The Founding of the Community Garden Club of Wayne

Five years ago this spring the Community Garden Club at Wayne had its start in the most informal of meetings held at the home of Mrs. P. H. Mell, on Runnymede avenue by a small group of men and women who envisioned its possibilities as a real community project. They thought of such an organization as one open to all in this general vicinity who might gain in general gardening knowledge by interchange of ideas with neighbors, or by listening to experts in various fields who might be brought in as lecturers from time to time.

Open to one and all without special individual invitation and with minimum dues, it was to be truly a community garden club. The measure of success it has attained in the five year period of its existence is perhaps best told by saying that the only similar garden club to which it may be compared is the Trevose Horticultural Society–now 25 years old. Also that Wayne’s annual fall flower show is one of the very largest in the Philadelphia-Suburban area.

Among those who responded to Mrs. Mell’s invitation to the informal meeting held at her home on Monday, March 24, 1947, were the Misses Sue Dorothy and Virginia Keeney, Mrs. Richard Howson, Charles Mintzer, Kenneth B. Anderson, Nathan Sangree and Harry Anderson.

In order to ascertain what interest there might be in a local garden club, a meeting was scheduled for the evening of April 8 in the Radnor High School Library Room with Stephen J. Patronsky, of the Ambler School of Horticulture as the speaker. The audience at this first meeting taxed to capacity the seating facilities of the room with an enthusiasm that augured well for the success of the project. H. H. Kynett presided, outlining the aims of the group and asking for suggestions for its future activities. Such was the enthusiasm of the audience that the second meeting was scheduled to follow the first in less than a month’s time. This was to be on May 1, with short talks by two local garden authorities, Mrs. J. Folsom Paul, of Wayne, and Harold Berry, of Strafford.

Although an election of officers was scheduled for this May meeting, that matter of business was eventually in the hands of a competent committee. In the meantime, a treasury low in funds, but strong in courage, had been substantially enlarged by the proceeds of the Club’s first plant sale, an all day affair held on the “Christmas tree lot” on the property of the Main Line Diner. Under the capable direction of Mrs. Mell and Mrs. Howson, funds for future needs of the Club were realized from the sale of perennials in wide variety.

Activities in that first summer of the Garden Club’s existence were many and varied. Not only where there monthly meetings, with speakers, but in addition there was an afternoon devoted to visiting small gardens in the vicinity in early June and a Forum meeting in July. The August meeting was devoted to a talk on “Planting and Maintaining Lawns” by S. O. Wilcox, of the Pennsylvania State College of Agriculture. Two other important matters at this meeting were the announcement of the date of the Club’s first flower show, and the distribution of the year book, which had just been printed.

Arranged in attractive form by Mrs. Harold J. Berry, the book listed the names of all members of the Club and presented the proposed Constitution and By-Laws. It also indexed the 99 specimen classes for the fall flower show and listed rules for the show, the date of which was to be September 20. Sponsored jointly by the Saturday Club and the Community Garden Club, this show was scheduled to be held in the High School Gymnasium.

When the show took place, its success far exceeded the fondest hopes of its two sponsoring grounds. Held on Saturday afternoon and evening, it had flower and vegetable exhibits to the number of approximately 300 and an attendance of some 500 garden enthusiasts. Judges for the show, all well-known in their respective fields, were Mrs. John B. Carson, Mrs. J. Packard Laird, Mrs. Otho E. Lane, Miss Estella Sharp, Ernest Gray and Hartley Shearer. All exceptionally well qualified to voice an authoritative opinion, these men and women stated that this initial exhibit of the newly formed Wayne Garden Club and the Saturday Club compared favorably with many more pretentious efforts in the Philadelphia area.

Topping the list of winners was Mrs. Mell, with a total of 20 points. She was also the recipient of the Conard Pyle prize of selected rose bushes and of the Kenney Cup, presented for the greatest number of points in the arrangement class. Other winners were Charles Becker, of Haverford, Mrs. Robert Krumrine, Kenneth Anderson and Mrs. Robert Winterbottom.

Two interesting October events were the election of the Club’s first officers at its regular monthly meeting and the plant sale held on the lot next to Park’s Hardware Store on the Pike. The election resulted in the choice of Nathan P. Sangree for president; Mrs. P. H. Mell as first vice-president and Harold Berry as second vice-president; Kenneth B. Anderson as treasurer; Mrs. Raymond Dahm as recording secretary and Mrs. Dudley C. Graves as corresponding secretary.

December saw the Club’s first Christmas Party, a gala affair with refreshments at which a capacity audience watched Mrs. C. B. Goshorn, of Paoli, make Christmas wreaths and other holiday decorations as she gave a brief history of traditions. That month also saw the origination of a column in “The Suburban” under the title of “Green Thumb Gossip”, written by Margaret Mell. This first column was devoted to an elaboration of Mrs. Goshorn’s suggestions in the making of Christmas decorations for the home.

The activities of this first year of the Garden Club’s existence set the general pattern for the four that have followed, although there have been important additions from time to time. In April, 1949, the Garden Club joined with the Saturday Club in sponsoring a spring garden show when prizes were awarded to home gardens according to the size of the grounds. During the same month the Garden Club cooperated with neighboring clubs in sponsoring the spring daffodil show of the Berwyn Garden Club. And in May announcement was made that the planting on the grounds of the Memorial Library of Radnor Township would be sponsored by the local Garden Club.

This is a project that has extended up to the present with additions made from time to time when money given for memorials has made such additions possible. This planting has been done under the direction of Miss Emily Exley. Other services to the Library have included decorations at the Christmas season and vases of fresh flowers twice weekly from spring until fall. The Club budget also provides for the regular gift of books on horticulture to the Library and for yearly subscriptions to two garden periodicals. The Board meetings of the Club are held in the assembly room of the Library.

At present Club members lend advice to the running of the Mt. Pleasant Garden Club and act as some of the judges at the flower show put on by that thriving community organization. They also take an active part in making Christmas decorations for Valley Forge Hospital and in providing cut flowers and plants at Easter time.

With the slogan “Show what you grow”, the fall flower show grows in variety and number of exhibits from year to year. The highly amusing “derangement class”, now a part of the schedule of many other flower shows, had its origin in Wayne. A burlesque of conventional arrangements, this class, at first “for men only”, was this fall open to all contestants.

Present officers of the Club include Robert Tice, of Berwyn, president; Mrs. W. H. W. Skerrett, of Colonial Village, first vice-president, and John Lober, of Radnor, second vice-president; William P. Hutton, of Colonial Village, treasurer; Mrs. Francis J. Dallett, of Wayne, corresponding secretary and Mrs. Edward T. Headley, also of Wayne, recording secretary. With the chairmen of the various standing committees, these men and women make up the Board of the Community Garden Club at Wayne, membership in which is open to all upon the payment of two dollars annual dues.

There is a cordial open invitation to all to attend the meetings, which are held on the first Thursday of the month in the Wayne Presbyterian Chapel. Membership dues may be paid at the meetings.