Four Flags Garden Club of Niles encourages new members to join

Published 9:24 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Ever thought about joining a local Garden Club?

With concern over the state of the economy, staying closer to home and the national need to find less stressful activity for those times winding down is imperative, a number of Niles natives are turning to gardening. And there has never been a better time to join your local garden club.

At the annual picnic meeting of Niles Four Flags Garden Club a member of the Michigan Garden Clubs, Inc. under National Garden Clubs, Inc., the reasons were abundant.

Members were busy making plans for the District III Fall Meeting for the State group. District Director, Carol Beckius, was on hand to help with the planning and to oversee the meeting’s location and the tours that will be offered during the conference. The bounty of the picnic was not lost on the director who said, “If you all garden as well you cook…”
The love of gardening was evident at Angel Hill Farm, home of member Karen Persa, who handles publicity, the annual yearbook and is liaison with Amtrak. The gardens are well-maintained and groomed, and there were plants, brought by members to share, in addition to the night’s herb exchange giving a hint that this is a group given to sharing.

And share they do. This is the group whose loving care for nature and history is evident by the work they do at the Niles Railway Depot. In the tradition of John Gipner, Niles historic depot gardener, they regularly gather to tend to the gardens that still adorn the local treasure.
Four Flags Garden Club is celebrating 35 years of care for the Niles Railway Depot. At a recent awareness event at Niles French Market, this year’s club president, Elaine Metzger gave out flowers from her garden to women passing by their location. Gipner, who made sure every female passenger boarding the trains of his day had a floral tribute, would be proud.

At the meeting plans were made to gather at the depot to begin preparing the gardens for 72 three cubic foot bags of mulch, which were spread Friday. There were several special events planned and the group wanted to be sure all is ready.

Special roses were planted as a memorial to long-time member and rose lover, Amethyst (Amy) Villwock, who passed away Feb. 23. Her son Tom Villwock of Dowagiac and other family members attended an official dedication on Sunday.

This is not the only family impressed with Four Flags Garden Club’s fine work. John Gipner’s relatives have continued to send in donations in support of the work the club did for his gravesite. Gipner family members from across the country will gather here next Memorial Day for that dedication at Silverbrook.

Also on last week’s agenda, was the replacement of a plaque marking the maple tree planted at the depot in celebration of the bi-centennial 1776-1976. There were compliments for plaque designer Joe Lutz in appreciation of his efforts to help the club.

These gardeners do not limit their community service to their own efforts.

Over the past year they have been giving both financial and moral support to Boy Scout Joseph Weiser, who in working for his Eagle Scout designation has overcome great odds to raise the $3,350 needed in order to acquire an official historic plaque outlining the depot’s great history.

This important permanent record is ready for delivery, possibly by the end of the month, and will be placed along the sidewalk leading to the main doors of the depot. It joins another important marker placed on the grounds in 1995 when Bill Emril of the Niles Police Department worked with the former Coalition for North Side and the Potawatomi tribe to establish a Peace Pole.

Here again with the base’s wood rotting and paint and plastic in dire need of repair, members of the Four Flags Garden Club are coming to the rescue. They are making time in their busy schedules to be sure that the Peace Pole is repaired and secure prior to another harsh winter.

Love of gardening. Community beautification and service. District conference in the fall. There are many reasons to consider joining; however, those who would like to get involved without officially joining the club are also welcome.

“We urge Niles residents to watch the Niles Daily Star for our monthly report. They can keep up with all our activities and there is always a number to call if they would like to volunteer for any of our projects,” said Persa.