One hundred years ago, a seed was planted, and it is still growing in the Shaler Garden Club, which celebrates its centennial this year.
Herbert Hoover’s wartime program of conserving food, promoting home gardens and canning was the impetus for a meeting sponsored by the Garden Club of Allegheny County at Braun School in September 1921. The late Mrs. W. L. Davis of Shaler attended and, shortly thereafter, invited the women in the community to meet in her home. Ten women attended and formed the Shaler Township branch of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association.
Since then, the club has been working in quiet but colorful ways to beautify the Shaler community. The club’s first civic project in 1922-24 was planting the grounds of the B&O Railroad Station. They endeavored to educate children in horticulture, helping them plant seeds on school grounds. A Flower Guild, begun in 1935, made flower bouquets to cheer the table trays of patients at Children’s Hospital, and continued with Kane Regional Center in Ross until 1994.
Longtime residents may remember the spectacular spring blooms of 30 pink flowering crabapple trees and the 400-foot flower bed planted by the club members back in 1938 in the area of the Mount Royal Shopping Center. After WWII, they also planted two dogwood trees on Rt. 8 in memory of two local servicemen. Trees were added along the driveway of the Municipal Building and two bus stops in 1966-67, as well as the Shaler North Hills Library, Braun and Rogers schools.
The club held its first public plant sale in 1953 and raised $67.59. The sale, now in its 67th year, continues as the club’s main fundraiser, which supports club projects and more than a dozen charitable horticultural organizations. Thousands of evergreen trees have been distributed to Shaler kindergarteners since 2000 for Arbor Day, a project which recently evolved to celebrate Earth Day with seed packets. The club dedicated a Blue Star marker honoring fallen servicemen and women at the Shaler Middle School.
Like many Shaler residents, garden club members value their beloved Shaler North Hills Library, so many projects center around beautifying the grounds and inspiring adults and children for the love of gardening. They began planting and maintaining a hillside garden at the library in 1998, and now maintain most of the beds surrounding the perimeter. The hillside garden has been transformed into a pollinator garden certified by the Penn State Master Gardeners Extension. Members decorate three Christmas trees at the library each year, and began an annual fundraiser for the library with the Shaler Great Gardens Tour, to be held this year on July 11. Patrons can buy tour tickets at the library now.
Green thumbs are invited to enter a Local Great Gardens Contest through the library. A popular Fairy House Workshop for children ages 4-8 was first held in 2012 at the library, and was held on June 18 this year.
The Shaler Garden Club was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Trophy in 2019, given to outstanding garden clubs in Pennsylvania, and continues to strive to be a positive force in the community. The club will celebrate its birthday with a luncheon at the Wildwood Country Club on Oct. 14, 2021.
The 10 women who gathered at Mrs. Davis’ home in 1921 may not have foreseen the club’s survival through wars, the cultural and technological changes of the past century, as well as a changing climate, but they would be proud of the work and bonds of friendship harvested from their seeds planted 100 years ago. For more information about the Shaler Garden Club, visit www.shalergardenclub.com.