The Western Springs Garden Club first met on February 9, 1926. They met in a member’s home with 30 ladies present who shared an interest in flower arranging, horticulture, conversation, civic beautification, and garden therapy. The next year was a very busy year for the club. They became a charter member of the Garden Clubs of Illinois and the National Council of State Garden Clubs. The Chicago Plant, Flower and Fruit Guild was organized that year and the club cooperated with the Guild by sharing flowers. Members brought flowers to the train station where they were put on board, taken to Chicago and delivered to patients in Cook County Hospital and settlement houses. The club held its first flower show and plant sale. Profits were donated to the library for the purchase of books on gardening. The club received its first award – an honorable mention ribbon – for its entry at the Chicago Garden and Flower Show, and they assisted and supervised in the planting of 150 matrimony vines and woodbines to improve the right-of-way of the Burlington Railroad (Metra).
In 1929, the Garden Club in a combined effort with the Village Board planted trees on the village parkways. Fifteen foot elm trees, two and a half inches in diameter, were made available at a cost of $4.00 per tree to residents and $1.00 paid by the village. The goal was to plant 100 trees but the final total was 160 which was a more successful project than anticipated. Since then many of those trees have been lost to elm disease but this was the birth of creating a village of trees lined streets. Also that year the club worked with the Hinsdale Garden Club to rid an undeveloped area of ragweed which was an environmental concern, the club received 105 ribbons for entries at the Men’s Garden Club of Chicago Flower Show. That same year several members collected and planted wild flowers in a plot designated for the club in the Lincoln Memorial Gardens in Springfield. In 1938 members donated 700 plants from their own gardens for the dedication of the memorial garden.
In 1932 the club donated landscaping for the new Thomas Ford Memorial Library.
In 1936 the club won 40 prizes at the first International Horticultural Exposition held at the Amphitheatre. The club won a gold medal as the highest state award and a bronze medal from the Garden Clubs of America for its part in the Thornhill Farm Flower Show (now a part of Morton Arboretum). The display featured a complete spring and early spring garden with 850 plantings. In 1945 they participated in the first flower show held at the Marshall Field’s store. In 1955 members performed a Christmas show, entitled “Home for Christmas”, at the Western Springs Village Club that won the top state award for Christmas shows.
World War II brought about a new direction. The club members participated in selling war stamps and encouraged the planting of Victory gardens. Hundreds of hours were contributed in visiting and decorating at the Hines Veterans Hospital and working on flower therapy projects for Christmas at Cook County Hospital.
In 1948 a Junior Garden Club was organized and that year its members had 21 vegetable gardens. A new group was formed in 1962, composed of 25 members called the Western Springs Perky Plants. We encouraged gardening interests among school children by assisting and supervising Brownie Scouts in planting flowers in downtown planters and held poster contests for area grammar school children. The club participates in Arbor Day which is always welcomed by the Kindergarten classes of the surrounding area. Since 1984 members present each child with a tree seedling and explain the importance of trees to the environment.
Civic improvements and village beautification continued to be a goal for the garden club. In 1963 when the library was remodeled and landscaped, the club made a monetary contribution as well as acted as consultants in the plantings. The club continues to decorate the library at Christmastime and provide flowers for special occasions. During the growing months, flower arrangements made from member’s gardens are provided. Since 1986 club members have volunteered in the annual community N.E.A.T. Day (Neighborhood Environment Appearance Team). This is a village sponsored spring event to increase resident awareness about the appearance of the village by collecting debris from parks, schools, roadways, and public buildings. In 2003 the club undertook landscaping the entrance of the Western Springs Post Office.
Spring Rock Park has also been the recipient of the club’s efforts. In 1944, the club planted fifteen flowering crab trees. In 1955 plantings were started around the area surrounding the spring from which our village obtained its name. Just north of the area, a wild flower garden was first designed and planted in 1979. When outgrew its boundaries, the garden was redesigned to include perennials. Upon its completion in 2000, the beautiful garden won an Exxon Award, through the National Council of State Gardens Clubs, in the amount of $300 for its excellent design and the details involved in achieving it. In recent years, due to the loss of trees, the garden has been transformed from a shade garden to a sun garden.
Two veteran memorial gardens have been created and are maintained for the village by garden club members. The Blue Star Memorial Garden in 2003 honors all service men and woman, and the Let Freedom Ring Veterans’ Memorial Garden in 2006 honors World War II and Korean War veterans. The first garden contains annuals with a patriotic theme and the second garden was designed with patriotic named perennials. Both memorial gardens contain commemorative plaques purchased by the club.
Interest in garden therapy programs has always been a part of membership. Our annual Christmas luncheon is preceded by a workshop where members make over 100 tray favors for distribution to local nursing homes. Each month, members meet at a nursing home and assist residents in creating different crafts using garden materials.
Volunteerism has always been important to the club where members generously donate their time to various organizations, work a telethon for WTTW in Chicago, docents for Western Springs Historical Society’s Housewalk, and the PILLARS Housewalk in LaGrange.
Our Annual Plant Sale is held in May. What started in a member’s garden is now held at the Village Tower Green. Because of its success, it was determined by the members that each year one or two $1000 scholarships are awarded to high school seniors who are accepted to a college to pursue a career in a botany-related field.
Celebrating our 70th Anniversary was a special event. It was held at the Tower Green on June 29, 1996. With the cooperation of the Western Springs Postmaster, a special stamp cancellation commemorating the club’s anniversary was initiated. Along with the stamp cancellation, a special first edition stamp issue, featuring Georgia O’Keefe’s “Poppy” was made available. The postmaster presented the club with a framed print of the O’Keefe “Poppy” stamp. The print traveled to several different homes of the club members, but was later presented to the Western Springs Historical Society.
Celebrating our 75th Anniversary was also a special event. A river birch tree was planted on the Village Tower Green commemorating this milestone event.
Celebrating our 85th Anniversary was a year long event. It began with the first meeting of the year titled "Highlights through the Decades". Club members dressed in decade attire and highlighted significant events that occurred over the last eight decades. A display was created for the Thomas Ford Library which featured the history of the club past and present. An anniversary party was held at the February meeting with a special cake decorated by a club member. A "Garden Contest" was held that was open to all village residents giving awards for containers, sun, shade, and vegetable gardens. Lastly, an elm tree was donated to the village and planted at the Tower Green in downtown Western Springs. It was definitely a fun filled year and an anniversary to remember.
Throughout the years the Western Springs Garden Club has been an integral part of the commmunity. Many of the activities and projects that were started in the early years continue today.