The Return of Fulton’s Garden Club

by Contributor | April 12, 2024 10:18 am

By Jim Farfaglia

FULTON – There’s so much about Fulton’s history to be proud of. And while it can sometimes feel like that history is gone forever, good things can happen again; in fact, it already is! I’m talking about the Fulton Garden Club.

Many towns and cities in Central New York and beyond once had vibrant groups that wanted to express their love for their community through beautiful gardens. In Fulton, this was certainly true—in a big way. At times, our city had four—yes, four—different garden clubs! Researching their histories has been interesting.

Mention of a Fulton Garden Club started showing up in local newspapers in1946. That makes sense, given that World War II had just ended and our country was looking forward to a more peaceful time, with families reunited. What better way to celebrate that than colorful gardens. A June 1946 Fulton Patriot article covered the Fulton Chamber of Commerce Garden Club’s monthly luncheon, with these interesting agenda items:  a plant exchange, information about the Federated Garden Clubs of New York State’s two-day course on judging flowers, a seminar on flower arranging, and the announcement of an upcoming flower show at the Plymouth Congregational church in Syracuse. Pardon the pun, but this Club was blooming with activity.

A second gardening club began appearing in the news in 1950. Known simply as the Fulton Garden Club, it was promoting its third annual Flower Show’s themes “On the Porch,” and “In the Garden.” Prizes were awarded to the most imaginative floral arrangements. A year later, the Club presented “The Hospitality of the Hearth,” a daylong feast of programs for those with a green thumb (or looking to sprout one). New that year was a vegetable show to compliment the typical flower exhibits, with entries provided by members of the high school’s Future Farmers Club. Vegetables on display covered the alphabet from acorn squash to watermelon.

In May of 1953, the Fulton Garden Club presented a “World Tour,” with floral displays and workshops from around the world. The theme that promoted their event still rings true: “The language of the flowers knows no nation.” Among the workshops were presentations by the Junior Garden Club, whom I imagine were youngsters raised in families with beautiful home gardens.

Fast forward to 1975, and I found a photo in a local newspaper with the caption “Community Beautifiers.” This group was known as the Fulton Men’s Garden Club, and one of their projects focused on the area in front of our city’s War Memorial. Each year the men voluntarily planted colorful flowers, drawing attention to a  buildig dedicated to those who have defended our country and our freedom.

In 1976, yet another version of Fulton gardeners appeared with the name Arrowhead Garden Club. This group offered educational programs and participated in our city’s Cracker Barrel Fair. The Arrowhead Club also offered annual plant swaps, took road trips to tour other cities’ gardens and celebrated with a family picnic.

By 1986, yet another version of our community’s gardening clubs, the Town & Country Garden Club of Fulton, was responsible for the city-owned welcome sign planter boxes located at the various entrances to the city. Mention of this Club and other Garden Clubs continued in newspapers into the early 1990s and then stopped.

Learning about all that long ago gardening was on my mind as I witnessed how Fulton residents are currently stepping up to improve our city. Projects like Fulton Block Builders, which is changing our neighborhoods through community involvement, and the Special Events Committee, which provides top quality entertainment and social activities like Big Trucks Day, Community Markets and the annual Christmas tree lighting, are inspiring. That’s when I got an idea of how I might contribute to the revitalization of Fulton.

Lucky to be born and raised next door to my grandparent’s country home, there was always a garden to take care of. Over the years, I’ve learned how good it feels to garden and how it brightens my day. A few years ago, I started volunteering to take care of a few gardens in our parks. When I told people about it, some said they’d like to do that, too. One of them mentioned that Fulton once had a thriving Garden Club.

That’s all it took. In March of last year, I sent out an invitation to a few friends, posted notice on Facebook, and by midsummer, 26 people were rolling up their sleeves, slipping on gardening gloves and getting to work. Formation of the Garden Club was developed in cooperation with Chris Waldron, Fulton’s Director of Parks and Recreation. Here’s what Chris says about the Club:

“The Fulton Garden Club volunteers are doing more than beautifying parks, gardens, signs, and other areas around the City. They are building a resilient Fulton community by bringing people together to solve issues facing our community, creating new social bonds, and creating community pride.  Fulton Parks and Recreation is thankful to have the Garden Club donate their time and energy to be part of the solution in making our community a better place to live.”

It’s true that gardening can feel like work, especially on hot summer days when it hasn’t rained in a while. But it’s also a lot of fun. Here’s how Fulton Garden Club member Michele Henderson sees it:

“Looking around Fulton, I saw gardens that were once started with the best of intentions and now were overgrown and needed care. Being in nature and gardening is my place of peace, and the enjoyment I get from working with others with the same interests and goals for the city is a true pleasure! Meeting new people, learning more about plants is great bonus. Many hands make light work, and the fun and laughter shared makes it that much better!”

As we approach the 2024 gardening season, our Club is now up to 40 members. One of our first citywide events is a Plant Swap. On Saturday, May 18, from 10am until noon, the Bullhead Point pavilion will be bursting with all kinds of vegetable and flower plants and planting pots to share. Horticulturist Dan Carroll will be on hand to answer gardening questions. And if gardening is a passion for you, you’ll meet others just like you.

You can find out more about the Fulton Garden Club and our Plant Swap by checking out our Facebook page or contacting me at [email protected][1]

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