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Gardening, Learning, Sharing  
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West Newbury, Massachusetts
Organized in 1936    Federated in 1953
Member Of
National Garden Clubs, Inc.
Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, Inc.

Celebrating 73 Years in 2009!

Cultivating our Community

The purpose of the West Newbury Garden Club is multi-faceted, emphasizing the following:

  • To encourage and cultivate an interest in gardening
  • To aid in the protection and conservation of our natural resources
  • To encourage the study of horticulture and floral arranging
  • To promote civic beauty
Virginia Hallman, Gloria Kuran, Donna Greene, Nora O'Neil, Priscilla Styer, Deb Zoltai
Recent History
- Virginia Hallman,
January 2007

Our Club size of 65-80 members provides us with a diverse array of trained professionals and individuals experienced in the areas of horticulture, landscape design, and floral design competition. This talent allows us to train new gardeners in areas of interest.

The WNGC began in the depths of the depression, perhaps partially to ease those bleak years. The club’s first president was Mrs. Frank Gowen, who took office in 1936 and served for one year. Its earliest meetings took place at members’ homes, but as the membership grew they shifted to the Women’s Club building on Main Street which today houses the West Newbury Wish List. The formalities of hats, gloves, and starched tablecloths prevailed for a time, as did daytime meetings and a waiting list for new members. The original membership enjoyed easy access to abundant natural materials, so home decoration workshops were popular, as were programs featuring flower arranging and speakers from local nurseries.

The club served as a way of connecting socially, especially for newcomers to the community. Current club membership includes daughters of previous club members as well as long-standing and cherished friendships of 30 years and more which began and were nourished in the club. The club’s social connections and contributions extended into the community in the form of activities, initiatives, and care-taking of public garden areas. More about these will appear in a later article.

In 1953, the club joined the National Garden Clubs, Inc. Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, Inc., Northern District. The Federation provides horticultural education for club members, promotes information exchange among its member clubs, and supports club organization and leadership. Mary Conley, who served as club President from 1972 to 1975, is credited with establishing a strong relationship with the Federation and its ongoing programs and went on to become a Northern District Director.

Today’s WNGC offers many of the same opportunities and benefits to its members and to the community as it always has—speakers, workshops, exchanges with fellow gardeners, community activities, and the promotion of all things horticultural continue to be the club’s focus.  But, in other respects, it has changed. Its monthly meetings generally take place in the spacious Annex of the 1910 Building. The meetings are informal and held in the evening. Membership is open to anyone who wants to join, and includes members from adjoining towns. One thing hasn’t changed—friendly members of various ages continue to enjoy each other and to improve their gardening interests thanks to their WNGC membership.


Our Early History 
Prepared by Mary M. Conley, March 10, 1986

On March 25, 1930, several West Newbury women, interested in forming a garden club, met at the home of Mrs. Nelson R. Foss. Mrs. Frank L. Gowen was elected president and Miss Alice L. Elwell became secretary-treasurer. Meetings were held monthly in the homes of members, rules of parliamentary law followed, and dues were fifty cents yearly. The purpose of the club was to serve and beautify the community, and also to share the joy of gardening with others. Excellent lectures were given on gardening, flowers, birds and related garden subjects. Flower shows were held. Field trips were taken to other gardens and chartered bus trips made to the Spring Show in Boston.

Clare Richards taught members the art of floral design. Mrs. Fred L. Adams, a charter member, was the chairman of the first Junior Gardeners with 15 flower and vegetable gardens under cultivation. In the fifties, the West Newbury Garden Club decorated the U. S. Naval Hospital at Chelsea during July and August and holiday seasons. Members decorated the GAR Memorial Library in town every week and this custom continued for many years. An Herb Garden was started at the Hills House-the home of the Historical Society and this has been maintained. Hills House Herb Garden An herb book was selected, and a chapter reviewed every month by different members to prepare for designing, planting and caring for the garden. In 1954 a standard flower show was held in the Town Hall and Cherry Hill Nurseries transformed the stage into a woodsy scene with trees, shrubs, flower, and an old weathered gray shed.

In the sixties the subject of Horticulture was stressed and at 8 or 11 meetings papers were read on trees and shrubs: Trees were featured in 1960; Shrubs in 196 1; Ferns in 1962; Flowering plants in 1963; and coniferous trees in 1964. On March 2, 1961 the 25th anniversary of the club was celebrated with Mrs. Frank Gowen, its first president, and Miss Alice L. Elwell, secretary-treasurer, being warmly welcomed. In 1967 another flower show was held and received the Bay State Award from the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. The Herb Garden was an important feature of the Historical Society's tour. An herb luncheon was held and for many years this was to become a custom with the annual Meeting date featuring this exchange of recipes and attractive herbal designs on the tables. In 1968 the Sears Citation for Beautification of the Training Field was received. The Sesquicentennial celebration in 1969 involved a workshop at the Town Hall demonstrating the making of evergreen wreaths and floral designs, as well as flower designs in all open houses.

In the seventies many wonderful accomplishments were achieved: the permanent Christmas Tree on the Training Field; the greening of the Square and public buildings in cooperation with the West Newbury Woman's Club; a second prize for a woodland scene at the New England Spring Flower Show in 1973; Citation from Sears for the foundation planting at the Pentucket Regional Middle School. In 1974, a second prize for the Japanese garden at the Spring Flower Show and the Sears Award for the beautification of the triangle (later to be called: Ferry Lane Park) overlooking the Merrimack River-planting of 100 tulip bulbs. Fashions in Bloom-a standard flower show received the Bay State Award in 1974. The list of awards follows: Environmental Improvement Award (Ferry Lane Park), Northern District of the Federation Slide Show of the Herb Garden (slide show contest sponsored by the Northern District); Presidents' Bowl-a silver compote for developing best Civic Development Project (1977); a silver tray was presented in 1977 for the The Marie E. Lewis Conservation of Natural Resources Award, a regional award for best work in acquiring, preserving and developing a natural resource.

On October 7, 1976, a Boutique and Tea were held at the home of the President, Mrs. Carlos Dew, to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of the club. At that time the history of the club was prepared by Mary M. Conley, past president from 1972-75, and Northern District Director 1976-78. The District Award, the Evelyn R. Cole engraved silver bowl was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Federation to the district earning the greatest number of points and of the nine districts in the state, Northern District won this award in 1978.

The projects sponsored by the club continued: Training Field Plantings, The GAR Library arrangements and holiday decorations; the Herb Garden at the Historical Hills House; Ferry lane Park development; workshops at the home of Ellen Enyedie; Arbor Day plantings at town sites.

Member participation continued at local shows: The Newburyport Horticultural Show; the Essex Agricultural and Technical College shows; the Topsfield Show; and Northern Essex Community College.

In the eighties: In 1981 the Margaret Bent Patterson Bowl was awarded to five Merrimack Valley garden clubs working together on a standard flower show, "A Touch of Autumn", at Northern Essex Community College. Mary M. Conley was the chairperson. This was a cooperative effort with Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill and Andover. During these years with escalating costs of speakers we had many joint programs so that outstanding presentations were given on various subjects and this cooperative effort with neighboring clubs was successful.

The Merrimack River Watershed Council has benefited by our support over the past years. The first boat trip on the river sponsored by the clubs in the Merrimack Valley was successful and increased donations from the first trip in September 1982, May 1984, and the last trip in September 1985 have been gratefully acknowledged by the council. The Land Trust Award from the National Council ($100) was awarded for this effort and presented to Mary M. Conley as Land Trust Chairman for the Federation. The club has three members serving on the Federation Board: Charlotte Connor, Energy Awareness chairman; Mary M. Conley, Land Trust/Conservation chairman; Clare Richards, Morning of Design. There are three flower show judges: Ann Seibel, Master Judge Emeritus; Clare Richards, Master Judge; and Mary M. Conley, Accredited Judge and also Landscape Design Critic.

The West Newbury Garden Club continues to be involved in community affairs. We have widened our interests with the changing of the times and have cooperated with neighboring garden clubs lending a helping hand, hopefully, to encourage pride in our land. 

About Our Flower

The Peony, Rooted in West Newbury History

  Peonies belong to the crowfoot family Ranunculaceae.

Most varieties in America come from the Eastern Hemisphere, Southern Europe, or China. Peonies have been around for centuries. During the Ottoman Empire they were listed as representing shyness in the language of flowers. Chances are though, if there is a Peony in your garden it came from Cherry Hill Nursery stock.
George Thurlow began cultivating fruit trees in 1832. Two generations later the Thurlows focused on Peonies during the early 1900's. Hundreds of varieties were grown and sold to large estates across the country. Even then new varieties sold for $20 - $40. As many as 20 pages of the company's catalog was devoted to peonies. In 1922 the most popular introduction was "Helen" named for Helen Thurlow. The Peony trade soon became the foundation from which existing Cherry Hill Nursery buildings, land, and stock sprang.

During the 1950's the business introduced landscaping services and participated in National design competitions with award winning results. When admiring a Peony take a moment to reflect on its well established West Newbury roots.

Information taken from an article The Evolution of W. Newbury's Cherry Hill Nurseries. The West Newbury News July 26, 1990, p. 11