CHESTERTOWN - When students returned to North Warren Central school this week - walking towards the front entrance - they were undoubtedly aglow with pride over the carefully groomed gardens of colorful flowers and lush landscaping.
The artistically designed and meticulously maintained floral plantings and landscaping are largely the work of Charlie Joyce, groundskeeper for the school district.
For years, the school entrance has been awash with vibrant color and intriguing textures nearly all year round.
North Warren Central indeed has outstanding gardens and landscaping - and most all of it's due to Joyce, school officials said this week. Joyce devotes many hours to cultivating and maintaining the flower beds, bushes and trees, as well as tending to all the lush lawns and sports fields - which Joyce accomplishes without pesticides.
He first volunteered for the garden and landscaping work at North Warren when he was hired as a custodian six years ago, and continued his attentive work for the past three years as groundskeeper, Superintendent of Schools Joe Murphy said.
Monday, Murphy praised Joyce's skills in garden design and maintenance.
"The balance of textures and the color schemes are incredible," Murphy said. "It's so impressive, people come here to get their picture taken with the gardens as a background."
Whether it's a lush blanket of marigolds surrounding the school's flagpole, hanging baskets of vibrant violet Scaviola flowers, lush P.J.M. Rhododendron bushes bursting with blooms, beds of Astilbe perennials, exuberant plantings of Stella Dora day lilies, or the blazing hue of Burning Bush plantings, there's always something ablaze in color surrounding the school.
Murphy and others said Joyce invests countless hours nurturing the plantings - watering and fertilizing the thousands of plants, picking off dead flowers to boost growth, establishing new species, transplanting and replacing plants to optimize the garden's appearance.
Joyce said this week that he simply enjoys his work.
"It's nothing special, I just work at it," Joyce said. "If you like what you're doing, it's easy. "
Murphy said that Joyce serves as an inspiration to students - not only the beauty he has created, but his hard work and love for his job.
"Joyce is an outstanding role model for our kids," Murphy said. "And they truly appreciate his work."
Before being hired by North Warren, Joyce was employed for about 14 years by Jim Girard Landscaping of Queensbury Beforehand, he'd worked as a logger for 15 years.
Joyce, a Brant Lake resident, deferred credit for the gardens that some say are the most attractive of all schools in the region.
"The school administration feels it's important for the grounds to look nice, and the taxpayers appreciate it," he said.