Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club celebrates 100 years - The Martha's Vineyard Times (2024)

100 years of creating and sustaining the beauty of the Island.

By

Abby Remer

-

Many people likely know the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club for its signature event — Blooming Art, an exhibit in which members create floral arrangements inspired by the work of Island artists. But the club is so much more. Celebrating its centennial, the M.V. Garden Club carries on the vision of its founder, Mrs. Agnes Meikleham, that it should be horticulturally and civically driven for the beautification of the towns and in the best interests of conservation, birds, and wildflowers. As the Island’s first conservation organization, Meikleham blazed a trail that set the bar high for activism at a time when activism wasn’t a common word.

Originally approached by a friend to start a garden club in Edgartown, Meikleham insisted that it be Island-wide, and with “the provision that the club is a constructive civic force, and not just an excuse for pink teas and purple feathers.” And indeed, a plethora of information meticulously gathered by club members Ty Johnston, Irene Ziebarth, Susan Hobart, and Donna Arold reveals a fascinating history in the civic arena, far from pink teas and purple feathers.

Just a few highlights include that the year after the club was established in 1924, tent caterpillars were a huge problem across the Island. That challenge began the club’s commitment to the destruction of the insects, as well as the inauguration of its dedication to educating Island schoolchildren about conservation. To address the tent caterpillar infestation, the Garden Club began a nest collection contest, in which students would win 5¢ for every two nests collected. With the students’ ongoing assistance, in 1933, the club eradicated some 18,000 nests. Meikleham considered the Island schoolchildren to be the greatest advocates for the eradication process. And the group broadened its reach when, upon hearing about the contest on the radio, the Maine Garden Club reached out to learn how to implement a similar program.

Meikleham coined the motto for the club, “The Island is our garden,” and led efforts to rid the Vineyard of billboards and unsightly “sore spots” on the roads. In 1927, the club petitioned the highway commission to plant trees alongside the roads during construction. Two years later, the club planted 1,900 feet of gardens at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, thus beginning 12 years of stewardship and maintenance at the property.

Fast-forward to 1948, when Massachusetts planned to purchase the Oak Bluffs-Edgartown beach for public bathing. As a result, State Rep. Joseph A. Sylvia became concerned that the beach would lose its natural beauty under state management by adding concession stands, bathing shacks, and the like. So he invited the president of the M.V. Garden Club and Henry Beetle Hough, editor of the Vineyard Gazette, to appear at the hearing, and successfully got the state to write into the deed the transfer of beach management to the county — and that no buildings would be erected on the beach.

As the decades rolled on, the club continued its civic engagement. In the 1950s, it launched a letter campaign opposing the erection of a TV tower at Nashaquitsa. In the late ’60s, the club advocated for bicycle paths on the Island at the Department of Public Works meetings, and actively opposed a discussion about establishing trailer parks anywhere on the Vineyard.

In the 1980s, the club focused on caring for its home at the Old Mill, beginning with campaigns to raise money to pay for some much-needed improvements to continue hosting its educational programs and meetings. It is the oldest industrial building in West Tisbury.

In the 1990s, the club propagated plants in the Wakeman Center greenhouse for the Arboretum, before Polly Hill Arboretum was fully operational. In the following decade, club members began to facilitate flower-arranging workshops at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center once a month, working with the residents to make bouquets for their rooms and nurses’ stations, a program that continues today. It also designed and planted the garden outside the children’s room of the West Tisbury library’s new building, and assisted in its maintenance during the first year. With an eye toward nurturing future generations, the club initiated a scholarship fund for Vineyard high school students bound for a college major in a field related to horticulture, landscape, environmental studies, farming, or other related areas of study.

In the past few years, just a few of the club’s endeavors have included helping the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in designing, planting, and maintaining the Ruth Styron Garden, and several of the museum’s outside urns.

Now in its 100th year, the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, with more than 200 members, continues to make a difference in the community. Arold, who is in charge of communications, says, “The club is proud of its legacy of protecting and preserving the natural beauty of the Island. Part of our goal is to continue to do so, while providing education and opportunities to be involved with the Island community through horticulture.”

The club’s calendar is already full of upcoming events. Just a sampling includes “CSAs and Their Contribution to the Community,” presented by Rusty Gordon, farm manager at Ghost Island Farm, on Tuesday, March 19. On April 23, Tim Boland, Polly Hill Arboretum executive director, will present “Native American Trees and Shrubs in Your Garden.” “Blooming Art” is slated for June 14 to 16, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s renowned research librarian, Bow Van Riper, will present “Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club: 100 Years of Conservation and Horticulture” on July 16. The Edgartown Garden Stroll fundraiser will take place on July 25.

There are plenty more plans afoot as part of the club’s anniversary celebration. “So,” Arold urges, “be sure to stay tuned to the news and our website for updates.”

For more information, visit marthasvineyardgardenclub.org.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in gardening and conservation, I can provide information related to the concepts mentioned in the article "100 years of creating and sustaining the beauty of the Island" by Abby Remer. The article discusses the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club and its contributions to horticulture, conservation, and civic engagement over the past century.

Martha's Vineyard Garden Club:

The Martha's Vineyard Garden Club is a renowned organization that has been active for 100 years. It was founded by Mrs. Agnes Meikleham with the vision of being horticulturally and civically driven for the beautification of the towns and in the best interests of conservation, birds, and wildflowers.

Contributions and Activism:

The Martha's Vineyard Garden Club has a rich history of civic engagement and activism. Here are some notable contributions mentioned in the article:

  1. Conservation Efforts: In 1924, the club started its commitment to conservation by addressing the issue of tent caterpillars infestation on the Island. They initiated a nest collection contest, involving Island schoolchildren, to eradicate the nests. With the students' ongoing assistance, the club successfully eradicated around 18,000 nests in 1933.

  2. Beautification and Stewardship: The club has been actively involved in beautification efforts on the Island. They petitioned the highway commission in 1927 to plant trees alongside the roads during construction. In 1929, they planted gardens at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, which marked the beginning of 12 years of stewardship and maintenance at the property.

  3. Preservation of Natural Beauty: In 1948, the club played a crucial role in preserving the natural beauty of the Oak Bluffs-Edgartown beach. State Rep. Joseph A. Sylvia invited the president of the M.V. Garden Club and the editor of the Vineyard Gazette to a hearing, resulting in the state writing into the deed that no buildings would be erected on the beach.

  4. Advocacy and Opposition: Over the years, the club has advocated for various causes. In the 1950s, they launched a letter campaign opposing the erection of a TV tower at Nashaquitsa. In the late '60s, they advocated for bicycle paths on the Island and opposed the establishment of trailer parks.

  5. Educational Programs and Scholarships: The club has been actively involved in educational initiatives. They facilitated flower-arranging workshops at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and designed the garden outside the children's room of the West Tisbury library. Additionally, they initiated a scholarship fund for Vineyard high school students pursuing horticulture, landscape, environmental studies, farming, or related fields.

  6. Recent Endeavors: In recent years, the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club has collaborated with the Martha's Vineyard Museum in designing and maintaining the Ruth Styron Garden. They have also been involved in the Edgartown Garden Stroll fundraiser.

Upcoming Events:

The Martha's Vineyard Garden Club has a calendar full of upcoming events. Some of the events mentioned in the article include:

  1. "CSAs and Their Contribution to the Community" - a presentation by Rusty Gordon, farm manager at Ghost Island Farm, on Tuesday, March 19.
  2. "Native American Trees and Shrubs in Your Garden" - a presentation by Tim Boland, Polly Hill Arboretum executive director, on April 23.
  3. "Blooming Art" - an exhibit scheduled for June 14 to 16.
  4. "Martha's Vineyard Garden Club: 100 Years of Conservation and Horticulture" - a presentation by Bow Van Riper, the Martha's Vineyard Museum's renowned research librarian, on July 16.
  5. Edgartown Garden Stroll fundraiser on July 25.

For more information about the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club and its upcoming events, you can visit their website at marthasvineyardgardenclub.org.

I hope this information provides a comprehensive overview of the concepts discussed in the article. If you have any further questions or need more specific information, feel free to ask!

Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club celebrates 100 years - The Martha's Vineyard Times (2024)
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