In 1934, a gas station in a residential area of Perrysburg became the first project pursued by a newly founded garden club.
Four ladies, who wanted to translate their ideals into community service and action, not only spruced up the gas station property but supported a public school lunch program; added some floral punch to Walbridge Park, and beautified a section of land along Dixie Highway.
Since then the Country Garden Club of Perrysburg has grown into a 100-member organization that has raised about $400,000 for outreach efforts in northwest Ohio.
Some projects are done quietly, and others are attention-getting by design, such as when club members get hands dirty at the city garage in a project involving dozens of live trees just ahead of Thanksgiving.
This year, members will decorate 44 four-foot and four 10-foot evergreens with white lights and red bows. Holiday-adorned trees will line Louisiana Avenue for several weeks. After the holidays, the trees will be planted in the community.
Live trees are used by the garden club members rather than pine boughs that used to be stacked and decorated, and then after the holidays, the boughs would be shredded into mulch.
Using live trees is more in keeping with the garden club's focus on promoting interest and education in conservation, horticulture, and environmental concerns, said Virginia Fairhurst Keller of Perrysburg, a garden club member for several years. Her mother, Nancy Fairhurst, has been a long-time member.
Other garden club projects have included planting "gazillions of daffodils" in Hood Park; filling pots with flowers and other plants each spring at Hospice of Northwest Ohio; hosting guest speakers at public meetings, and creating landscaped "gateways" at the city's key entry areas.
After a 42-acre parcel was donated to the Wood County Park District in 1993, the garden club, recognizing the land's potential, was instrumental in preserving the site now known as the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve. The club also made the accessible trail system possible and members donated funds for an educational classroom in the Nature Center at the preserve.
In other words, this isn't a sip tea/nibble on watercress sandwiches/make flower arrangements sort of garden club.
New members, for instance, are expected to work on some sort of meaningful project, said Mrs. Keller, who clearly recalls her first project: raising awareness about the importance of not dumping oil and other such gunk or goo down storm drains.
Working with the city, she and other members "got Perrysburg to take this on," she said.
Various ways to get the message out in a permanent manner were tried, such as stenciling, but leaves and other debris would cover the wording.
Now, the message telling people that whatever goes down the storm drain ends up in the river is stamped into the sewer grates, she said.
"We brought the idea forward that this is really important, and the city realized it had value," Mrs. Keller said.
That is what club members often do: plant ideas and help them grow into fruition.
"Conservation, restoration, all of that is in our mission. We are about so much more than planting tomatoes," club president Mary Harman of Perrysburg said.
She and Mrs. Keller noted the garden club introduced Veggie U, a science program designed to encourage students to learn about plants, into Perrysburg schools.
Mrs. Keller is chairman of the Country Garden Club's main fund-raising event, the Holiday Trunk Show, a 24-year tradition in Perrysburg.
During the three-day shopping extravaganza, nearly 30 boutiques from around the country offer a variety of items, including jewelry, clothing for men and women; accessories for the home; food, and specialty gifts.
Proceeds from the event are earmarked for environmental and horticulture programs in the community.
Last year, the garden club provided the 2010 operating budget for Growing to Give, a local nonprofit organization that donates from its garden fresh produce to local charities, members said.
The holiday trunk show will be held at the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club, 502 East Second St., Perrysburg.
The reservations-only preview party is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 11; the $30 admission includes dinner beginning at 7:30 p.m. Checks can be sent to the garden club at P.O. Box 818, Perrysburg, OH 43552. The deadline is Oct. 4.
Shopping at the boutiques, at a cost of $5 admission, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12 and Oct. 13. Luncheon is available for $10 per person at the Carranor Cafe from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.
Shopping and champagne is slated from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12. Admission is $5. An appetizer buffet at the Carranor Cafe is $5.