Flower baskets in downtown Hillsdale, pro­vided by the Garden Club’s City Beau­ti­fi­cation Project. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

The Hillsdale Garden Club will hold its 90th-anniversary cel­e­bration in Hillsdale College’s Markel Audi­torium on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. 

The free event is open to the public and will feature guest speaker Jan Bills from Two Women and a Hoe® and speeches about the history of the club from three members. Fol­lowing the program, there will be a meet and greet reception with Bills and a book-signing for her work “Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Sim­plicity in the Second Half of Life.”

The club chose Bills as a speaker because she is a pro­fes­sional land­scape and garden con­sultant who some members pre­vi­ously have heard speak. Peggy Lopresto, the pres­ident of the Garden Club, said Bills “takes a dif­ferent look at gar­dening” and is a “very funny and exciting” speaker.  

“Jan Bills’ name came up in a com­mittee when they were deciding what to do for the cel­e­bration,” Lopresto said. “We chose her because some members were familiar with her, and she speaks for everyone. She talks about every­thing. She keeps you intrigued.”

During the event, club members Louise Worms, Connie Brum­baugh, and Sally Fallon will also talk about the history of the club and its annual green sale.

Sue Cervini, the chair­woman of the 90th-anniversary event, said the Garden Club “all started with the Stocks and Mrs. Stocks’ park.”

The Hillsdale Garden Club was founded by Emma Koon Stock, the daughter-in-law of Wil­helmina Stock who founded “Mrs. Stock’s Park.” Emma Stock even­tually took over the park that her mother-in-law started and founded the Garden Club in 1929.

After the Stock family sold their mill to General Mills and deeded the park to the City of Hillsdale in 1959, the land was not cared for. In 2003, Hillsdale res­ident and Garden Club member Mary Anne MacRitchie headed a com­mittee to restore the park.

“Mary Anne had lived a lot of her life in Hillsdale and was dis­tressed to see that the park was going by the wayside,” Worms said. “She wanted it to be a beau­tiful place, a place for recre­ation for the com­munity.”

To this day, the Garden Club annually donates funds towards the main­te­nance of the park. Addi­tionally, several Garden Club members are involved in the Stocks’ Com­mittee — or “the friends of Mrs. Stocks Park” as they call them­selves — that vol­un­tarily main­tains the park greenery every Thursday morning of the summer. They also organize events such as con­certs in the park.

In addition to main­taining Mrs. Stock’s Park, the club also holds gar­dening field trips, works with fourth graders from Gier Ele­mentary in what they call a “junior garden club,” dec­o­rates the city’s public areas with greenery and flowers, and is a member of statewide, regional, and national garden clubs.

In order to raise the money for these projects and events, the club holds an annual “green sale” that is like the Christmas-decor version of a girl scout cookie sale. What started out as a few women selling 12 wreaths at a card table in front of Kroger in 1997 has now become a full-time oper­ation. 

Starting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, the members divided folders of order forms among them­selves and then went out to gather orders over the fol­lowing six weeks. The ladies sell dif­ferent sized wreaths, table arrange­ments, bows, baskets, and any­thing else that denotes the holiday season.

Throughout the fall, the club members have parties at one other’s houses in which they prepare the bows, candle arrange­ments, and any­thing else that they can make in advance. The ladies then store the mate­rials until Christmas time.

On the first Monday after Thanks­giving, the entire club arranges the acces­sories with fresh greenery from Hillsdale County and wreaths brought in from Detroit, Michigan. The ladies then deliver the festive decor around town that night and the fol­lowing morning.

Brum­baugh, who led the green sale for 15 years, said the sale “has evolved into quite an oper­ation” that everyone in the club is involved with.

Brum­baugh said that when she first took over the chair­manship of the sale, it was just her and one other woman cre­ating the arrange­ments the whole night before they had to be delivered. 

“When I think back to that first night when somebody called and asked me to take over, and it was just two of us working all night, to the place where it has gotten now, it’s just tremendous,” Brum­baugh said.

“We have people that ask ‘how do you do all this?’” Brum­baugh added. “The secret is that we’ve got a really hard working club. It’s a work club. It’s not just to dress up and hear somebody talk.”