The Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild (WGG) marked 50 years of digging in the dirt at a celebratory anniversary luncheon held at the Wellesley Country Club (WCC). About 80 women donned their floral brooches, pastel twin sets, and sensible heels to enjoy the company of like-minded sorts who have literally dug in and, with a growth mindset, coaxed flowers into bloom all over town.
After entering the WCC and heading to the upstairs ballroom, we settled in for social hour. Just another cacophonous start to yet another gathering of our club, only this time instead of conducting business under the bright lights of the Wellesley Library’s Wakelin Room, we circulated under crystal chandeliers. We weren’t greeted, per usual, with a buffet table set up with paper plates, some baked goods, and a couple Boxes O’ Jo from Dunkin. No, there were round tables covered with crisp white tablecloths laid with china, a floral centerpiece at each created by club member Carol Boudreau and a team of volunteers.
There was no doubt about it. The Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild had arrived.
And we hadn’t arrived quietly, as club president Nancy Jones came to realize as she tried to bring us to some semblance of order. Someone needs to get that woman a gavel. Maybe we’d finally talked ourselves out, or maybe our sense of decorum at last emerged, but eventually Jones was able to deliver her opening remarks and introduce Keynote Speaker Alan Banks, Chief of Visitor Services at the National Park Service.
“Who would have thought that a few women 50 years ago would start something with this longevity?” Jones asked. “We have continued the tradition of community service by planting and maintaining the post office window boxes planters and library planters…a lot of things have changed and so many things are the same…We are the Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild.”
From there we warmly welcomed Banks, who oversees the historical interpretation of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline. An authority on the Olmsted family, for 27 years he has researched and developed a variety of landscape walking tours, slide lectures, and presentations on the Olmsteds and their work across the country. Banks delivered a fascinating presentation about Frederick Law Omsted and his Massachusetts legacy that included slides and the kind of insights only his broad knowlege of the legendary landscape architect could provide.
MORE: Including Outtakes from Part One of my “Ladies of Wellesley” series, the sorority edition
According to Banks, “It wasn’t by pluck and luck and Olmsted working his way up through the ranks that he ended up creating Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace. He was well connected and well funded through his dad. Still, despite all his accomplishments, Olmsted was a tortured artist who never considered himself successful.”
We’re not the only game in town
There are several garden clubs in Wellesley. We’re not the smart one. That would be the Wellesley Garden Study Group. We’re not the high-style one. That’s the House and Garden Club of Wellesley. And we’re most definitely not the club that every few years conducts a real, honest-to-goodness garden tour highlighting some of the most beautiful properties in town. That’s the Hills Garden Club of Wellesley. The Wellesley Garden Club rounds things out, making it five in all.
We’re the club that takes in all sorts. Exhausted from your 5-year commitment to the Wellesley Service League? Just barely keep alive your front step pot, but really want to learn more? We’ve got that type of membership, along with Master Gardeners, bee keepers, and composters. WGG members Sonia Hale and Ellen Subramaniam note the pitch-in nature of the club, saying that “Since the early days of its existence, the WGG’s primary responsibility has been to design, install, and maintain plantings for the containers at the Wellesley Free Library and the window boxes at both Wellesley Post Offices.” This is all done by WGG’s current 37 active members and 28 sustainers. I’m one of the sustainers (but who really sustains whom?).
A working club
Because we’re the type of group that can’t let well enough alone, there have been more projects over the years. So many more. We’ve turned our garden-gloved hands over the years to entering flowers shows, including the Museum of Fine Art’s yearly Art in Bloom event. We’ve researched and planted a garden for the Historical Society. We currently provide funds for the plantings at the Town Square Clock Garden (aka The Gap clock).We decorate a tree at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Festival of Trees fundraiser. The Spring after the Boston Marathon bombing, we helped plant over 10,000 daffodils along the part of the marathon route that goes through Wellesley. That planting was holy work, for sure.
And we love our field trips. Museums, garden tours, estate tours, anyplace where there are flowers followed by lunch, we’ll be there.
We’ve always needed reminders to get us to these meetings and events on the right day and at the right time. Postcards and phone trees used to be the primary modes of communication, then it was newsletters by snail mail. I still remember, and kind of mourn, those. Now we do it all by email of course, because garden clubs get with the times and don’t kill trees to get the word out about monthly activities.
As the lunch plates were cleared and the event was winding down, I remembered what Luncheon Chair Joan Minklei said when I asked about the planning of this event. “It all came together by a lot of people working tirelessly and planning every last detail,” she said.
Oh, is that all?
That’s really why I hang with these ladies. I keep hoping that their penchant for tireless work and detail planning might one day rub off on me. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Either way, they’re stuck with me.
Outtakes from Part One of my “Ladies of Wellesley” series
Last week I wrote up a post about my adventures hanging with sorority ladies of Wellesley on International Badge Night. Here are some reader responses to that literary gem:
“This must be satire.”
“Is this for real?”
From a sorority lady who missed the event: “I’m so sad I missed it! Love you all! And it’s not satire or questionable or silly. These are wonderful women and this event is actually pretty awesome.”
From an reader unconvinced about the awesomeness of it all: “Hmmmm.”