Wilton High School graduate Brett Gilman was awarded the Wilton Garden Club’s Marybeth Wheeler Scholarship Award at the virtual Wilton High School Academic Awards Ceremony on June 8.

“I am so pleased to have such a deserving award recipient who is committed to making the world a better place. I hope he will join the Wilton Garden Club if he returns here after his studies,” Nancy Greeley, president of the Wilton Garden Club, said.

The scholarship honors the memory of Marybeth Wheeler, a member of the Wilton Garden Club for over 50 years. Wheeler dedicated herself to conservation, especially the preservation and propagation of native flora, and led several state and national organizations aimed at protecting and preserving the natural world. Perhaps most notably, Wheeler created the Garden Club’s Herbarium, which featured over 1,000 plant species growing in Wilton. Subsequently, she authored the award-winning book, Ferns and Flowering Plants of Wilton.

Club officials say that Gilman was presented the award in recognition of his dedication to and excellence in science, conservation, horticulture, and the environment. Over the course of his senior year, Gilman contributed extensively to the Ecotype Project by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA), a revolutionary initiative that aims to provide homeowners and landscapers with wildflowers featuring a genetic heritage native to Connecticut. Under Gilman’s leadership, Wilton High School became the first educational organization to be a part of the Ecotype Project. He led a delegation of fellow Organic Garden Club members to present about the Ecotype Project at CT NOFA’s Winter Conference at Wesleyan University in March and was the driving force behind the Ecotype Project’s first native plant plug sale, which was hosted by the WHS Organic Garden Club in April. In addition, Gilman created a protocol describing how other schools can join the project. Most recently, Gilman has partnered with the Wilton Land Conservation Trust to install over 1,000 of these native wildflowers on Land Trust properties. These installations will reintroduce biodiversity into local open spaces, providing wild pollinators with essential floral resources and habitat.

In addition to his work with the Ecotype Project, Gilman has distinguished himself in many other ways. As president of the WHS Organic Garden, Gilman has enjoyed digging in the dirt with his fellow classmates, producing a bounty of organic vegetables for organizations like the Wilton Food Pantry and Harlem Grown. The high school’s greenhouse has also provided him with a setting to teach himself the horticultural art of bonsai. For almost a decade now, Gilman has been involved in local agriculture and conservation; he volunteers as a mentor in Ambler Farm’s Apprentice Program and in the Garden Gang at Weir Farm National Historic Site.

“Gilman and Wheeler clearly share a love for native plants and the environment, and the Wilton Garden Club is excited to see such a passionate youth carrying on Wheeler’s legacy,” Greeley added.

As a member of the class of 2024.5, Gilman will begin his studies at Middlebury College in February, where he intends to further pursue his passion for the environment.