WESTFIELD — The town’s two main garden clubs, The Garden Club of Westfield and The Rake and Hoe Garden Club, Inc. of Westfield, founded in 1922 and 1952, respectively, are responsible for many of the community gardens and planters around town.
The Garden Club of Westfield maintains the Blue Star Memorial By-Way in Tamaques Park, which is dedicated to the servicemen and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as several gardens in Mindowaskin Park, among them Daffodil Hill, and the shrub and perennial border along the front of the Reeve House property on Mountain Avenue — headquarters of the Westfield Historical Society.
Joseph Darold, newsletter editor and archivist for The Rake and Hoe Garden Club of Westfield, said the club maintains the gardens at the Miller-Cory House Museum, the north-side Westfield Train Station, the Shadowlawn “pocket park in the residential area” and the Claire Brownell Native Garden located in the backyard of the Westfield Historical Society.
In addition to planting and maintaining gardens in town, another big focus of these clubs is community service. Mr. Darold said that Rake & Hoe is most known for its community-service component, noting that it partners with The Jardine Academy in Cranford, Mobile Meals of Westfield and senior citizen facilities in the area.
Several times a year, the club visits The Jardine Academy, a school for children and young adults with disabilities operated by the Cerebral Palsy League. Among Rake and Hoe’s projects with the school are seasonal tree decorations, book donations and activities with the students such as the recent Mother’s Day plants. The club also provides floral arrangements for Mobile Meals, to be placed on clients’ trays with the food. In addition, members of the community service committee bring mini floral arrangements to senior citizens in nursing homes.
“It’s always something that’s appreciated because it’s not something that they see every day,” Mr. Darold said.
The Garden Club of Westfield also gives back to the community by participating in a series of ongoing community projects. President Margaret Allen said the club provides plants for and maintains five seasonal planters at the center of town and displays a rotating floral arrangement or decorative plant at the front of the Westfield Memorial Library.
“We encourage the public to value our natural world through our many civic projects,” Ms. Allen said. “Spreading joy through civic beautification can encourage an appreciation of gardening, nature and the importance of a healthy environment.”
The clubs offer a variety of different committees, in addition to community service, for members with different interests. Sharon Shiraga, president of The Rake and Hoe Garden Club of Westfield, said the club is not only focused on gardens and flowers; there also is an artistic crafts committee, a floral design committee and a photography committee.
The club has 67 members from many different towns — among them Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Roselle — in addition to Westfield. “As we’ve gotten more members with different interests, all these committees have kind of evolved,” Ms. Shiraga said.
Ms. Allen, who has been a member of The Garden Club of Westfield for almost 10 years, said that club membership has provided a lot of benefits — more than she anticipated. “Being a member is an opportunity to make new friends and benefit from the camaraderie of working and learning together,” she said. “It is always fun to share your interests with other enthusiasts.”
At the club meetings, members discuss different topics, including horticulture, conservation, planting or local issues, and there is often a guest speaker, Ms. Shiraga explained.
One local topic of importance is native planting. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally grow. Native plants provide food and habitats to help maintain pollinator populations and support local garden ecosystems. Native plants improve biodiversity and support the habitats of native species of birds, insects and other wildlife.
The Town of Westfield Green Team has partnered with the Westfield Memorial Library to provide a Native Seed Library. The seed library is a collection of native seeds that are packaged in small envelopes and cataloged by plant type and are free for all library members. In addition to providing the seed library and books about native plants, the library presents lectures and workshops about planting and growing native plants to help educate residents.
The seeds in the library are rotated on a seasonal basis. The seeds currently available for the spring/summer are zinnia, cosmos and partridge pea. The Native Seed Library is located at the Westfield Memorial Library at 550 East Broad Street, Westfield.