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Club celebrates 65 years: Green Thumb Garden Club grew from 'can-do' spirit PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, August 03, 2013 12:05 AM


Staff Writer

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DELPHOS—In 1948, long before social networking sites, groups of like-minded people gathered in public meeting places to form clubs like the Optimists, who provide hope and a positive vision to bring out the best in kids, the Jaycees, who elevated leadership training for young adults and The Green Thumb Garden Club, who stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening to amateurs, aid in protecting native flora and fauna and encourage civic beautification.

Trailblazer Esther Powell used her “can-do” spirit and past experience as a garden club member to unify her friends, who desired to become part of a culture that grows by sharing a wealth of knowledge with each other, and begin what is known today as The Green Thumb Garden Club.

Jean Best joined the group in 1949 and is an invaluable “walking history book” with one sharp memory.

“Esther was an elegant woman who presented ideas to the club with a manner that made it wonderful to have a garden club,” Best said with admiration.

On March 2, 1948, the club’s charter members President Powell, Vice President Hortense Fettig and Secretary/Treasurer Ila Doepker and 17 additional members met with Mrs. D. J. Schaefer, the regional director of Garden Clubs of Ohio, to organize the garden club.

Best explained the Delphos Public Library sponsored the group and Librarian Mary Ireton made sure they had all the equipment — overhead projector and meeting space — for their monthly meetings. They participated in many of the same activities as they do today: community improvement, garden tours, “Guest Day Tea” meetings, visiting art galleries and local nurseries and many more educational activities.

In the first year, the club’s civic projects included beautification of the landscape at the Delphos library — members sold Garden Club Tags to raise funds — a donation of books for circulation to the library and creation of seasonable arrangements to display throughout the year at the library.

“We planted and maintained the raised planters at the old library,” Best detailed. “We also took care of the interior plants at the entrances.”

The club held programs during their meetings where members spoke on topics including: “Soil Preparation and Lawn Care” by Henry Fettig, “African Violets”, by Dorothea Peltier, and “Spring Flowering Bulbs” by Mrs. R. K. Morgan, just to name a few.

Up until the early 1950s when they moved the shows into the Jefferson Senior High School auditorium, which is now the Middle School Band Room, the ladies held district flower shows at the Presbyterian and Trinity United Methodist churches. Elida, Lima, Gomer, Pandora and Van Wert garden clubs participated in the shows, vying for as many first-place ribbons as they could. The garden shows consisted of an assortment of displays, prize-winning flower arrangements, virtual garden weddings, backyard exhibits with mannequins portraying people, patio plantings and table place settings.

“Due to the extensive set up of some of the displays, club members’ husbands would be involved in the shows,” Best said. “Members brought their own tables to use for displays.”

During the first show in 1948, Astronomer Leslie Peltier judged the club’s submitted garden scrapbooks.

In 1954, the club moved the location of their Tuesday monthly meetings to a new venue — NuMaude’s Restaurant — where the ladies could enjoy being served a light fare rather than bringing a sack lunch or hostessing a luncheon.

By the early 1970s, the Green Thumbs took to meeting on Monday afternoons at the Steak House, which later became The Carriage Inn, The Chateau or they held picnics with sack lunches at one of the city parks, hosted luncheons in their own homes or at the Delphos Public Library.

Today, the ladies meet on Mondays, usually at the Public Library Annex, for a luncheon meeting or at a restaurant if taking a field trip visiting a nursery or garden.

In 1956, members of the Green Thumb Garden Club work on creating new planting beds and installing shrubs by the bank of the Miami and Erie Canal. (Submitted photo)The late 1950s ushered in an enthusiastic Yuletide spirit giving the Green Thumbs a new feeling of passion for sharing Christmas oriented community activities. Club members engaged Delphos residents by teaching Christmas decoration workshops, staging Christmas flower shows at the American Legion Hall and sponsoring and judging the Outdoor Christmas Home Decorating Contest.

They also volunteered their time setting up Christmas displays at the Delphos Public Library and at the post office. Every year since 1998, the club has designed and set up a Christmas display at the Canal Commission during Delphos’ Hometown Christmas Festival.

In the 1970s, the Green Thumbs had 20 members and struggled for years against the Lima Gardeners, who had over 40 members, to be number one. Best said the friendly competition is a way to improve programs.

“For the Bicentennial in 1976, the garden club planted and maintained a annual display of red and white Geraniums and blue Petunias on the canal banks at Fifth and Main streets,” Best said.

In the late 1990s, Jefferson High School teacher Carol Grothouse, along with art teacher Jeanne Clark, joined the club and brought a palette of color and creativity which became an integral part of the club’s functions.

“Jeanne got me interested in the club,” Grothouse detailed. “She was very instrumental for a lot of our program covers.”

Clark artistic flair and always had a new method for creating colorful and unique programs which outlined club officers and members, a years worth of activities and a variety of club information.

Best said that each year the yearbooks/programs are submitted to the Ohio State Garden Club for judging.

“It was the club’s 50th anniversary and I made up my mind I was going to join this club,” Grothouse said with determination. “It was so much fun!”

Green Thumb Garden Club members Carol Grothouse (r) and Jeanne Clark share some Thanksgiving holiday laughs while decorating for a a club get together in 2005.Grothouse recalled a club trip to Wakeena Nature Preserve, which is located in the Appalachian foothills of Southern Ohio, when she and Clark thought they might not survive. Grothouse explained a large number of club members from surrounding garden clubs left Lima on two buses. Halfway to Columbus, one bus broke down and everyone filed out onto the side of the highway with all their belongings.

“There we were, standing on the side of the road,” Grothouse said with humor and zeal. “We crammed everyone into one bus. Many of us were standing and holding onto rails while clamoring down the streets of Columbus and up the hilly terrain close to the nature preserve.”

The bus driver was not all that careful while navigating the sloping back roads. After looking out the bus windows over a ravine, Clark turned to Grothouse and said with fear in her eyes, “We’re going to die!”

Fortunately, everyone arrived safely. Grothouse said the bus trip home was almost as eventful, with one of the buses breaking down near Bellefontaine.

“Some people called family to pick them up,” she said. “Others climbed on board the remaining bus and arrived in Lima late but in one piece.”

As a whole, the club has performed thousands of hours of community service by planting and maintaining trees at Waterworks and Stadium Parks; annuals at the reservoir, Library on the canal banks and in downtown planters; and at the “Welcome to Delphos” signage.

The Allen County Fair is a huge deal for the Delphos club as well as for Happy Hours and the Lima Garden Club. Each year, all three share the duties of setting up tables, partitioning arrangement display space, watching over the displayed entries, cycling new arrangements for judging and tearing everything down.

“It’s a social and educational event,” Grothouse said.

Green Thumb Garden Club member Louise Sroufe displays her “Best of Show” ribbon that she took home for her arrangement of ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea flowers during the 2012 Allen County Fair.Over the course of 65 years, Green Thumb members have earned a multitude of first-, second- and third-place ribbons, certificates of award for superior and excellent program books, Class G flower show entries and most recently, took “Best of Show” last year with Louise Sroufe’s “Limelight” Hydrangea display entry.

The club is always looking for new members and welcomes interested potential members to attend meetings. For more information, contact Judy Jester at 419-692-2913.


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