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WATCH NOW: Garden area with bench at Historic Little Post Office honors early conservationalist Sallie Mason Clarke of Garden Study Club
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WATCH NOW: Garden area with bench at Historic Little Post Office honors early conservationalist Sallie Mason Clarke of Garden Study Club

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You can now sit a spell in a garden at the Historic Little Post Office – and down and across Starling Avenue at the former home of Sallie Mason Clarke.

The bench and landscaping around it were donated by the Garden Study Club in honor of Clarke.

During a presentation there Tuesday, club president Nancy Baker said Heidi Pinkston, executive director of Piedmont Arts, which owns the property, was supportive of the idea from the start; Will Gravely, the caretaker of the Historic Little Post Office, helped the planning; landscaper C.D. Prillaman helped with the Japanese maples, pachysandra and stone paver; and Gene Medley laid out and installed an automated sprinkler system.

Born in 1921, Clarke was the daughter of Dr. Drewry and Lady Mason and the wife of Dr. John W. Clark, Lauren Prince said.

“For many years, Sallie was an inspiration to the members of the Garden Study Club” its auxiliary group, Debbie Lewis said.

Clark taught women about gardening and flower arrangement, she said. “Those of us who had the privilege of being her students will never forget the elements and principles of flower design: line, form pattern, texture, color.”

Clarke was known for saying, “I am a native; that’s what gives me the authority to see what beautiful things we can do for the community” and “The best in man’s nature cannot survive without beauty,” Lewis said.

More importantly, Clarke worked on beautification and anti-litter projects before those campaigns were common, Prince said. Her work was honored with many awards, including one from Gov. Mills Godwin Jr.

She dubbed herself “Queen of Garage,” Lewis said, and loved to tell the story of how, when she and four prominent women were picking up trash on Northside drive, a city garbage truck driver asked them if they were from the city jail.

In 1980, the GSC Auxiliary dedicated a garden at Piedmont Arts in her honor, and Will Gravely designed the bench for it, Prince said.

Clarke was awarded the deLacy Gray Memorial Medal for Conservation from the Garden Club of Virginia for her work in conservation, Prince said.

The bench area was the club’s Centennial Beautification project and spearheaded by club members Judy Epperly, Martha Medley, Lewis and Prince, Baker said. It commemorates the 100th anniversary of GCV and is near the 75th anniversary of the GCV.

Other projects of the GSC have been the library garden, landscaping at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, plantings around the Martinsville City Limit signs and the Paw Path Pollinator gardens at the Smith River Sports Complex, Stuart Webster said.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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