Everywhere you look in Windermere, there is evidence that gardeners have been there with their green thumb. Started in 1956, the Windermere Garden Club is still going strong 60 years later, with a passion for nature and serving the community.
The club is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs Inc. and of National Garden Clubs Inc. Its purpose is to bring together residents of Windermere and the surrounding communities, including Bay Hill, Dr. Phillips, Winter Garden and Ocoee, to enhance the beauty of the area and to encourage conservation through education and action.
Serving the community
Community service projects are a key component to the club. Recently, the WGC provided the irrigation and the floral and plant landscaping at the 1887 Windermere Schoolhouse, which was preserved and dedicated last December. Only plants that would have grown at the time the school was operating were planted.
Members deliver six small arrangements each month to hospice patients at Ocoee Healthcare Center and sign up to take flowers each week to the Windermere Library.
“It's people and plants and a lot of friendships,” Janet Sgamma, publicity chair, said of the organization, which currently boasts 55 members.
“We have ladies who just dig in the dirt; we have ladies who do arrangements,” Club President Bonnie Baum said. “It's such a variety.”
The club is active with Windermere youth, too, serving as a Partner in Education at Windermere Elementary School and maintaining its butterfly garden.
The town of Windermere is an officially designated USA Tree City, and club members have hosted an Arbor Day ceremony for more than 25 years around Windermere Town Hall. About 120 preschoolers from Windermere Union Church participate in the program, which includes a police honor guard, a proclamation from Mayor Gary Bruhn, tree songs and a tree planting.
Participants work the Windermere Arbor Day “Treebute” event yearly and provide free plants for children to take home to nurture.
At Christmastime, club members decorate a giant tree inside Town Hall with handmade ornaments according to that year's theme. They decorate the fireplace and mantel inside, as well as a nature tree on the back porch.
Too, the WGC contributes to organizations such as Nehrling Gardens and Penny Pines that support the environment and preserve natural resources.
Receiving, giving accolades
One source of pride is the awards the club has received through the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs for its projects and service. It won first place in the state for its Arbor Day program and advanced to take another first place in the five-state Deep South Region.
Other awards for 2015 were given for the butterfly garden at Windermere Elementary, the hospice floral arrangements and the planting of the historic schoolhouse gardens.
Two students are selected each year to receive $1,500 scholarships to the University of Florida to study environmental horticulture. Financial support is given annually to four to six elementary school students to attend the Wekiva Youth Camp, a weeklong nature program sponsored by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.
These scholarships and other local community service projects are possible because of funds raised at the annual spring Crazy Card Party, which combines a luncheon, silent auction, raffle and card games.
From September to May, the Windermere Garden Club hosts monthly meetings during which guest speakers give nature-related presentations. Members also take regular excursions to local nurseries and other places of interest. Some members open their residences for garden tours.
“We are all very proud of our club and the good works that we do for our community,” Sgamma said. “There are so many friendships among members that have evolved over the years that result in a very warm and welcoming group.”
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].