Friday, October 26, 2012

The Life of a Fellow Gardener

 By Rebekka Slate

            Robert Pioselli began gardening at the young age of seven during World War II. Mr. Pioselli lived in the Bronx with his mother, father, and sister. The summer of 1942, Mr.Pioselli, as well as his mother and grandmother, began to grow a victory garden. The garden was in support of the war effort. Victory gardens acted as a supply of food during a time of need. The family worked together to grow corn, beans, radishes, carrots, and beets. Every year from 1942 until 1945, the Pioselli family worked together to maintain the victory garden during the summer. As time went by this became a regular garden with all sorts of crops.

Robert Pioselli             (photo/Arlene Pioselli)
             Mr.Pioselli laughs as he recalls a humorous childhood memory: “I was impatient when it came to growing the crops. I used to pull the carrots out of the ground, realize that the roots were too small and would put them back into the ground. My parents could never figure out why the carrots kept wilting.” 
            During the winter months the Pioselli’s were not able to continue growing crops, but they would can the produce from the garden. The family also grew white narcissus bulbs indoors during the colder parts of the year. A friend of the family had previously traveled to Arizona and brought back cacti. This allowed the Pioselli’s family gardening to expand to a wider variety. The process of gardening was able to continue throughout the seasons. Friends and family helped to create a more diverse horticulture.
            Mr.Pioselli’s grandmother, Theresa Barriere, lived in a vacation house in Craigville, New York.  Mr.Pioselli would stay with his grandmother during the summers. The summerhouse was located near a barn as well as a brook. This brook was known as the Cromline and flowed between the house and the barn. The barn was later converted into a summer home for the Pioselli family.
            There was a large piece of flat land located near the home and the brook and this was used to create a garden. The same types of crops from the victory garden were planted in this location, as well as squash, zucchini, and ornamental gourds. Later on, a pump was installed by the brook to help irrigate the garden. The garden was fenced in to keep predators, such as woodchucks, away from the food. The family also had a flowerbed near the house’s screened in porch. Mr.Pioselli officially moved from the Bronx to Craigville in April of 1970.

            Building a Bigger Garden
            “After I got married and was living in a permanent home in Craigville, New York, I began to garden even more," he recalled. "I built a twenty by forty foot raised bed built for all my plants. I grew broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, and beans. I did have some trouble with woodchucks though; they would eat the leaves off the bean plants and leave the bean pods bare.”
            He also designed and built his own herb garden for the yard. He created various shaped beds that were separated by bricks. Mr.Pioselli recalls,” I used 200 bricks to put the herb bed together and through the process learned how to split them. In the center of the garden I placed a sundial. The plants I grew included medicinal, culinary, and ornamental herbs.”
            In 1974, Mr.Pioselli added a fourteen by sixteen foot greenhouse to his dwelling. There he grew forced bulbs, hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, crocus, and various types of anemones. Mr. Pioselli states, “In the utility room of my house I built shelves for florescent light fixtures. Under these lights I started plants for my summer gardens, and also raised an ornamental foliage plant known as coleus, of which I grow about 265 varieties.” Many of these coleuses were given to the head gardener at the Mohonk Mountain House, where they were and are still used for outdoor display.
            Ray Rogers heard of these many coleus from a mutual friend of Mr.Pioselli’s. Ray Rogers than contacted Mr.Pioselli about his plants and wanted to meet with him. Mr. Rogers later on wrote a book based on coleus plants and referred to Mr.Pioselli’s plants multiple times. Photographs, quotes, and gardening suggestions stated by Mr.Pioselli were published in a book titled “Coleus Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens.”

            Flowers Everywhere
            Mr.Pioselli states, “Presently I grow 168 daylilies, also known by the name hemerocallis, which translates to, beautiful for a day, in Greek. I also produce hardy hibiscus, which produce very large flowers spanning twelve inches across. They bloom in shades of red, white, and pink.” Mr.Pioselli laughs as he explains a moment in time when there was an over-abundance of dahlias: “They bloomed in August and our house looked like a funeral home! There were flowers everywhere, even the bathroom.”
Aside from gardening Mr.Pioselli taught accelerated 7th grade science courses at Felix Festa Jr. High in Clarkstown, New York. He worked at Felix Festa from 1968 until the birth of his granddaughter in 1993. He jokes, “I knew it was time to retire when I was teaching my student’s children.” His teaching skills were put to use later on in life when he joined a Master Gardeners group after retirement.
            In 1994 Mr. Pioselli joined the Master Gardeners of Orange County. This group has undergone special training in all areas of gardening. They give horticultural advice to the general public and provide gardening knowledge. The group meets every second Wednesday of each month.
            Mr.Pioselli has had a lot of experience in the gardening world. He influenced his son, Erik Pioselli, to be involved in horticulture. Erik Pioselli went to Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania, and is now the foreman of the turf and grounds crew at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. So in a roundabout way the gardening has gone back to where it began, with a member of the Pioselli family caring for plants in the Bronx; while Mr. Robert Pioselli still gardens at his home in Craigville, New York.

1 comment:

  1. Robert Pioselli--"Mr. Pioselli"--was my seventh-grade science teacher at Clarkstown Junior HS (later renamed for Felix Festa). This would have been in the 1969-70 academic year, I believe. He was a gifted educator and a memorable personality--thoughtful, skeptical, witty. I'm delighted to know that he's still around!

    Adam Gussow
    Assoc. Professor of English and Southern Studies
    University of Mississippi