By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
If you delve into the long history of the Everett Garden Club, you are going to dig up a little dirt.
Back in the 1960s, garden club members began looking for land to launch an arboretum, a place for the public to study and admire plants and trees.
The arboretum footprint started out as a 35-acre plot near Everett Community College in north Everett. In April 1963, the garden club got their brainchild off the ground by planting the arboretum’s first tree, a pin oak.
The Herald’s managing editor back then, Abe Glassberg, got involved, throwing his support behind the project.
Then the worm turned.
Though history is sketchy on the details, a group of Everett business owners wanted a golf course in the same spot that the Everett Garden Club wanted the arboretum.
The businessmen won out, and today Legion Memorial Golf Course sits at W. Marine View Drive where golfers enjoy a view of the Snohomish River delta.
That original pin oak still stands at the 10th hole.
But Everett’s arboretum did come to be — and today sits next to Legion Memorial Golf Course. Sandy Schumacher credits the “dynamic women” of the Everett Garden Club for fighting for one of Everett’s treasures.
“If there had been no Everett Garden Club, there would be no arboretum,” said Schumacher, vice president of publicity for the Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens board. “We are in their debt because people now come from all over the world to see the arboretum. It is a jewel for the city.”
It’s an appropriate time to recognize the Everett Garden Club, founded in September 1938, as it prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in September 2013.
To kick off the celebration, the club is presenting “An Afternoon With Ciscoe” party Saturday featuring the plant guru and personality Ciscoe Morris at Floral Hall in Everett’s Forest Park. The club plans on holding special events throughout this year and next, leading up to the actual anniversary.
Since it began, the Everett Garden Club has followed a path to beautify the city. Garden club volunteers were among the first to plant flowers in hanging baskets placed throughout the city. Club members also planted a variety of trees all over town.
Schumacher credits the club with helping Everett achieve Tree City USA status. Everett has been recognized as a Tree City USA city since it first applied in 1993.
“They were busy beautifying the town and the area long before it became fashionable,” Schumacher said.
In 1961, the Everett Garden Club sponsored an Evergreen Scenic Trail to direct visitors to some of the city’s main beauty spots and vistas, according to Herald archives.
The club also planted and maintained a horseshoe-shaped fragrance garden at Legion Memorial Park in north Everett so the blind could enjoy flowers. Because of a lack of volunteers, the fragrance garden couldn’t be maintained and was dug up in the late 1980s, said Faith Wallingford, a garden club member since 1978.
There was a time when the Everett Garden Club had about 175 members, — so many, in fact, the club had to limit its membership because it was getting too big to meet at Floral Hall.
Today, membership is down, but the club has a core group of more than 30. That number keeps growing as the club continues to emphasize programs on horticulture, Wallingford said.
“It’s such a good way to learn about plants from the ground up,” she said.
The club is expanding because more and more, people want to grow their own food, said member Ruby Holland, who was the club’s program director for 10 years.
“Gas prices are keeping people at home so more people are gardening,” Holland said.
The club’s direction has grown with the times. These days, programs focus on being green, with topics that cover composting and beneficial bugs for your garden.
Garden club members also help each other out.
As the membership ages, club members sometimes get together to help a member with yard maintenance, upkeep or planting.
“What all of us find gratifying is that we are there to do something for the community,” secretary Barb O’Brien said. “But from my standpoint, the friendships I’ve made over the years are lasting, lifelong friendships.”
And as it continues to grow, part of the legacy of the Everett Garden Club will continue to be the arboretum.
Today, the Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens is next to the golf course on Alverson Boulevard, and the size is limited to about 3.3 acres since the golf course gobbled up most of the land.
Though small, Everett’s arboretum is a living museum, incorporating a sculpture garden and 10 theme gardens that inspire people to learn more about a variety of plants, from conifers and Japanese maples to perennials and native species.
The arboretum hosts weddings, graduations and other parties. Volunteer tour guides offer free one-hour tours every Saturday from June 1 through the first Saturday in September. Last year, those tours brought in about 200 people.
“Is the world a better place with an arboretum?” arboretum board member Schumacher asked. “I would have to say yes it is.”
Join plant guru Ciscoe Morris when the Everett Garden Club kicks off its 75th anniversary Saturday in an event that includes raffles, refreshments and door prizes.
“An Afternoon with Ciscoe” is 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Floral Hall, Forest Park, 802 E. Mukilteo Blvd., Everett. Morris will answer questions, and his book, “Ask Ciscoe,” will be available for signing.
Tickets are $15 and are available at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville; Pacific Stone, 3826 Rucker Ave., Everett; Stadium Flowers, 3632 Broadway, Everett; and at the door. For more information, call Everett Garden Club secretary Barb O’Brien at 425-257-2255 or email email@example.com.