“Friendships and flowers growing together” is the Milton Garden Club’s tag line. What a lovely sentiment! It is obvious that members take great pride in beautifying the town as well as cultivating personal relationships.
Seven gardens were on display Sunday, September 18 during the group’s 21st annual Garden Tour that attracted about 300 people. It is a must-see event next fall. Dazzling gardens thrive behind the somewhat narrow historic homes hugging Union Street, Milton’s main thoroughfare. The tour featured four in-town gardens plus gardens in Vincent Overlook, Heronwood and Mill Pond. The latter two are featured in Beach Life magazine’s October issue for their unique qualities such as the citrus grove and palm trees nurtured by Heronwood residents Gary and Carol Smith. Each location included live music and local artists displaying their crafts.
Former Milton resident Jane Clark started the club in 1998. Members plant, weed and water gardens and planters throughout the town, like Lewes in Bloom and Rehoboth in Bloom volunteers, and so much more. Initially, the club tended three gardens. Now it maintains 10 and over 50 planters.
Monthly general meetings range from discussions on topics like “favorite gardening tools” to the annual plant exchange to helping with community events such as the Milton Horseshoe Crab Festival, the town’s Christmas parade, an outing at Lavender Fields, the Fall Garden Tour and the Milton Holly Festival.
Members raise money to purchase the plants and flowers and there is another mission – a robust scholarship fund for local high school students. At the beginning of the year, the Scholarship Committee contacts the guidance departments in all High Schools in Sussex County to ensure that applications are available to all interested seniors. Applicants must be graduating high school seniors pursuing post-secondary education in horticulture or a related field, and a legal resident of Sussex County. Scholarship awards are based on financial need, scholarship achievement, community service and leadership.
“Initially, Scholarships were only available to graduating seniors, but recently we have been able to provide a scholarship to a post-secondary student studying in the field of agriculture and natural resources” says 10-year club veteran Louise Huntley.
The club is not affiliated with any other organizations, but members work with the Milton Women’s Club and community groups such as the Delaware Master Gardeners, an extension of the University of Delaware. At the tour, they were disseminating information about the dangerous Spotted Lanternfly. Several Garden Club members helped the Town of Milton plant trees along the Rails to Trails extension by Wagamon’s West Shores. Some members are docents at the Women’s Club annual Christmas House Tour.
Club membership is comprised of long-time residents and newcomers with a wide variety of interests. There are about 80 members currently.
“Not every member is a gardener,” says Huntley, “but everyone has something to contribute”.
Her exposure to the club prompted her to join. She lives in Chestnut Crossing, a small community within the town. “It was the last place my realtor showed me and the Garden Club was decorating the bridge in town for Christmas,” she says. “I’ve always been an avid gardener. When I saw so many people working together to beautify the town, I knew this was a place I
wanted to live”. Town residency is not a requirement to join.
The club’s participation in Milton’s Holly Festival, held annually on the second Saturday of December is its largest fundraiser. Club members make and sell Williamsburg-style magnolia and boxwood and evergreen wreaths in the days leading up to the Holly Festival using fresh greens donated by members and friends.
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.