Bloomin’ Lovely

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JUNE 18, 2008

Last night was the annual Peony Bloom and Ice Cream Social at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth. Maine Audubon celebrates the blooming of the peony gardens there with members of the Peony Circle of Friends, people who have supported the organization for more than 20 years. Walking among the rows of fragrant blossoms, I spotted a woman whose hat was decorated with the most spectacular-looking irises I have ever seen.

I learned that those flowers are a special, rare variety grown by Muriel Brown at her home in Yarmouth. Audubon membership director Linda Shary says Muriel, who will turn 90 this September, is their longest-standing member, with more than 50 years to her credit. Muriel grew up in Bath and served as an Army nurse in World War II, stationed in the South Pacific. She continued to work as a nurse when she returned to the states. She and her husband, Charlie, a musician, raised six children. Muriel’s father-in-law, an expert at identifying birdsong, sparked her interest in birds. She began going to nature programs when Maine Audubon was located on Elm St. in downtown Portland. She says, “They were a great excuse to get some time out of the house!” Audubon was her conduit for connecting her children with nature.  Her most adventuresome field trip occurred on a boat trip in which the vessel sprung a leak. The bird-watchers on board had to keep bailing until the boat was able to limp into dock.

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