This is the third in a series on five local garden clubs.
By Jan Engoren
Think a green thumb and a basic knowledge of plants are prerequisites to becoming a member of a garden club?
Not so, says Lorelei Wolff, co-president of the Boynton Beach Garden Club along with Delray Beach resident Toni Cvetko. The two are friends from New Jersey and past members of a junior woman’s club there.
“It’s a misconception to think that you need to have a knowledge of plants to join the Boynton Beach Garden Club,” Wolff says. “I knew nothing about gardening before I joined. But, I had an interest.”
The club, which began in 1938 with its first president, Bertha Chadwell, is open to all and members do not have to live in Boynton Beach.
The club, which had 44 members as of February, was founded to encourage home and civic beautification. Those goals still stand, but have widened in scope to include more environmental and conservation issues.
Expanding the knowledge of gardening, cultivating an appreciation of floral arts and realizing beautification efforts in the community are all part of the mission. Over the past two years of the coronavirus pandemic, the club has been meeting by Zoom.
One of the club’s earliest projects, in 1952, was to create a proper cemetery for residents. That year, the club turned the cemetery over to the city. Another project in the early years was to plant trees, including the now 65-year-old kapok tree that stood in front of the Boynton Beach High School on Ocean Avenue until it was uprooted and replanted across the street three years ago, as part of the city’s redevelopment plan.
Before it was known as Federal Highway, Route 1 was the only highway to run up the eastern coast. When it was widened and renamed Federal Highway, the Garden Club planted and maintained 2 full miles of the road.
In 2017, Cvetko saw a program the club was having about orchids and wanted to learn more.
“I thought — why not try it?” she remembers.
Before joining the club, Cvetko had no plants on her lanai. As a full-fledged member and co-president, she now has 15 plants thriving on her patio, including a spider plant, a ponytail palm tree in a pot and seven blooming orchids.
The current programming theme is “Go Wild, Go Native!” — as in using wildflowers and opting for native plants whenever possible.
Some outgrowths of that philosophy are the Butterfly Garden the club members created and maintain at the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum on Ocean Avenue; the memorial garden they planted at the High Point Condominiums where they hold meetings; and the community garden where they planted firebush, milkweed, elderberry, blue porterweed and the club’s flower, the allamanda, at Northwest Sixth Avenue and Seacrest Boulevard, on a plot the city donated in 2018. Last year, the club added orchids to the mix. Wolff gives credit to the city and its mayor for their encouragement.
“Mayor Steven Grant has been very supportive of our efforts,” says Wolff.
The club also does philanthropic work with the Rustic Retreat Retirement Home on Federal Highway, maintains the Blue Star marker on Federal and is a member of the Mounts Botanical Garden.
In January the club held one of its main fundraising events — a potluck lunch and auction — at Sterling Village condominiums.
On March 4-5, the club will host one of its signature events, the annual Art in Bloom, a Boston tradition that began at the Museum of Fine Arts 40 years ago. The event is replicated in Boynton Beach every March at the Schoolhouse Museum.
Art in Bloom, of which Cvetko is chairwoman, invites garden club members to create floral arrangements based on the works of student artists from Poinciana Elementary School. The arrangements are then judged in a variety of categories, including best use of color, best use of texture, best interpretation of the art as well as a category for people’s choice.
Cvetko lists a few other characteristics that make the club distinct. The monthly newsletter includes informative columns including one titled, “Ask AMI,” which stands for Any Member Interested.
“It’s an opportunity to get advice from the collective wisdom of our fellow BBGC members,” she says.
Another column, “The Culinary Gardener,” details information on an herb, then includes several recipes using that herb.
“The Butterfly Corner” column provides detailed information about butterflies and how to make sure that they have the necessary plants and flowers to thrive.
“Joining the Boynton Beach Garden Club is a great learning experience,” Cvetko says. “You have the chance to learn from every chairperson and committee member.
“You get the opportunity to go places such as the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach and the Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce, and do things you might not ordinarily do,” she says. “I’ve created so many friendships and met so many interesting people and learned how to garden all at the same time.”
For more information, visit the club on Facebook or at boyntonbeachgardenclub.org.
Art in Bloom
Where: Schoolhouse Children’s Museum, 129 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach.
Evening reception: 5-7 p.m. March 4, desserts and refreshments included. Free.
Art display: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 5. Entry is free. Admire the artworks and vote for the people’s choice honor.
More info: 908-757-0116 or 561-742-6780