Gardeners lament loss of club

8 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Erin Nason can still picture her grandmother sitting at her kitchen table in southern Maine each spring, surrounded by packets of flower seeds, plotting what her garden would look like as she readied for planting.

And of course, Nason said, her grandmother “couldn’t wait” to meet up with her garden club friends again.

So when the Houlton resident got into the hobby more seriously recently and grew tired of scouring the internet for planting tips, she thought there might be a local club she could turn to for support.

To her surprise, she was wrong.

“I asked around locally and checked with The Garden Club Federation of Maine, and it seems like gardening clubs have a strong presence in other parts of Maine, but not Aroostook County,” Nason said recently. “It was disappointing.”

Marlene Hofstetter of Monticello agreed. She was the past president of the Houlton Garden Club until it disbanded about 2006 or 2007, Hofstetter said during a recent interview.

“It really was a shame because we were an active club, and we did a lot of work to beautify the town,” she said. “We were down to about eight members when we stopped meeting. As the years passed, we struggled to maintain our membership and to attract newer, younger members.”

Hofstetter said that the Houlton Garden Club not only served as an outlet to provide planting and gardening tips to other members, the club also hosted discussions that were open to the community.

In addition, the club sponsored an annual plant sale, the proceeds of which benefitted the local Dollars for Scholars program.

“One of our major projects each year was planting all of the flowers at various spots throughout the community, such as in Pierce Park and by the triangle in Market Square,” said Hofstetter. “We did a lot of beautification work in that regard.”

Cathy O’Leary, Houlton town clerk, said Wednesday that the work the club once did has been absorbed by various other individuals and organizations. Aroostook Milling Co. donates the flowers that were planted by volunteers in Pierce Park, and buckets full of flowers, along with the labor, were recently donated by Callanan’s Greenhouse to be placed throughout the community.