They speak for the trees in Tree City, USA.
They speak for the butterflies, too, in Monarch City, USA.
In fact, the Dade City Garden Club, celebrating its 75th anniversary, speaks for and keeps an eye on all things plants and nature.
Members of the nonprofit organization work in the fields of gardening, horticulture, landscape design, floral design and environmental awareness through the conservation of natural resources.
The garden club has a diverse group of members.
“We have mothers, we have daughters, we have aunts, we have sisters, we have everyone,” said Mona Goossens, club president. “We have so many who are so into gardens and we have plenty who want to know more about gardens, and we have others that kind of look at gardens and they’re not as hands-on.
“But what we really have is so many who are dedicated to everything our club strives to preserve and educate the public about — horticulture and the environment,” said Goossens, who is serving as the club’s leader for her fourth year.
The club was founded in 1947 when club dues were only $1.50. The next year, the club formed five circles, allowing members to pursue activities and topics of specific interest to each group. Now, there are six circles: Azalea, Camellia, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Magnolia and Poinsettia.
Over the years, the club has worked on a variety of projects throughout the East Pasco town. Club members have beautified streets, such as Meridian Avenue, and worked on the landscaping at places such as Pasco High School and the Dade City Armory.
The club initially met at the nearby woman’s club, but in 1976, Saint Rita Catholic Church presented its old church building to the club and it became the group’s clubhouse.
After a modern renovation of that 1913 church structure, the club took over its location at 13630 Fifth St., in 1977.
“This club, with its members and its garden, it takes into account what can help this town. It always has, and all you have to do is look back at what members have done over the 75 years,” said Joan Hepscher, a longtime member and co-chair of the Club’s Birds, Bees & Butterflies committee.
One of the mainstays of the garden club — member Pat Carver — was involved for 61 years before she passed away in March. The club honored her contributions with a plaque placed in its 3-acre garden.
“Pat always saw the bigger picture, of how we could do more,” said Hepscher, who was recruited to join the club by Carver. “She was a dedicated member to this club for 61 years, and the club wouldn’t be what it is today without her.”
The club annually celebrates Arbor Day and National Garden Week with special events. It also puts on the biannual Uncorked, a fundraiser event featuring wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres.
Since 1994, the club has been responsible for approximately 450 trees being planted throughout Dade City.
Also, since 1996, the club has decorated the buildings, grounds and gate at Pioneer Florida Museum and Village with permanent and fresh greenery that are brought in for Christmas decorations.
The club also deserves credit for pursuing the designation of Dade City as a Tree City, USA and Monarch City, USA.
Achieving the Monarch City USA designation was Carver’s “last hurrah.”
Club members take pride in the role their organization played in achieving those distinctions.
“We would not be a tree city or a monarch city without the Dade City Garden Club,” Goossens said. “We work so hard every year to retain those statuses (of having those titles), and it makes us all feel very connected to the city.”
Third Annual Monarch Butterfly Festival
When: Oct. 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Polly Touchton Park, between Fifth and Seventh streets, and Bougainvillea and Southview avenues, in Dade City
Details: The festival, sponsored by the Dade City Garden Club and the Dade City Youth Council, will feature environmental educators, informational booths, presentations, native plant sale and hands-on activities for kids. Through the Dade City Monarch Project, the festival takes on special importance this year because the butterflies have been added to the “endangered” species list. “They’re just not another pretty face,” said Joan Hepscher, chair of the Monarch Butterfly Festival. “We want to make people aware of their ‘struggle.’”
Visitors can park downtown and hop on a free trolley, which will be traveling from downtown to the park from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pickup locations are adjacent to the Robert B. Sumner Judicial Center, at 38033 Live Oak Ave., and at The Spoke, located at 37800 Church Ave. Parking is available in city- and county-owned lots, and other areas around downtown.
Info: Email , or visit DadeCityGardenClub.com.
Published October 19, 2022