A love of the land: Local gardener sows seeds of hard work and devotion

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith. Loy Summers' celebrated home garden, including this lovely Yoshino cherry tree, is in bloom in celebration of spring.

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith. Loy Summers' celebrated home garden, including this lovely Yoshino cherry tree, is in bloom in celebration of spring.

Editor's Note: In recognition of National Women's History Month, throughout March the Citizen will profile local women who have impacted the community in a positive way. Though many of these women's accomplishments may be mostly unsung, they have each, in their own way, made their mark on history.

COVINGTON -- When Loy Summers makes a commitment, she keeps it.

Summers joined the Covington Garden Club as a young bride in her 20s and more than 50 years later, she's the organization's longest-serving member. She was one of the first community members to volunteer with Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful 28 years ago, and she's still involved there, too. She is a charter member of the Newton County Historical Society and is still active. She is the first, and only, chair of the city of Covington's tree advisory board, having served in that position for 19 years. And she's held numerous positions over the past 36 years with the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.

Summers doesn't seem to think these decades of commitment and service are too remarkable. "Anybody could have done it," and "I really didn't do that much," are her typical responses when asked about her community work. Those who've worked alongside her disagree, though.

"I don't think there's anything she cannot do. She can do any and everything and everything that she does is with perseverance and dedication and love," said Glenda Pound, a friend of more than 40 years and fellow Garden Club member. "She has her own ideas about how things should be, and her zest for life shows in everything she does ... She never refuses if somebody asks her and she feels like it is a good cause and something she wants to be involved in. You know when she does something, it's going to be done right."

Summers is in her second term as president of the Covington Garden Club, of which she is a founding member. One of the club's most notable projects is the creation of an arboretum at Academy Springs Park. In 2002, she received a certificate of merit from the Garden Club of Georgia for her work.

Born on a farm near Mansfield, Summers cultivated a love of the land early on. A self-taught horticulturalist, her backyard garden has been featured in several publications, including "The Landscape Design Answer Book" by Jane Bath, an award-winning landscape designer. The garden has also been featured on the Callaway Gardens Great Plant Hunt garden tour.

Connie Waller, former executive director of Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful, said Summers has been an advocate for the organization from its beginning. Among her contributions is helping design Covington's and Newton County's first welcome sign and the associated landscaping on Alcovy Road. She was named Woman of the Year in 1992 by the local organization and placed third on the state level.

"I've always found her to be extremely generous with her time and God-given gifts and talents. I feel like she's made such a difference in the city of Covington with her volunteer efforts with the tree board," Waller said. "I'm looking around right now as I'm driving through the city at all the gorgeous spring color because of the beautiful trees. Loy was instrumental in getting an arborist in the city of Covington and in Newton County. Her contributions to the community are wonderful not only for us now but for our children and grandchildren in the future."

As chair of the city's tree board, Summers helped craft the city's first tree ordinance, which, in part, set regulations on how many trees must be preserved or planted when lots are developed. She has helped secure the city's designation as a Tree City USA for 19 years running. She is also a member of Covington Trees, a non-profit organization that plants trees on private property.

"I'm going to hug the trees 'til the very end," she said.

Summers also helped landscape the old judicial annex, decorate and landscape the Chamber of Commerce office and serves on the Flower Guild of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, providing flower arrangements for the altar.

She has volunteered on both the state and local levels with Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as state registrar, curator and chaplain. Other service positions include past president of Covington Rose Society and volunteer with the Newton Medical Center Auxiliary.

Asked why she's been involved with so many organizations over the years, Summers jokes it's because "I don't know how to say no." But really, she says, it's because her family taught her that "everybody should contribute what they can to make this a better place in which to live."

"If I can leave a little part of this Earth better off after I'm here, I guess that's what I'd like my legacy to be," she said.