Landscape chairwoman Carol Rice leads a tour through the Boca Raton Garden Club during the club’s 60th anniversary celebration, which included an open house and garden tour. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley
Marking its 60th anniversary, the Boca Raton Garden Club invited the public to a celebration on June 8. About 100 people attended an open house at the club’s newly redecorated Garden Center. They came to tour the club’s garden, hear proclamations from Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel and learn about the club’s activities.
“It is our chance to welcome the public and educate them about what we contribute to the community,” said club president Carol Brown, who likes to show off the clubhouse’s recently redone interior. It includes a new drop ceiling and lighting, white ceiling fans, a coat of interior yellow paint and drapes colorful with fruits and vegetables.
“Before we had exposed light bulbs and the ceiling was a mess,” said Brown, who credits club members as well as community businesses such as Home Depot and Lowe’s for contributing to the redo.
Sipping iced tea and nibbling cookies, visitors enjoyed a display of green, purple and red potted bromeliads that demonstrated the variety of plant life these members propagate.
Wreaths made from shells, lavender sachets and a tabletop Christmas tree decorated with butterflies offered a preview of the crafts to be made for November’s Holiday House fundraiser.
Photo displays let attendees see how the club helps children learn to garden. And leafing through a scrapbook of club members working with the elderly, you could see the joy that flowers bring to Alzheimer’s patients at the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center at FAU.
Members stood out because they wore peach golf shirts embroidered with the club’s flower, the yellow piriqueta caroliniana.
“I joined the club and have made a lot of friends,” says Lise Baklid, who moved here from Switzerland in 2008. “I have two sons, and I’m always chasing them around to soccer games. Joining this group was just for me. It’s a beautiful bunch of women.”
A table of scrapbooks filled with photos and newspaper clippings showed a sense of the club’s history.
The group was founded by Mrs. Willard (Florence) Machle in 1953. At the first meeting, 34 showed up, and by the end of the year the group included 119 women.
“There wasn’t a lot to do in Boca Raton at that time, so I think that helped,” said Brown, who says the group now has almost 150 members.
One of the first club projects was beautifying the town. They got $2,000 from the city to help them spruce up the Florida East Coast Railway Station as well as plant parks and approaches to the city on Federal Highway. They planted 30 trees along the street, including palms, ficus exoticas and royal poincianas.
They bought the Garden Center in 1964 for $6,000. It included three city lots and a building that was either a boiler room and coal bin or a mess hall left over from the Army Air Force base built in Boca Raton during World War II.
The building was gutted and sectioned into an office, horticulture room, kitchen and restrooms, all of which exist today. The mortgage was paid off in 1968. And in 1971, they added the auditorium where today’s activities are centered.
Brown is proud to display a photo of the current membership taken by photographer Ben Hicks. He posed the women on a lawn similar to how the women were seated in a black-and-white photo that was taken of club members in 1953.
“Without this and other beautification organizations, Boca Raton could not be the landscaped tree city that it is today,” said Whelchel. Her remarks were followed by a tour of the garden led by landscape chairwoman Carol Rice, who is in charge of the Dirt Gardeners, about 10 club members who maintain the grounds.
After meeting under a 20-year-old gumbo limbo tree, Rice ushered attendees to the fairy petticoat, a tree donated by Gardino Nursery in Delray Beach to honor the club’s anniversary.
This Australian native gets thousands of pink and white flowers on it. Those flowers resemble Hawaiian skirts and smell like honey, explained Sid Gardino.
Guests strolled through the club’s butterfly garden, yellow garden, Japanese garden, succulent garden, bromeliad garden and rose garden.
“A garden requires a lot of work, but provides peace, quiet and joy,” said Rice. “It gives back so much more than it ever takes.”