This year the Wilton Garden Club, founded in 1921, will hold its 80th Mother's Day Plant Sale, which has become a cherished tradition. This annual fundraiser is an extension of its members’ expertise and gardening passion to raise money to give back to the town.
Every year since 1939, the club has held its annual plant sale on the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day, with the profits plowed back into Wilton to advance the club’s mission of beautification, education, conservation and preservation.
The first sale in 1939 was at Old Town Hall, with plants hand dug from members gardens, just as most are today. Club lore has it that the plants generally sold out within one hour. In fact, member Lydia Wallis says, "When we first moved to Wilton 43 years ago, I went to the sale and by the time I got there at 10 a.m. they were sold out except for bird’s foot violet and iris.”
She happily bought them. It was a small sale then, but Wallis remembers that garden tools, containers, hoses and lawn chairs donated by members were for sale as well.
Over the years, the plant sale expanded until it eventually outgrew its Old Town Hall location and moved to Center School in 1978. Elfriede Yoder, a long term member, recalls one plant sale held where the Wilton High School tennis courts are today on a brutally cold and rainy weekend.
“There were no tables as we have today and plants were set on the ground and covered with cloths overnight to protect them from the wind, cold and rain,” she said.
As the size of the plant sale grew, so did the categories of horticulture offered. Rock garden plants, annuals, vegetables, herbs, hanging baskets, grasses, creative baskets, and patio containers all shared a place at the sale. Years ago, there was even an orchid tent.
“Deceased member Bobbi Shavel was the orchid expert and people would come to the tent with orchid questions, which Bobbi was happy to answer,” member Barbara Osterholm recalled."
In 1986, the opening of the club’s fully automated greenhouse at the Comstock Community Center had a profound effect on the scale of the annual plant sale. It gave the club the ability to accept cuttings and plant donations from members in early autumn, which were propagated and nurtured by member volunteers throughout the winter. To date, thousands of such plants, as well as seeds grown to maturity and plants dug up from members’ gardens, are sold at the plant sale every year.
With the celebration of “80 Years of Blooms,” the Wilton Garden Club notches another milestone in its tradition of growing and giving.
The Wilton Garden Club’s Mother’s Day Plant Sale will be held Friday, May 10, from noon to 6 p.m., and Saturday, May 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine at Wilton’s Town Green. There will also be an early bird sale open to the public at the club’s greenhouse at the Comstock Community Center on Wednesday, May 8, from 9:30 a.m. -to 1:30 p.m.
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