*********************************************************************************** Ongoing History of The Grafton Garden Club
The first meeting of the Grafton Garden Club was held in 1931. Miss Margaret Brigham was the organizer and the president for the first ten years.
The first flower show was in 1932, and in 1939 the plant sale was started. On the 150th anniversary of the town, in 1935, an oak tree was planted on the Common. It was voted by the Club to take care of the Old and Indian Cemetery. The club helped replace trees lost in the 1938 hurricane.
From 1944 to 1953, members arranged and distributed flowers at Cushing Veteran’s Hospital and at the Grafton State Hospital. Thanksgiving hampers were distributed to needy families, and that same year the club members started sending hampers of fresh flowers to the Robert Gould Shaw Mission in Boston.
The club sent flowers from June through September to the Fruit and Flower Mission so that people of Boston’s congested areas might enjoy fresh blooms. Every week a different Grafton organization (church, service club, or other group) packed flowers in a large wicker basket, which was then taken by George Jordan to the train in North Grafton. The train picked up similar hampers at towns on the run to Boston where volunteers delivered them to missions and shelters. Margaret Brigham sent hampers from her own garden. A banner was awarded to Grafton in 1944 for the many baskets sent.
The Robert Gould Shaw Mission, named for the white colonel who commanded Boston’s Fighting 54th, was the recipient of the flowers. The Fighting 54th was the first black regiment in the Civil War, as shown in the movie "Glory".
It is interesting today to note that the chairman of the hamper project for the club for several years said there were no known expenses. (Transportation expenses probably were paid for by the Fruit and Flower Mission in Boston.) When the railroad discontinued service to Boston, the project was given up in 1967.
Poison Ivy Control began in 1954 and that year the club sold 50 dogwood trees from Westin Nursery at $4.00 each. Another year 212 dogwoods were sold and 15 were given to the town. In 1961, the first scholarships were awarded with funds raised at the plant sale and window boxes at the “town block and Flynn block” were planted. In 1963, the club entered the Boston Spring Flower Show.
For ten years, a nature trail on Frank Kilmer land was made and maintained with trees and wildflowers identified for the education and enjoyment of Grafton people. Through Weston Nursery, $774 worth of magnolia, laurel, white, azaleas and rhododendron were sold. A project for children, How Does Your Garden Grow? was run for many years. There were three age groups of children – the rules were to plant vegetable or flower seeds (no plants) by June 30. The gardens were judged for neatness, arrangement, and quality of project and display.
In 1968, flowers were taken to Keith Hill Nursing Home and patients were helped to arrange them.
The main records of some of the years since 1968 have apparently been lost. The club has programs for each year and they record dates and chairmen of lectures, flower shows, plant sales, workshops, garden tours, and luncheons.
These have been many years of interesting, educational, enjoyable, and worthwhile activities.
During the last decade and more, many things have happened with regard to the Grafton Garden Club. They are as follows:
The Club participated in table setting contests at Sharfman’s in Worcester, Massachusetts at which prizes were awarded. The club has silver pieces as a result!
The Club participated in a container gardening contest at the Millbury Public Library at which prizes were also awarded.
Several annual trips were made to view the Rhode Island Flower Show.
The Club has hosted many pot luck and harvest suppers.
Over the years, many guest speakers have presented to the Club during the monthly meetings. Some of the topics have included such things as Trimming of trees and Shrubs to the more recent Attracting Birds to your Gardens.
For many years at Christmas time, the Club has donated small gift bags of personal care items for the residents of Abby’s House in Worcester, Massachusetts. Over the past years, this has changed so that the members include small gifts, and large items (sheets, computer supplies, and so on) at the Annual Meeting and Tea in June.
Many workshops have also been held, some of which have been making and decorating Christmas wreaths, making Christmas kissing balls, flower pot decorating, making topiaries, and fresh flower arranging.
Karen Probst, from the Tower Hill Botanic Garden has been a featured speaker at a number of programs.
During the 1997 Christmas season and as an annual project since, our members decorate the Willard House & Clock Museum. In 2003 and 2004, the members created period-appropriate decorations as well as decorated the House.
In the spring of 1998, 500 bulbs were planted at the South Grafton School by our volunteers. In the fall of 2004, over 200 bulbs were planted at the Main Library.
During the 1998 Christmas season, the Club participated in the Tower Hill Festival of Trees at which First Place was awarded to a wreath decorated by Club member Chrystal Paul.
In January of 1999, the Club toured the Blackstone Valley Vocational Technical High School’s new horticulture department with Ed Palmer. The tour was followed by lunch at the school’s famous and most delicious Three Seasons Restaurant.
During the summer of 1999, the Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s annual garden tour, City Places, Country Spaces, featured some of Grafton’s gorgeous gardens. We were proud to have one of our Club member’s home featured!
In September of 1999, the Club held its Welcome meeting at the Willard House & Clock Museum and held a garden flower photo contest. There were many beautiful pictures and many prizes!
During the 1999 Christmas holiday season, The Millbury Senior Center was host to a Christmas gathering with wonderful music, food, gifts, and fun. Many thanks to Director, Judy O’Connor.
In the spring of 2000, the Club made a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts to view the exhibit, Art in Bloom.
The Club has exhibited in the annual Central Mass Spring Flower Show for many years. Chrystal Paul and Helen Blazis have created beautiful exhibits for the shows over the years. In 2001, they competed in the “Colorful Tunes” category with the entry, Deep Purple which won second place. In 2002, the category was “The Windows of Oak Bluffs” and the Club’s entry was Chrystal Blue. In 2003, the category was “International Accents” and they created Kenya of Dinesen’s Out of Africa which won a third-place ribbon. In 2004, the category was “Movie Magic” and the two exhibitionists created a room which represented the passions of Frida, including painting, flowers, and folk art. That effort won the Club a third place ribbon and the prestigious DeSenza Award. In 2005, the category was “Dinner in the Tropics” and with the help of Joan Avato, the intrepid trio created a picnic on a sandy beach. A symphony of blended textures and colors swirled beneath a canopy, and won a second place ribbon for the Club.
Of the utmost importance, since it is our main fundraising event, is the annual Plant Sale and Raffle on the Common every May. This fundraising activity provides funds for our very important scholarship and grant fund. Local businesses donate prizes for the Raffle. In 2004, vendors were first allowed on the Common with us for a fee and a donation to the Raffle table. In 2011, we accepted credit cards for the first time.
The 2005-2006 year marked the 75th anniversary for the Grafton Garden Club. To commemorate the occasion, we created and sold a cookbook that included all the recipes from previous Club recipe booklets members had collected over the years, and new recipes contributed by members. The Cookbook was a Sell Out!
That year, we also held the first Grafton Community Day at the end of April, a community cleanup attended by businesses and residents of Grafton with a kick off Pancake Breakfast from Troop 107 and ending with lunch on the Common for the cleanup crews and volunteers. In 2009, Grafton Community Day was Co-Hosted by the Grafton Garden Club and the Grafton land Trust and it was a terrific success.
In 2009, we had our first Grafton Gardens Tour. Nine area gardens were featured on the Tour and we sold tickets and booklets that described the gardens and included a map to help people get from garden to garden. The weather and economy didn’t help, but the money we made helped the scholarship and grant fund.
In 2011, we joined with the Grafton Historical Society to present Grafton Historic Homes and Gardens Tour. Eight homes in Grafton had docents from both the Historical Society and the Garden Club available to offer brief descriptions of the garden and the history of the house.
The Annual Meeting and Tea is held as the last meeting of the year, in June. In 1997, we had a luncheon at Tower Hill; in 1998, it was an evening party at Special Teas with a garden tour at John Maple’s and Jean Anderson’s; in 1999, there was a house and garden tour and an evening buffet at Cindy Holberger’s; in 2000, the annual meeting was a Victorian Tea Party at the Millbury Senior Center; in 2001, the Club toured the garden at Barbara Hazard’s home followed by a buffet at the Willard House & Clock Museum Barn; in 2002, there was a garden tour at the home of Polly English followed by supper at the Westborough Country Club; in 2003, the garden tour was at the home of Carlene Corey followed by a cookout (which turned into a cook-in) at the home of Deborah Graham; in 2004, we gathered at the Community Harvest barn for a buffet and viewing of the engraved stone in memory of Club member Polly English in the Butterfly Garden followed by a perennial/herb exchange; in 2005, we gathered again at the Community Harvest Barn for a tea cup arrangement exchange; in 2006, we went to the Barn again; and in 2007, we ended the year with an afternoon tour of Tower Hill, followed by High Tea; in 2008, we toured three Grafton Gardens and had dinner catered by Loaves and Fishes; in 2009, the luncheon was also catered, and afterwards, the members that were helping on the Grafton Gardens Tour went off together to a special preview tour; in 2010, a little rain did not deter the Club member Deb Kuczka from opening her home and hosting the meeting. In 2011, we held the annual meeting at the home of the President, Helen Blazis, before heading out to the preview tour of the Historic Homes and Gardens of Grafton for the volunteers. The 2012 annual meeting was a potluck luncheon at the Community House in South Grafton followed by a quick tour of the new Mill Villages Park. The Westborough Formation, better known as Carolyn's Big Rock Garden, was the highlight of our Annual Meeting and Supper at Carolyn Brown's home in 2013. We toured her plantings which adorned the 450 million-year-old geological feature. In 2014, members were treated to hors d'oeuvres, entrees, and deserts in a progressive dinner as they visited the homes and gardens of Helen Blazis, Linda Casey, and Carolyn Jakubiak. Our 2015 Annual Meeting and Dinner were are the beautiful home of Kaci Ikels, surrounded by her lovely gardens. In 2016, our Progressive Dinner took us to the homes and exquisite gardens of Margo Yaylaian, Jeanne Bolivar, and Joan Avato. In 2017, we took a tour of Elizabeth Weeks' garden and enjoyed a potluck dinner. in 2018, members enjoyed a tour and supper in the gardens of Carolyn Jakubiak, Linda Casey, Paula and Joyce Berkwitz, and Helen Blazis. In 2019, we viewed the Flowers in Time exhibit and enjoyed wine and hearty hors d'oeuvres at the Willard House & Clock Museum. The annual meeting in 2020 was virtual, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic restrictions in effect at the time. In 2021, the members took a tour or the Willard House Gardens, the Grafton Community Garden, and Rita Zeffert's Garden. Dinner was catered and held outdoors in August, due to ongoing pandemic restrictions.