October 25, 2014

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Valley City Garden Club celebrates 70-year anniversary

By ANGELA HUSTON
Special to The Gazette

Seventy years ago Iva Arnold, Mrs. George Wolfe, Edith Bauer, Edith Yost and Mrs. Harley Rodock formed the Valley City Garden Club. Arnold served as the club’s first president, but each of the others also served in that capacity in the following years.

On Nov. 6, the club’s 20 existing members, many former members, guests and visiting dignitaries from the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, recently celebrated with a birthday dinner at Coppertop Restaurant.

The OAGC was started in 1930 by Victor Ries, who, on Nov. 14, 1938, welcomed the club as an affiliate in the statewide group that now numbers well over 10,000 members. Their slogan, “Be in the know, Learn to grow, Learn to show, You can share,” is playfully shortened by the club to “Knowing, Growing, Showing.”
The occasion, complete with a cake, table favors, and a silent prayer for past members, included a presentation by historian Erna Mastney on VCGC, believed to be Ohio’s oldest garden club.

Mastney, 82, is the group’s senior member. Her membership spans more than half a century during which she has served as president many times. She said, “Gardening was my first love, even before china painting,” which is another expression of her artistic talents.

Current president Dianna Weber says the club is about much more than growing and admiring beautiful flowers with charming names like China Rose and Queen Elizabeth. Members create live and dried floral arrangements, host meetings with other clubs, plan floral shows and encourage members to enter competitions such as the OAGC Beautiful Flower Show. They have plant sales and extend outreach to community members with the funds they raise.

The group takes about three field trips per year to places like Uncle John’s, Hill Haven and Longwood Gardens, not only to view the gardens and treat themselves to tea afterward, but also to learn as much as they can. At this year’s President’s Tea, Weber featured a program on edible flowers.

Learning is a key element of the group, whose focus incorporates the unity of living things: bees, birds, even safely outsmarting pesky squirrels that invade their gardens. “We nurture the birds, the soil, the bees, all the little animals, to create an ecological balance, where everything has a place,” Weber said.

These actions integrate the ever-growing “green” movement; member Nancy Riopelle reinforced the need to maintain the proper focus on all aspects of gardening, which encompasses so much more than pretty flowers.

Mastney added, “We’re trying to add more programs about soil conservation and composting. We have to stop depleting what we have by just putting things like Miracle-Gro on everything. We want to push horticulture more this year, too.”
The ladies, who already have begun preparing for their role in the upcoming Liverpool Township bicentennial, agreed their goals could be summed up in three words: beautification, conservation, education.

One way they hope to continue implementing those goals may be by starting a junior garden club. Young children would learn early the benefits of “green” thinking, and sharing knowledge between generations.

The Valley City Garden Club meets the third Thursday evening of every month at the United Church of Christ. For information about membership or coming as a guest, contact Weber at 330-483-3067.

Huston may be reached at accent@ohio.net.