On Sept. 12, the Hillsdale Garden Club celebrated its 90th anniversary in Markel Auditorium. Tables loaded with delicious treats and a commemorative cake stood in the lobby, and ladies in pink sweaters milled around with cups of lemonade, laughing and chatting away.
Peggy Lopresto, president of the club, and member Louise Worms said that the celebration was a refreshing change from the difficult work of gardening.
“These ladies like to party,” Worms chuckled.
“We like a reason to dress up and get out of our rubber gloves and jeans,” Lopresto added.
They may like to party, but the 60 active members of the Garden Club definitely aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty.
“We do a lot,” Worms said. “All the petunia baskets that are hanging on the light posts downtown, we plant those, and the city hangs them and waters them for us.”
This season will be a busy one for the club, which puts on a Green Sale after Thanksgiving each year to sell handmade wreaths to the community. In fact, Lopresto said they started preparing for the sale last week.
The focus of the night was a highly-anticipated speech from Jan Bills, founder of her landscape company Two Women and a Hoe and author of “Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease, and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life.”
“Bills brings so much humor to gardening and she really brings out its light side,” Lopresto said.
The heavy side of gardening involves “hard work and shovels,” as Worms and Lopresto laughingly added.
Laughter was in ready supply throughout the evening, thanks to Bill’s hilarious and informative presentation. She quizzed the audience on the difference between “lush” and “overgrown,” revealed her go-to supplier for cardboard — the Costco toilet paper aisle — and provided the “Five Deadly Sins of the Garden,” which is a short list of invasive weeds that will destroy any flower bed.
“If you see these plants, run,” she joked.
Bills seemed well-acquainted with the struggles of gardening.
“So, gardeners, wouldn’t you agree that if you woke up in the morning, and something didn’t hurt, you’d think you were dead,” she asked.
The chuckles from the audience revealed that it was all too true.
In addition to her handy lists and relatable humor, Bills’ talk was full of tips, tricks, bug-spray recipes, and examples of what not to do in the garden. One piece of advice that she returned to again and again was her mantra “right plant, right place.”
“This is critical if we want to sustain the garden and the gardener,” she said, supplying photos of overgrown hedges obscuring living-room windows to prove her point.
Besides Bills, the night’s program included a talk on Garden Club history by Worms, an overview of the Green Sale by Connie Brumbaugh, and a history of Mrs. Stock’s Park –– the garden that started it all –– by Sally Fallon. Together, they displayed the extent of the impact that the Garden Club has on the Hillsdale community.
Mayor Adam Stockford expressed his gratitude to the Garden Club in a brief speech comparing the Club members’ active role in the community to the self-reliance and can-do attitude that Tocqueville observed in Americans over 200 years ago.
“Where would this community be without the Hillsdale Garden Club,” he asked.
Michigan State Rep. Eric Leutheuser of Hillsdale offered his congratulations as well.
“This milestone is truly a celebration of the many years that the Hillsdale Garden Club beautified the community by enriching the lives of those who live here,” Leutheuser said. “All its members know the admiration we have for their work and carry with them our warmest wishes for the future.”
To round off the night, members of the Hillsdale County Board of Realtors presented the Garden Club with a check for $1,500 to go towards the purchase of benches and picnic tables for Mrs. Stock’s Park.
“It’ll give them a chance to sit and relax when they’re doing all that weeding,” a representative from the Board of Realtors said.
All in all, it was an evening to remember for the members of the Hillsdale Garden Club. As they drifted back into the lobby, laughing with their friends and nibbling on cake, these ladies looked ready to take on the season, from Christmas wreaths to obnoxious weeds.