In 1966, a group of 20 Milford women who enjoyed gardening decided to pool their efforts and help the city of Milford. It was this small group that became the Milford Garden Club and the club is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
“Our first meeting was held on October 5, 1966,” said Cindy Mullarkey, the group’s historian. “Until 1967, the women just got together each month at member’s homes, discussing gardening tips and other information. After their first year, they decided to complete their first project. They planted two holly trees in front of City Hall and those two trees are still standing today.”
Over the years, the club has remained constant, according to Ms. Mullarkey. Initially, the group wanted to remain small with no more than 20 members. She said for a few years they tried to limit membership like other garden clubs did, but they found it too restrictive. Today, there are 65 members, all of which bring different skillsets to the group. Freeda Mesibov and Violet Marvel, two of the founders, are still members of the group.
In 1969, the group took on a second project, creating the Holiday Wreath for Milford Memorial Hospital. This project continues today, starting in the beginning of December. About every five years, the Garden Club updates the wreath before hanging it at the hospital. It is taken down in the middle of January and stored for the following year.
When the Milford Plaza was created on South Walnut Street in 1972, the Garden Club planted geraniums. The plaza, which also included a memorial to fallen soldiers from Milford, was much larger. The memorial has since been moved to Bicentennial Park and traffic light installations made the plaza smaller. The Garden Club still maintains the plants that are located there. In addition, the club completes a tree as part of the Festival of Trees at the Milford Library each year.
“One of our biggest projects was the installation of solar panels on the education building at Abbott’s Mill,” Ms. Mullarkey said. “We partnered with the state organization who helped us identify grants for the project.”
In honor of their 50th Anniversary, the club sponsored a small flower show in May 2016 entitled “50 Years and Still Growing.” There were 60 members who participated in the flower show and 130 entries.
The Milford Garden Club also provides two scholarships to high school students who plan to study horticulture or other plant related majors. This year’s recipients were Christian James Riggins of Laurel Senior High School who plans to study Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Delaware. Mr. Riggins is seeking an internship at Longwood Gardens and hopes to pursue a career that involves public gardening or research on plants used for that purpose. Rachel King graduated from Sussex Technical High School and plans to major in Natural Resource Management at the University of Delaware. Her emphasis is on Water Turbines.
Ms. Mullarkey says that the Milford Garden Club is always seeking new members. She said that the Milford club is considered a large club compared to other clubs throughout the state, but there is a wide range of talents in Milford’s organization.
“You don’t have to be a gardener,” Ms. Mullarkey said. “In fact, you don’t even need a green thumb. We recently did a garden tour of members’ homes and it was amazing to see the variety of gardens our members create. Some live in apartments and have plants on their balcony, while others have entire indoor gardens. Some of our members simply enjoy looking at flowers while others use flowers in their art. We have speakers each month and many of our members simply enjoy listening to the speakers. We need people with computer skills or connections to other talents. We need men who can lift heavy things or build structures for some of our projects. We would love to see more young people get involved.”
Ms. Mullarkey said that the group meets the first Wednesday of each month at 9:30 AM from September through June at the Milford Parks and Recreation building. The group is considering adding night meetings to make it easier for working adults to become involved.