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Babylon greenhouse starting to bloom

Babylon Village horticulturists Santina Fawess, left, and Evelyn

Babylon Village horticulturists Santina Fawess, left, and Evelyn Eagan, right, prune trees in front of Village Hall. (March 30, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

It’s almost as if Santina Fawess and Evelyn Eagan have 14,000 babies that they lovingly raise and watch grow.

Laboring in the warmth of the Babylon Village greenhouse, the two full-time horticulturists grow and nurture a large majority of the plants that grace the village’s 50 garden spaces.

“It’s very satisfying,” Fawess said. “To see these little things start to grow and then flower, it’s like watching a child grow.”

The village acquired the greenhouse in 1984, when a nearby nursery closed and donated it, said highway superintendent Skip Gardner. Since then, the village has become nearly self-sufficient in terms of its gardening needs. In addition to the plants that come from the greenhouse, the Babylon Beautification Society also raises more than $30,000 to purchase 800 hanging plants every spring.

The village budgets about $90,000 a year for the greenhouse, which includes both full-time staffers, supplies, and six to eight high school students who do part-time work during the summer, said Mayor Ralph Scordino

Fawess, of Babylon Village, and Eagan, of West Islip, have each worked in the greenhouse for five years.

“We get to see it from little, tiny babies til the very end,” Eagan said, adding that they also do the landscaping. “Of course at the very end, it’s sad, because then we have to rip everything out.”

Both have shared a long love of plants and gardening, they said, and believe that their business know-how makes them successful horticulturists.

“It’s like a dance,” Fawess said. “You have to be able to manage it all. You have to work on a rigid schedule, but also be able to be flexible.”

The two women, who did not know each other before starting the job, work together year-round -- growing things like mums and cabbage for the fall, daffodils and hyacinth for the spring and even decorating the village with wreaths for Christmas.

Eagan and Fawess also design the village’s gardens, and come May, will start planting.

“It is very hard work,” Eagan said. “We love it, and we love the planting, but sometimes we sit back and look at these 14,000 plugs and think, ‘well now we have to plant 14,000 flowers.’”

Fawess said people are always impressed by their two-person crew, and it’s nice to emerge from the greenhouse each year to plant and have people stop them and admire their work.

“We have a lot of encouragement from the residents,” she said. “They get very happy when they see us out and about getting ready for the planting.”

On Wednesday, as temperatures neared 50 and the sun shone, Eagan and Fawess did venture out of the greenhouse to prune the crape myrtle trees in front of village hall. They were outside barely 20 minutes when some residents walking by stopped to say hello and admire the work.

“That’s really satisfying for us,” Fawess said. “To create these spaces for them.”

Photo: Babylon Village horticulturists Santina Fawess, left, and Evelyn Eagan, right, prune trees in front of Village Hall. (March 30, 2011)

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