History takes root as Glenwood Springs Garden Club celebrates 91st anniversary | PostIndependent.com

History takes root as Glenwood Springs Garden Club celebrates 91st anniversary

Club invites public to annual garden tour

Ike Fredregill
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs Garden Club member Ann English peruses the group's memory book of prior news coverage. Peter Baumann/Post Independent
Glenwood Springs Garden Club

Welcome to Our Gardens Tour

The Glenwood Springs Garden Club backyard tour runs from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, and takes place in several gardens across the city.

Tickets for the tour cost $25 per person if purchased Saturday at the Glenwood Springs Community Recreation Center: Community Garden, 100 Wulfsohn Road or $20 if purchased online prior to the event at http://www.showtix4u.com/events/gardentour.

While people of all ages are invited, pets are not welcome, nor are strollers.

About 90 years ago — well, 91 to be exact — a group of 10 Glenwood Springs women rallied together with a passion for plants, trees, birds and community.

They formed the Glenwood Springs Garden Club and began sowing seeds throughout the area — some of which sprouted into the trees that now shade Grand Avenue. And others, which continue to cultivate a vibrant community of gardeners, green thumbs and greenskeepers.

“We weren’t able to celebrate our 90th anniversary last year,” said Ann English, a retired school teacher and former Garden Club president. “So this year we’ve gone all out with the 90-plus-one celebration.” 

On June 9, club members adorned costumes from the 1930s and hosted a formal garden tea party, saluting the achievements of those first 10 gardeners and the many who have since joined the club’s ranks. 

While the tea was more for members than the general public, English said the club is hosting an event Saturday open to the whole community. 

In addition to this weekend’s garden tour, the Glenwood Springs Garden Club recently celebrated 90 years of continuous community involvement with a formal tea party on June 9 at the home of Mary Anne Taylor and organized by Eva Fitzwater. Founded in 1931 by 10 women, the Garden Club is the longest active club in Glenwood. The membership now is around 60.  Photo courtesy of Deb Martin


The Welcome To Our Gardens Tour is an opportunity to step into club members’ backyards and explore the verdant landscapes members toiled in all spring. 

“The reason we call it Welcome To Our Gardens is it’s truly an opportunity to explore,” English explained. “It’s not a guided tour. It’s a day to browse at your leisure.” 

Each home on the tour will be marked with an eclectically painted bicycle, sporting a handlebar basket full of flowers, she said. This year’s gardens tour is dedicated to Howard Raley, a gardener extraordinaire whose expertise in xeriscaping is unparalleled, English added. 

Officially, the Garden Club’s mission is to “stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, to aid in the protection of mature trees, plants and birds and to encourage civic planting,” said Katie Rubel, another of the club’s former presidents. 

Informally, however, it’s a group of people who share a common interest and like to chat about it, Rubel added. 

“I grow vegetables, and when I retired, I had a neighbor who encouraged me to join the club,” Rubel remembered. “I said, ‘I grow vegetables. I don’t know anything about flowers.’ My neighbor said, ‘You’ll learn.’ And, I did.”

Rubel’s cheeks flushed as she quietly chuckled at the memory Wednesday. Beside her, Garden Club Secretary Judy O’Donnell sipped iced tea and shielded her eyes from the midday sun. 

Potted purple petunias danced in a light breeze along O’Donnell’s patio as English joined the two with a scrapbook full of articles about the club. 

“We have pieces written as far back as 1931,” English boasted. “Though the originals of those articles are kept at the Glenwood Springs Historical Society’s Frontier Museum.”  

The museum and the club share a strong bond. O’Donnell nurtures a small garden in front of the museum, and English said the club installed an herb garden in the rear, which is now tended by other gardeners. 

“That happens a lot,” she explained. “We establish gardens across the city, and we take care of them for a time, but usually, someone else steps up to take over, and we move on to the next garden.” 

The club established a healing garden at Valley View Hospital, though it has since been removed during a renovation. They established the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center’s Community Garden, the Frontier Museum gardens and a garden at the Historic Cardiff Schoolhouse, English said. 

Ages ago, the club planted a tree on Grand Avenue, which is now used as the city’s Christmas tree, she added. In 2018, the club raised $2,000 for a Glenwood Springs Elementary School greenhouse project. And in 2006, the club won big with their Strawberry Days float “Streakin’ Through the Garden.” 

“The girls wore bathing suits under these big rain coats during the parade,” English said, thumbing through photos in the club’s scrapbook. “It was quite the affair. They won the Grand Marshall prize.” 

Through their efforts, the club helped beautify the city, but more than vegetation, it gave people a place to take root. 

“Violet Mooney is one of our oldest members, now in her 90s, and she is our resident philosopher,” English said, recounting Mooney’s tendency to cite poems and verses from memory at club meetings. 

Another long-serving member, 91-year Grace Schick, told English she loves being a part of the club, because it’s more than just chit chat, it’s an opportunity to learn something new at every meeting.

“Can you imagine that?” English asked. “Looking forward to learning something new even after 90 years on this earth. That is amazing and inspiring.” 

Joining the club, growing for community and taking part in the city’s history can grant members a sense of place and belonging, she said. 

“What we do might be behind the scenes,” English said. “But it contributes to the ambiance of the city and the community as a whole.” 

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