In 1953, the Gates Mills Village Council granted the Gates Mills Garden Club the use of land along the Chagrin River deemed ideal for a native woodland. Paths were laid out and many fine specimens of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers were planted. Throughout the years, club members have tended the Village Arboretum with planting, pruning, weeding and labeling.
The Gates Mills Garden Club decorates the North and South bridges that cross over the Chagrin River. In late May, members plant the bridge boxes with beautiful colorful annuals for summer enjoyment, and members tend the flowers all season long. For the winter holidays, the boxes are once again filled with evergreen boughs and cheerful holiday decorations.
The flower show is a biennial event open to the public for viewing and submission. The show features both horticulture specimens and floral designs. All members of the Club are encouraged to participate in various roles. The entries are professionally judged by flower show judges from the state of Ohio.
Fourth of July Parade Float
The Parade Committee designs and builds the Garden Club’s Independence Day parade float. After the parade theme is announced by the Village Improvement Society in the spring, committee members brainstorm ideas and create a beautiful float in the week preceding the parade.
The Garden Tour is a biennial event that is the major fundraiser benefiting horticulture scholarships and the Gates Mills Garden Club’s projects. It showcases several gardens in Gates Mills often including historic landmark homes. The Club members work many months to solicit gardens, organize the myriad details and advertise this special garden tour. The Club is fortunate to have Villagers open their gardens for the public to enjoy.
For over half a century the Gates Mills Garden Club has been providing flowers for the Gates Mills branch of the Cuyahoga County Library. This tradition of providing the library with floral designs has continued even after the construction of a new library building in 2005. A different club member brings a design or flowering plant every week of the year. Designs are delivered on Monday and maintained during the week to guarantee a lovely display. Many times the display is appropriate to a special holiday or celebration.
For decades, the first of May is greeted in the Village of Gates Mills with baskets of flowers hanging from street signs and doorways. The May Day Baskets are a legacy of the Grey Squirrel, a flower shop once housed in a renovated gas station in the heart of the Village. The shop began the practice of hanging baskets of flowers from street signs to welcome spring. This tradition has been continued by the Gates Mills Garden Club after the Grey Squirrel closed in the mid 1960’s. Each April, the May Basket chair orders daisies, bunches of salal leaves and sprays of Baker’s fern, and the May Basket committee cleans and prepares the wicker baskets. On the last weekday before the first of May, garden club members soak fresh oasis, trim the flowers and ferns, and arrange the daisy baskets for hanging. The Village Service Department hangs the baskets from the street signs and municipal doors throughout the Village that afternoon. The May baskets have become a harbinger of spring enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
The Gates Mills Garden Club is proud to offer its scholarship program and the Laurie Hess Horticulture Award to graduating seniors from Gilmour Academy, Hawken High School, Mayfield Heights High School, including Excel TECC and students involved at the Gates Mills Environmental Education Center. The Scholarship Award can be as much as $1000 to a selected applicant. The recipients all go on to further their education in horticultural fields of study.
Service Department Luncheon
The Service Department Luncheon is an annual hot luncheon for Gates Mills Service Department, Town Hall, library and post office staffs to thank them for their service. The meal is usually a holiday meal with ham, potatoes, salads and desserts. The Garden Club works with the Community Club to organize the event. A committee is formed in the fall and responsibilities are assigned such as purchasing decorations, paper goods, and food items. The committee members also cook, serve and clean up.
Garden Club Projects
Monarch Butterfly Garden
In 2015, the Gates Mills Garden Club embarked on a comprehensive project to improve the plight of the Monarch butterfly. The project included an educational element, community outreach and construction of a certified habitat. The Club built a newly certified Monarch Way Station butterfly garden at Esquire’s Cottage, which provides an ideal environment for the Monarch butterfly to flourish. The garden has Swamp and Common Milkweed plants vital for the Monarch butterfly’s larval stages, and the perennials bloom all season long offering the butterflies more than 15 different plants to pollinate.
The monthly programs are designed to stimulate interest in gardening and floral design and for preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of our environment. Field trips to special gardens are included in the programming, and Garden Club of Ohio luncheons are often listed as optional activities.
In honor of the Gates Mills Garden Club’s benefactor, Florence Stage, the club plans monthly instructional, hands-on gardening activities on its property at Esquire’s Cottage. These optional classes aim to explain and demonstrate gardening skills such as pruning, seed collection, and monthly garden maintenance.