooming iris, not to mention pansies and peonies.

“The garden is going to be very floral and very fragrant, with something going on at least three of the four seasons,” said Beth Franz, the landscape project designer retained by the library to design both the Jo Malone garden and the overall library grounds.

“And no one is ever going to get in trouble for touching the flowers, and no sign will ever say, ‘Do Not Touch,’” she added.

On the contrary, library-goers will be encouraged to pick up some plantings, like the creeping thyme and fragrant lemon thyme, and crush them between their fingers.

“A child may want to pinch it, brush up against it and lean over to smell the flowers and touch the blossoms,” Ms. Franz said. “It’s all encouraged. But hopefully, they won’t pick the flowers!”

The garden’s overall color scheme will be pink, purple and white, with a dash of other coloration, like the fragrant orange, purple and peach irises, for instance. Scents will include the citrus whiff of lemon thyme; the sweeter aromas of roses and peonies, and spicier scents, like the firewitch.

Of the 18 curated perennial plantings, 13 of them tie into Jo Malone London brand fragrances like jasmine, wood sage, sea salt, iris, peony and rhubarb.

The library keeps most donor information confidential and declines to disclose how much Jo Malone is contributing to underwrite the project. The company also doesn’t reveal its donation.

A 9-inch-by-12-inch, ground-mounted plaque acknowledges the charitable initiative, and a draft of the language to be used now says, “Community Reading Garden. Cared for by the John Jermain Memorial Library and supported by Jo Malone Inc.”

The project allows JJML to “extend the traditional reading-room concept out into the physical world,” said Catherine Creedon, the library’s director since 2007.

“And the plantings, seating and outdoor space provide a living, breathing, three-dimensional addition to our library collection,” she added.

The garden is separated into four separate sections, with the two on either side of the accessible ramp dominated by dogwood trees, Victoria rhubarb plants, cascading winter jasmine and a ground cover of bluebells.

The two other sections, to the right of the descending Jefferson Street stairs, include hornbeam shade trees, lily of the valley ground cover and an L-shaped, perennial-dominated main garden area sheltered behind an 18-inch-tall granite wall.

Even that granite retaining wall at the base of the L-shaped planting area has a story, and it is in keeping with the library’s stated goal of using as much reclaimed material as possible in its soon-to-be completed rebuilding project:

“Your granite went from a historic bridge in Massachusetts to a historic library in Sag Harbor,” explains Biz Reed, the chief operating officer of Olde New England Granite, a national supplier of reclaimed granite products.

About five years ago, the Essex-Merrimack Drawbridge, built in 1882, was demolished and rebuilt. Its piers, constructed with venerable Rockport-Cape Ann granite, were rescued and reclaimed by Mr. Reed’s Wakefield, Massachusetts-based company.

Those building blocks from the bridge demolition are now being incorporated into the library’s outdoor public garden spaces. And the vintage is only two or three decades off, in that the underbelly of the 19th century bridge is now being repurposed as part of the reinvented 1910 library campus.