This is the second in a series on five local garden clubs.
By Jan Engoren
The Ocean Ridge Garden Club, founded in 1966 and still going strong, is the only service club located in Ocean Ridge.
The club’s wide-ranging mission is to preserve the natural landscape, educate members in gardening, horticulture, floral design and garden-related art, plus civic outreach and beautification and environmental awareness.
“Garden clubs are a great way to get to know your neighbors,” says President Mary Ann Cody, a former attorney from Albany, New York, who joined the club when she retired and moved to Ocean Ridge five years ago.
“Moving to Ocean Ridge has changed my life,” Cody says. “Garden clubs are not so much about floral decoration anymore, but for us, more about environmentalism, keeping the oceans plastic-free and preserving our dunes.”
In partnership with the town of Ocean Ridge and the city of Boynton Beach, the club will hold its community engagement day on April 2. The Save the Seas event is designed to raise awareness about plastic waste in the oceans and typically includes a beach cleanup, educational sessions and family friendly activities, all of which were postponed last year due to the pandemic.
Another highlight is Roses and Chocolates, an annual fundraiser ahead of Valentine’s Day. It runs online through Feb. 8 this year, with pickup Feb. 13. The club sells roses along with hand-dipped chocolates from Scheurer’s Chocolate, a family-owned business on East Ocean Avenue in Boynton Beach.
Cody, whose mother was also a member of the club, says that “the trend among garden clubs is to become more environmentally conscious and focused.”
As part of its mission, the club maintains a public portion of the dunes along Old Ocean Boulevard and has authored two books. One is about native trees, Ocean Ridge Garden Club Tree Booklet, and the second, A Gardening Guide for Living on the Barrier Island, was printed in English, Spanish and Creole.
Cody, who lives in a condo along State Road A1A and does not have a backyard, says the dune plot is her garden.
Sea grape trees and saw palmetto planted in the dune help minimize erosion.
Barbara Cook, a member since 1999, maintains her garden at 6062 N. Ocean Blvd. Residents and visitors can drive by and get a glimpse of the garden from the road.
“I worked very hard to make the garden attractive and a visual presentation from the road,” says Cook.
“The garden is a true paradise right off A1A,” says Cody. “If you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably drive right by without even noticing it.”
Taking on a Florida hammock with sandy soil and a plethora of pothos vines growing wild, Cook remembers she began cultivating the land and putting in xeriscape plants that thrive in shade without supplemental water from irrigation.
“It shows visitors that there is more to gardening than just planting roses, butterfly plants or bouquet flowers,” Cook says. “It’s a fun spot.”
Her garden’s design has a strong Asian influence, with a Buddha sculpture and fountain, a number of Chinese pagodas and large bird sculptures which are used as hardscapes, to break up the monotony of vegetation.
“It makes for more interest and is more fun for the gardener,” says Cook.
She notes that the Garden Club and its 61 members work closely with the town on events such as decorating the Town Hall’s holiday tree and providing floral decor and refreshments for the annual Light the Lights and Cruisin’ Santa holiday events.
Members are proud of their Blue Star marker on A1A, which they designed, installed and gave to the town to pay tribute to veterans and those who died in service. Cook and other members decorate the marker for Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
To join the Ocean Ridge Garden Club, you must be a resident of Ocean Ridge and join a committee once you become a member.
Committees include those for beautification and conservation, ways and means, membership, civic engagement, scholarship, and hospitality. The last includes planning for the year-end luncheon, holiday tree decoration and the Light the Lights event.
New guests are invited by a member who will then serve as their sponsor. The club is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs District X. Annual dues are $65.
Meetings are held Monday nights at members’ homes, with light dinners furnished by the members. “It’s an opportunity to see each other’s homes and gardens and experience their hospitality,” says Cody.
“We’re happy to have new members, but remember, we’ll put you to work,” says Cook. “You must join a committee and participate.
“It’s a working club, and we all enjoy it,” she says.
Visit the club on Facebook or at www.oceanridgegardenclub.org, where you can find details of the Valentine’s Day sale.
Save the Seas is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 2 at Town Hall, 6450 N. Ocean Blvd. It is free and open to the public.