Friend­ships in bloom

Gar­den Club of Kitch­ener-Water­loo marks six decades

Grand Magazine - - FEATURE - BY SAN­DRA WALNECK t

Iseemed only fit­ting that the sun shone brightly as the Gar­den Club of Kitch­ener-Water­loo cel­e­brated 60 years of fan­tas­tic flo­ral dis­plays and friend­ship. The sun­light spilled through the tall win­dows of Kitch­ener’s Vic­to­ria Park Pav­il­ion, high­light­ing lovely ar­range­ments of plants and flow­ers. There was ev­ery­thing from small suc­cu­lent gar­dens to tow­er­ing vases of cut flow­ers, ar­ranged ac­cord­ing to strict judg­ing cri­te­ria.

At a row of ta­bles fac­ing the park, sev­eral women wear­ing fas­ci­na­tors en­joyed high tea. Their hats were as eye-catch­ing as the dis­play en­ti­tled “Off to the Races,” a col­lec­tion of fas­ci­na­tors cre­ated en­tirely from plant ma­te­rial.

Gay An­der­son, pres­i­dent of the gar­den club, says there are two im­por­tant aspects to the or­ga­ni­za­tion – flo­ral de­sign and hor­ti­cul­ture – and both were fea­tured in the show.

Flower show chair Ann Diebel ex­plained the bi­en­nial show was ar­ranged to al­low peo­ple to view the decades of changes in flo­ral de­sign as they toured the room.

In a dis­play en­ti­tled “The Way We Were,” many colour­ful blooms were placed in a pale vase with care­ful fo­cus on gra­da­tions of colour and height. Although the stems

were plen­ti­ful, they were not to ap­pear crowded.

The “Bold and Beau­ti­ful” dis­play at the back of the room re­flected more re­cent trends. Flow­ers were grouped in sep­a­rate blocks of colour, and the con­tainer stood out.

Diebel, 76, who main­tains an ex­pan­sive gar­den at her Kitch­ener home, says both the flo­ral and hor­ti­cul­tural aspects of the club are vital. “I have al­ways grown my own plants,” she says. “You can’t de­sign with­out some knowl­edge of hor­ti­cul­ture.”

Diebel pointed out a lovely gera­nium she had grown from seed. “This is the first year that it has bloomed,” she said. Her pas­sion for gar­den­ing is matched by her suc­cess in this show, and in past com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the pres­ti­gious Chelsea Flower Show in Eng­land.

But the awards are just the ic­ing on the cake. “I do this be­cause I love it,” she says. “I truly couldn’t ex­ist with­out the flow­ers and the plants and the trees.” E sta­b­lished in 1957 by the late He­len Dier, the club be­gan with 12 found­ing mem­bers fo­cused on artis­tic beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of their homes, in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally.

These days, the group meets on the third Mon­day of each month from 1 to 3:30 p.m. from September to June. Meet­ings in­clude club busi­ness and pre­sen­ta­tions on flo­ral de­sign or hor­ti­cul­ture. For ex­am­ple, September’s guest is sched­uled to be a pho­tog­ra­pher from the Canada Blooms gar­den and flower fes­ti­val.

Over the years, the club has also con­trib- uted money and count­less vol­un­teer hours to the com­mu­nity. For ex­am­ple, mem­bers have prepared small flo­ral ar­range­ments to be de­liv­ered to hos­pi­tals and cor­sages for var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions. They have also planted sev­eral trees in the re­gion.

An an­nual schol­ar­ship has been awarded to a third- or fourth-year stu­dent in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies pro­gram at the Univer­sity of Water­loo, where the club main­tains a stu­dio for sem­i­nars and projects on the west cam­pus.

The club also holds an an­nual Christ­mas sale. This year’s Holly and Ivy event will be held in Novem­ber.

One of the club’s largest projects was the es­tab­lish­ment of Betty’s Gar­den at the Kid­sA­bil­ity Cen­tre in Water­loo, named in hon­our of long-stand­ing mem­ber and past pres­i­dent Betty Thomp­son. When Thomp­son died in 1994, her hus­band, Don­ald Stu­art, made a do­na­tion to the club that mem­bers matched to cre­ate the gar­den.

Walk­ing through that gar­den to­day is a de­light to the senses. It is well planned, with a beau­ti­ful va­ri­ety of peren­nial beds care­fully cho­sen to bloom through­out the sea­son. Benches en­cour­age visi­tors to stop and smell the laven­der-scented walk­way.

Betty’s Gar­den re­quires con­stant weed­ing, wa­ter­ing, plant­ing and prun­ing. “We main­tain the gar­den ev­ery Tues­day through­out the grow­ing sea­son,” An­der­son says.

The gar­den club encourages both new gar­den­ers and sea­soned pros to join the group. An­der­son, 70, re­calls with a smile the ad­vice she re­ceived from a friend who had en­cour­aged her to join. “‘This is a work­ing club,’ she warned me. ‘If you’re com­ing to be so­cial don’t even bother.’ ”

But friend­ships do blos­som and, de­spite friendly competition at the shows, they flour­ish.

The club has 62 mem­bers, but once had as many as 125 with a wait­ing list. “Our mem­ber­ship num­bers are a sign of the times,” An­der­son says.

But as more peo­ple re­tire, she hopes they see the club as a way of keep­ing ac­tive and

mak­ing new friends.

Judy Hahn-Yutzi of New Ham­burg is one such per­son. She joined in March of this year af­ter learn­ing about the club at a Seedy Satur­day event at the Kitch­ener Pub­lic Li­brary. Already a mem­ber of the Wil­mot Hor­ti­cul­ture So­ci­ety, the 66-year-old was drawn to the gar­den club’s ta­ble where An­der­son dis­played tulips in a striking bark con­tainer.

Hahn-Yutzi at­tended a meet­ing at An­der­son’s urg­ing and says she re­ceived such a warm wel­come she did not hes­i­tate to join.

“All of those friendly faces,” she notes. “You just get that wel­com­ing feel­ing when you walk in. They came up to me to in­tro­duce them­selves.”

Ruby Ben­nett of Water­loo, who joined the group in 1959, is the long­est-stand­ing mem­ber and has seen a lot of change.

She says things used to be much more for­mal. Mem­bers were never ad­dressed by their first names, they were al­ways Mrs. or Miss. And although men are wel­comed as mem­bers, very few have joined and stayed on over the years.

Ben­nett isn’t the ac­tive gar­dener she once was but stays as in­volved in the club as she can, in­clud­ing at­tend­ing the an­niver­sary show.

“I liked all of the ar­range­ments but I pre­fer the more tra­di­tional ones,” she says.

Myra Takasaki, Ann Kotani and Chris­tine Gri­bowski, decked out in fas­ci­na­tors, en­joy high tea at the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion.

Flower and plant ar­range­ments were on dis­play at Vic­to­ria Park Pav­il­ion.

One of the en­tries in the class of Minia­ture De­sign at the club’s an­niver­sary Flower Show ‘Gar­den Party.’

Flower show chair Ann Diebel poses with Ruby Ben­nett, a gar­den club mem­ber since 1959.

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