Wilton Garden Club readies for return of flagship fundraising event

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — Eighty years of community plant sales during Mother’s Day weekend in Wilton Center had gone on without a hitch, until 2020. But despite the interruption last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is back this weekend.

The annual sale will take place Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. across from the Village Market at the town gazebo, the same location where the century-old club first started holding the event in 1940.

The Wilton Garden Club is celebrating its centennial this year, having been founded in 1921. For 100 years, the volunteer group has served as an outlet for many community members who preferred to spend their free time moseying about the garden.

It’s president, Nancy Greely, spoke on the club’s longstanding commitment to not just plants, but each other.

“When I first joined the garden club, my youngest daughter had gone away to college and, to be honest, I felt a bit down,” said Greely. “I figured I would join, and immediately, it was like ‘wow!’ Everyone was so kind and welcoming. I was warmed.”

She spoke on the vast array of gardening knowledge that the members possessed, but beyond that she became intrigued at how this common interest had banded together a cast of incredible personalities.

Haiku Durden, another member of the Garden Club, agreed.

“I joined to learn more about gardening, and I stayed for the people,” Durden said. “The group is very diverse. You have people from all walks of life. Where else would you have a 30- or 40-year-old walk into a 70-year-old and have something in common right away?”

Durden said she values the different perspectives from each of the club’s members.

Due to social distancing precautions, the Garden Club had not able to utilize its greenhouse in the ways it typically would prior to the pandemic. All 136 club members got to work this spring, filling their home gardens with perennials to prepare for their flagship fundraising event later this week.

“Being in the greenhouse has been tricky,” Greely said. “This past year, more (planting) has been done at members’ homes.”

She explained that, luckily, gardening is a hobby that can be done within the safety of one’s backyard or patio. This has come in handy, she said, during a time where so many have mostly been restricted to their home.

After plucking roughly 1,000 plants in preparation for the Mother’s Day Plant Sale, the club is readying for a return to normalcy. It’s getting there, Greely said.

At the plant sale, residents can expect a mix of perennial plants, annuals, hangbaskets and creative gift baskets.

Greely wanted to remind residents that all money raised at this weekend’s sale will be recycled back into the community. This occurs through various committees within the group that hold different charitable responsibilities such as maintaining many of the town’s gardens, which it does year-round.

When the pandemic first began in March of last year, Durden and Greely said the group had to revert to Zoom meetings like so many others. While this sufficed, they contend that there is no replacement for seeing each other and the community members in person. Greely, who became president of the club during the pandemic, was candid in her anticipation.

“We were Zoom-ing up a storm like the rest of the world, but having this be in person is so much fun and heartwarming,” Greely said. “This is fun, it’s like a party for people. And we really are a big family.”

More than just love of the plants protruding from the soil, this club has created communal bonds.

“For me, this became a home. When I first moved to Wilton, I didn’t have any family here and I didn’t feel like I had any roots here,” Durden said. “Now, I feel like I do, because of the club and these people.”