Her green thumb reaches beyond her personal property. For roughly the past decade, Dr. Desir has been a member of the Garden Club of New Haven, which gets involved in numerous local projects. Its 90 active members create floral arrangements for patients in area nursing homes and hospitals; schedule monthly educational lectures for the community on horticulture, everything from beekeeping to butterflies; and protect elm trees that may be under siege in the green or town square from blight or endangered by utility companies that chop them down before they tangle with power lines.
As the club’s new treasurer, she says members also purchase and plant trees in the green with help from community donations. Since the club meets every month at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the state’s agricultural experiment station that engages in scientific research, she says club members often interact with station staff, who sometimes diagnose their plants’ illnesses and develop treatment plans.
Other times, club members are a great source of knowledge. Dr. Desir recalls how she once emailed a photo of one of her favorite plants to members because she couldn’t figure out how to propagate it or grow a new one from the existing plant. She received multiple responses that proved effective. Another time, when Dr. Desir was hosting a club meeting at her home, she recalls how one member admired one of her plants, which was a present from her mother.
“She told me it was a very rare Christmas cactus,” she says. “I learn something every day from the members.”
Dr. Desir may be as proud of her plants as she is of her four children. In November 2014, the Garden Club of New Haven awarded her the prestigious Carol English Stancliff award for horticulture excellence. Then in January—the club hosts award shows for different flowers every month—she captured first, second and third prize ribbons for her three amaryllis plants.
She believes her years of gardening have taught her patience, which is especially needed when dealing with sick patients or plants. “Nothing is instantaneous in gardening or medicine,” she says.
Still, gardening is gratifying. On many mornings, she says, one of the first things she sees is a bright, beautiful plant with a new stunning flower. Perhaps there’s no better way to start off the day.
Dr. Desir can grow almost any plant, except for cyclamen, which remains a mystery. She believes the secret to gardening—indoors or outdoors—is to grow plants you enjoy. Make sure indoor plants receive plenty of sunlight, and if you live in a cold climate, start early, particularly for vegetables. Plant seeds indoors, otherwise you won’t be able to harvest veggies before the first frost.