Homeowner Susan Otranto with her 2011 William Floyd Community Project...

Homeowner Susan Otranto with her 2011 William Floyd Community Project beautification committee sign in front of her home on Floyd Road in Shirley. (Oct. 21, 2011) Credit: Desiree Keegan

When a woman approached her Shirley home in September toting a sign, Patsy Ventralogo thought she was going to be asked to place it on her front lawn to show support for a political candidate.

Instead, the sign, delivered by Pat Matthews, chairwoman of the William Floyd Community Project garden beautification committee, is a show of appreciation for Ventralogo’s well-kept landscape, which includes a flower garden filled with white begonias with green leaves, red geraniums, black-eyed Susans, mums, foxgloves and pots with assorted flowers.

“I was speechless. It was nice to be recognized for all of the hard work and maintenance I put into my garden.”

Matthews, 64, chairwoman of the garden beautification committee, along with program coordinator Sara Carmichael, have given out the signs to 40 homeowners over the past two years. The houses chosen were based on recommendations to the committee.

The recognition is meant in part to promote others -- who sometimes live in areas better known for being rundown -- to keep up their homes.

Whether or not it’s related to the committee’s efforts, Matthews said she is seeing progress.

“When driving down the street, I notice more and more the houses that have nicely kept lawns," Matthews said. “I’m not seeing the houses that are abandoned or ill-kept; they’re the rarity. They aren’t the ones jumping out at me anymore.”

Susan Otranto, 65, of Shirley, whose garden currently sports mums, a seasonal favorite, also plants other perennials like daylilies, azaleas and rhododendrons. She also likes impatiens. She received her sign in September.

"I think it is a great idea,” she said of the program. “They are doing a good job. I believe it will help people to want to do more on their property. I was thrilled to have the sign and display the sign. To me, it's an honor."

Linda Benson, 64, of Shirley, has a garden filled with perennial beds. In the spring she has tulips and daffodils. In the summer, lilies, irises and begonias. And in the fall, mums, black-eyed Susans, flowering and evergreen shrubs.

Benson was outside watering her plants when Matthews pulled up to her house. She too thought it was a political visit. “It was very nice. Matthews was very sweet. She gave me the sign to promote interest to spark a gardening gene.”

Carmichael, 30, said the program changed her perspective of the community.

Born in Canada, she has lived in the United States for five years -- in Mastic for the past four. Her garden features perennials such as hostas, begonias, junipers, cedars, daisies, roses and mums for the fall, as well as annuals like impatiens and pansies.

“I think gardeners, like myself, work hard for ourselves and for the recognition. It is something we enjoy doing. Getting the sign is like icing on the cake.”

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