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Ithaca Garden Club maintains a growing community

Driving through Ithaca, one could notice the forsythia trees and not think too much of them. However, the gardens have been the result of years worth of dedication from the Ithaca Garden Club to bring people together.    

The Ithaca Garden Club was founded in 1922 by the wife of Cornell’s fourth president, Daisy Farrand, with 45 other members who wanted to cultivate a passion for gardening in Ithaca. Since celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2022, the club’s impact is visible across the city. 

The Ithaca Garden Club is one of the largest and longest-running organizations of its kind in New York. The club has worked in collaboration with Cornell faculty and the City of Ithaca to produce different public gardens. Ithaca Garden Club President, Diane Childs, explained the importance of the gardens.    

 “People love to walk down and see the gardens. It adds to the beauty of the community,” Childs said. “Anything that makes people feel better adds to the community.”

Some of the most notable projects by the Ithaca Garden Club have been the crabapple and forsythia trees that can be found around Ithaca. One of the recent initiatives from the Garden Club, the planting of over 90,000 daffodils, was an idea that bloomed during the pandemic.

Ithaca members enjoy the daffodils planted by the Ithaca Garden Club. Source: Lucia Coutermarsh / IthacaWeek

“Getting people to come out was the first major goal of making them feel comfortable, and having masks available for them and sanitizer was important,” Childs said. 

Ithaca Garden Club member, Bea Szekely also recognized the pandemic as a challenging time for the organization. 

“Garden clubs like all clubs had a rough time during the pandemic, and being able to meet at all and be outside together on a spring day means a great deal,” Szekely said. 

For the members of the club, giving back to the community is paramount. However, the friendships made through their mutual love of gardening have also played a significant role in their lives.

“I think whenever you make friendships, you gain something different from every friendship that you make,” Childs said. “And most of the friendships I’ve made in the garden have been very special, very talented people, people who are involved in the community and education. And so that’s very rewarding, doing something for others is always rewarding.”

Dashers getting ready to begin the race. Source: Lucia Coutermarsh / IthacaWeek
Dashers running past the daffodils as they near the finish line. Source: Lucia Coutermarsh / IthacaWeek

Elaine Alexander joined the organization after moving to Ithaca. Since she was so young at the time, her husband joked that her presence brought the average age of the Garden Club down by 30 years.

After a neighbor suggested she join the club, she began working with fellow members and friends on community engagement projects. Now Alexander will be Child’s replacement, as the club president for the next term. 

“It’s been first and foremost the friendships that I’ve made over the years,” Alexander said. “It’s having a lot of fun with people you care about.”

Szekely got involved with the Ithaca Garden Club after she retired. She was interested in the garden that the club was planning to organize at the fire station for firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.  

“When you retire, you want to feel in the game and this gave me a chance to dig in deeply in this community,” Szekely said. “I heard a couple short speeches from the chief of the fire department and I realized it was this wonderful thing that I wanted to be a part of.”

The Ithaca Garden Club has been predominantly a women’s organization, although they have always been open to members of all genders and encourage people of all ages who have a passion for gardening to get involved.

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