Garden Club is grounded in history
Updated 9:36 pm, Wednesday, April 3, 2013
1923: The garden club is founded by Zelma Lelacy Steele, the first president. Dues are 25 cents.
June 1924: The first flower show is held at the Odd Fellows hall with junior members participating; the club plants an evergreen tree and it becomes known as the municipal Christmas tree, which members decorate; and the club has grown so much, meetings are moved to St. John's Episcopal Church parish hall.
1925: A conservation effort/contest is held. Five dollars is awarded to a Boy Scout who destroyed the most caterpillar nests.
1927: Steele dies and a mountain ash tree is planted in her honor to the west of the Lincoln monument near the historical society.
1928: In a conservation effort, members spray the trees on the Village Green and plant shrubs at the intersection of Elm, East and Poplar streets.
1929: The club joins the newly formed Connecticut Federation of Garden Clubs as a charter member.
1931: Floral gifts are given to hospital patients; a plant and flower sale is held; a junior section of the club starts; and the first flower and plant sale starts on the Village Green.
1932: The club entertains the Connecticut Federation in October; and the official junior section of the club begins under the leadership of Mrs. George DeVoe, with 35 members enrolled.
1933: The club pays for landscaping at the library.
1935: The first Christmas doorway contest takes place.
1936-1940: Various events are held but there are little records with details.
1941: A card party is held to benefit the American Red Cross; seeds are sent to England and Russia; home canning is done for New Milford Hospital; members make surgical dressings and victory gardens; gifts and flowers are sent to veterans' hospitals at Easter; money is sent to British relief; and contributions are made for returning service men and women.
1943: A harvest show is held to showcase local victory gardens.
1944-47: Harvest shows are held, with 4-H participation, demonstrations and more.
1948: The club celebrates 25 years; the first history of the club is written; and club membership is 132.
1949-54: Details are unavailable.
1955: Mrs. John Sarano, a landscape architect, becomes the first member to become a flower show judge and trains younger members.
1956: The first yearbook is produced; arrangements are done at the library; Christmas decorations are made for the library and hospital; favors are made for hospital patients; and magazine subscriptions are given to the Veterans Hospital in Newington.
1957: For the town's sestercentennial, the club plants five maple trees on the Village Green.
1957-59: Shows are held.
1960: A June show, which draws 500 visitors, wins a state award, and the junior club prospers under the leadership of Helen Marx.
1961: At the suggestion of Pal Ferris, the junior members plant weeping willows along the Housatonic River, under the direction of Marx, a project for which the junior group receives a Sears Roebuck Award; Kathy Smyrski wins the Junior Cora B. Caldwell Horticultural Cup; a house tour and flower show is held, with proceeds to benefit landscaping at the high school on Sunny Valley Road; the club plants shrubs in front of town hall and wins a prize from the federation; and Christmas decorations are sold.
1962: Membership is 92.
1963: The club marks its 40th year and celebrates with a house and garden tour; a special folder and history of the club is put together as a memento; a raffle is held with a $500 prize of planting and foundation landscaping, the purchase of trees or remodeling of old plantings; and 25-year members are honored.
1964: The club receives recognition for plantings at town hall, its 1963 house and garden tour and its yearbook; locust trees are planted at the high school and John Pettibone School; the garden therapy program begins; Mrs. Francis Ferris suggests replacing the plastic Christmas tree on the Village Green, thus live Christmas trees are planted, a project now led by the United Methodist Men's group.
1965: Under the direction of Margaret Rennie and Ann Dube, the Main Street beautification project begins with the planting of Hawthorne trees and base plantings in tubs on the Village Green, a project for which merchants were solicited for funds to defray the $1,000 cost; a maple tree is planted on the Green; and the club presents a 14-volume set of the "New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening" to the library.
1966-67: Civic projects continue.
1968: The club supplies the hospital, library and town hall with forced bulbs in bloom from the Harrybrooke Park greenhouse.
1969: New Milford Heritage, a house and garden tour on and around the Green, is held; flowering crab trees are planted in the tubs to replace the hawthorns that died off; the club sponsors the planting of shrubs at the hospital; and a clipping book is kept for the first time.
1970: Marx finishes her 10th year as junior gardeners chairwoman with the federation, and the club has a booth at the Village Fair Days.
1971: A June show, "This Old House," is held at the home of Jo Tasman, an event that wins a state award, and petunias are planted around the tubs on the Green.
1972: The club is awarded a citation for its environmental improvement program by the federation with work done for the then Eliot Pratt Outdoor Education Center, and the club educates the community about the use of phosphates around Candlewood Lake.
1973: The club marks its 50th year with a gala performance house and garden tour.
1974: A green thumb horticultural show is held at Canterbury School; the first tag, food and plant sale is held at Veterans Plaza; and the club gives $500 for improvements to Young's Field.
1975: Under the guidance of Ferris and Ann Stone, the club plans a Colonial garden at the historical society, and Alice McCallister is honored with a life membership, the first such awarded by the club.
1976: The club receives the Bicentennial Award of Celebration from the federation for its flower show and house tour, which it staged in cooperation with the Bicentennial Committee of New Milford, and the Colonial garden is dedicated at the historical society and is named the Edgar Williams Colonial Garden for Williams, the architect who designed the historical society building and the father of Ferris.
1977: The club plants the enclosed patio with flowers and greenery at the hospital.
1978: Tasman is presented a lifetime membership in the federation, and the club donates $1,000 for evergreens at Young's Field and $500 to Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust toward land acquisition.
1979: Efforts to fight the gypsy moth threat are made by removing egg cases from trees on the Green.
1980: Monthly raffles are held as fundraisers; Rennie is presented a life membership with the federation; the club receives a historical preservation certificate of achievement from the federation for the Colonial Garden; and Lennie Lillis is one of a handful of arrangers from the state invited to exhibit at the Washington Cathedral to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Council of State Garden Clubs.
1981: The club replaces evergreens damaged at Young's Field.
1982: Mrs. Warren Weaver is elected to life membership in the club; the club participates in the first annual Daffodil Festival; and hybrid poplars are planted at Northville Elementary School.
1983: The club marks its 60th anniversary; Gladys Miller is given an honorary life membership in the club; a plant clinic is held on the Green; Stone is honored by the Federation Garden Club for her work at the Colonial Garden and other efforts.
1984: Five-hundred daffodils are given to nursing homes; tulips and crocuses are planted and other flowers are added in the hospital patio; and the club contributes to the Statue of Liberty restoration effort.
1985: A willow tree and day lilies are planted at Boardman Bridge.
1986: The club opposes a 50-foot plastic, illuminated sign proposed by CVS, and a carved painted sign was used instead; thirty-two flowering crabapple trees donated to the town by the state are planted by the club along the entrance of New Milford High School driveway and two are planted at the rear entrance of the senior center; visits to the nursing homes continue.
1987: The club installs formal brick walks at the Colonial Garden, as well as a bench and a sundial.
1988: The club starts the Art for the Elderly project and more than 150 plants are planted at the hospital.
1989: Work continues at the historical society, hospital and the tubs on the Green.
1990: Six redwood tubs are placed and planted at the hospital entrance for a grand opening of a new addition and a composting display is put together for Earth Day.
1991: Shrubs and flowers are planted at the hospital mental health clinic.
1992: The club receives two awards.
1993: The club celebrates its 70th year; membership is 79, with three honorary members; weekly floral arrangements and holiday wreath ornaments are made for the hospital.
1994: The club sponsors the Flowering of the Green contest, encouraging downtown business people to decorate window boxes and containers with flowers, and more than 700 luminaries are lighted around the Green on Christmas Eve.
1995: The Flowering of the Green contest continues; more luminaries are added for Christmas Eve; the bandstand is again decorated for the holidays; and plants at the library and tubs on the Green are cared for.
1996: The club plants 27 ornamental pear trees on both sides of Main Street; the club co-sponsors cleanup day with Parks & Recreation; and a Hospice garden is added at the New Milford Visiting Nurse Association.
1997: Civic work continues.
1998: The club celebrates its 75th year; the club plants 60 pear trees beginning at Veterans Memorial Bridge and continuing up Bridge Street and along the east and west sides of Main Street; and the club helps the Girl Scouts with a butterfly garden at Clatter Valley.
1999: There are 40 active members, four honorary members, eight associate members and three life members.
2002: Among ongoing activities, the club creates a website.
2004: Evenings meeting are offered for the first time.
2005: Civic projects continue; a flower show is held; the club participates in a community volunteer day; and members plant 160 daffodil bulbs at the entrance of Lover's Leap State Park.
2007: The club wins the most effective float award in the town's tricentennial parade and plants a "300" marigold garden near Veterans Memorial Bridge and a donation to eradicate the Mile-a-Minute plant, among other ongoing activities, is made.
2010: The town garden at the triangle is dug up and dismantled while another at Bridge Street is damaged due to a town road reconstruction project.
2011-12: Activities continue.
2013: The club celebrates its 90th anniversary.