‘A Win-Win for Everyone Involved’: With Generosity and Care, a Plant-Loving Legacy Endures in New Canaan


Dr. Nicholas and Ashley Rutigliano moved to New Canaan last summer from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A Brooklyn native whose wife hailed from Stamford, Rutigliano said the couple had been pregnant—their daughter Emilia is now nine months old—and began “thinking of where to set our roots.”

L-R: Sandy Siegel, Dr. Nick Rutigliano with daughter Emilia, and Faith Kerchoff, co-president of the New Canaan Beautification League. Contributed

They found an apt home on Millport Avenue.

The Cape Cod-style house at number 156 had been owned since 1973 by Bruce Pauley, a fourth-generation New Canaanite and owner of the still-active Pauley Tree & Lawn Care Inc. who had stepped down the prior summer as town tree warden. Pauley and his wife Elaine—together with ‘Deputy Tree Warden’ Bheema, his ever-present and handsome young German shepherd dog—set their eyes on retiring to 33 acres in Vermont, and the Rutiglianos closed on the Millport Avenue house last June.

The owner of SANO Physical Therapy & Wellness, providing services to patients in their own homes, Nicholas Rutigliano had come to know the Pauleys through purchasing their home and understood on moving in that they’d “taken care of and nurtured” their property to a high degree.

“Big Dig” planters for the Pauley project included: Kathy Lapolla, Yvonne Hunkeler, Faith Kerchoff, Tracy Phillips, Sandy Siegel, Rob Carpenter, Peggy and Eric Dannemann, Robin Bates-Mason, Liz Orteig, Joan Hayenga, Betsy Sammarco, Bianca Romano, and Tonya Gwynn.

“It was a labor of love for them so I decided not to throw everything out and discard it,” Rutigliano said of numerous and varied Pauley flowers and plants on the quarter-acre property. “I wanted to give back something that is naturalistic and holistic.”

He phoned nature centers and schools in New Canaan as well as Darien, Greenwich and Stamford to see if they’d accept the plantings out back of the home. Finally, he connected with the venerable, 1939-founded New Canaan Beautification League.

“They called back, said they’d love to come by and take a look, that they would be interested,” Rutigliano.

The plants that line the curb and sidewalk in front of the freshly painted Thrift Shop at Main and Locust in downtown New Canaan are donations from Dr. Nick Rutigliano to the New Canaan Beautification League, which handled the re-planting from the Pauleys’ home on Millport Avenue. Credit: Michael Dinan

Were they ever.

League Co-President Faith Kerchoff said there were “easily” more than 150 plants to be had.

Thanks to Rutigliano and the Beautification League—with an assist from the town—those plants now adorn traffic triangles and streetscapes throughout New Canaan, as well as the organization’s Lee Garden (now in bloom) on Chichester Road, Kerchoff said.

156 Millport Ave. in New Canaan. Dr. Nick and Ashely Rutigliano are maintaining the Pauleys’ plantings in the front and alongside the house. Credit: Michael Dinan

At the triangle in front the Thrift Shop at Main and Locust, the Beautification League re-planted sun-loving dianthus, daisies, liriope, Hakone grass, carex grass and evening primrose. Many of the shade plants are now at the Lee Garden, Kerchoff said, there’s lady’s mantle at the Center School bell pocket park at South and Maple, and there are three large grasses at Route 123-and-Carter, Country-Club-and-123 and Rosebrook-and-Brushy-Ridge.

“We were very grateful when Dr. Nick called us in early April,” Kerchoff told NewCanaanite.com. “He wants to learn about plants that are in his yard, he still has the front and sides to care for, all planted by Elaine and Bruce Pauley.”

The doctor’s generosity has given the league a chance to cross two projects it had of its list—the Thrift Shop triangle and train station driveway.

“The town crew, led by [Department of Public Works Highway Chief] Mose Saccary, were so helpful in preparing the ground at the train station for us,” she said. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved, a community effort for the New Canaan Beautification League.”

4 thoughts on “‘A Win-Win for Everyone Involved’: With Generosity and Care, a Plant-Loving Legacy Endures in New Canaan

  1. Thank you to the Rutiglianos and as always, the Beautification League, for their love of plants, hard work, and dedication!

  2. Mike,
    This amazing story brought tears to my eyes. I frequently have dreams about the New Canaan house…a gradual way of letting go. It was on the market longer that we hoped, but when Nicholas and Ashley wrote us the most heartfelt letter regarding their love for our home, we were glad for the time without a buyer.
    I learned how to grow things from my time on a farm in Mississippi. But pretty landscapes were not the focus then. We grew food for our animals and ourselves.
    It was not until I came to New Canaan and volunteered at the Nature Center that I learned to value the aesthetic aspect of gardening. Many of the plants in my garden were given to me by such gardening gurus as Reba Roorbach, Brace Foster, Ann Gillerlain, and Stan Barnes. Most of what I know I learned working side by side with them. I know Faith and Sandy will remember them.
    So it is fitting that their gifts to me, so very long ago, are going to the very places they helped create. That would not be happening without the effort of Nicholas and Ashley to honor and keep alive a New Canaan gardening tradition.
    When we plant gardens, if we have been fortunate to know great teachers, we also plant stories. I left those plants behind, knowing they would not survive the move to our colder climate, but the stories are here in my heart.
    In gratitude,
    Elaine Pauley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *