Boone County Gardener's of America

By Kathryn Menue


BOONE COUNTY – Scattered around Belvidere are the usual flower urns perfectly decorated by the Boone County Gardener’s of America.

However, this year’s assortment of planters has a special, unique twist to their beauty. In honor of their 60th anniversary, the Boone County Gardner’s of America planted marigolds, which symbolize 60 years.

On their 60-year journey, the Boone County Gardener’s of America have experienced a wide-variety of exciting activities since their first meeting on May 18, 1955.

The Boone County Gardener’s of America started as the Belvidere Men’s Garden Club with only 12 members.

However, the gardening club grew like wild flowers with a total of 48 members by the fourth meeting.

With a passion for agriculture in all of the member’s hearts, the club grew to be a well-established organization forming volunteer opportunities to beautify the community with a creative and fun atmosphere.

For example, in 1957, the Belvidere Men’s Garden Club sponsored the first flower show to coincide with the Boone County Fair.

To promote the flower show, the club members dressed dummies up like the founding members and strapped them to light poles about town with each dummy displaying “an identification card urging people to attend the flower show at the fairgrounds on Aug. 9, 10, and 11.”

As the first president of the Belvidere Men’s Garden Club, Owen M. Johnson, pointed out at the 25th anniversary, “It is needless to say that after this advertising, we had a good attendance at the Belvidere Men’s Garden Club flower show sponsored in connection with the Boone County Fair.

The sense of humor that is so contagious with the group did not stop there.  One year, Club Treasurer John E. Johnson wrote a humorous ad to run in the paper.

It read, “Best Club in the Midwest. If you have the right plumbing and the right money, join now. $10.00 per year. Confederate currency not acceptable. Men’s Garden Club, John E. Johnson, Treasurer.”

Besides finding inventive ways to gather crowds and gain membership, the Belvidere Men’s Garden Club created traditions to help improve the ambiance of the Belvidere and Boone County community.

These volunteer efforts include, planting a tree or shrub in memory of deceased members in the location chosen by the member’s family since 1978 and plantings at the Pettit Chapel, Special Education Building, Maple Crest Nursing Home, Big Thunder Park, Parkside Manor, Boone State Bank, Fairview Manor, YMCA, Public Safety Building, Spencer Park, Boone County Fairgrounds, Ida Public Library, North State Street Shopping Center, East Avenue Tot Lot, and the Boone County Conservation District.

Since the switch from the Belvidere Men’s Garden Club to the Boone County Gardener’s of America in 1994, the organization has continued to make Boone County vibrant with the natural planting additions within the community.

At the beginning, the gardener club had a proposed budget of $555; whereas as of 2010, the club can accomplish much more with a proposed budget of $20,937.20.

The present and past garden projects that the organization has provided the community include planting flowering crab trees along Logan Avenue, planting crab trees at Spencer Park, planting petunias in the urns in the Belvidere area, the annual flower sale, landscaping Maple Crest Nursing Home,  and awarding the residential and non-residential yard of the month awards.

The list also includes the horticulture scholarship to Belvidere High Schools and North Boone graduating seniors, establishing Spencer Park Arboretum, assisting with Arbor Day activities, contributing to Washington School Arboretum, assisting with the Salvation Army Bell Ringing, building the Maple Crest Nursing Home handicap planters, planting at the Fairview Manor Nursing Home, and planting at the Keen Age Center.

All of these wonderful contributions to the community are all made possible through the 19 different committees established within the Boone County Gardener’s of America.

In the 60th year of existence, the legacy of the garden club continued with tree plantings at Prairie Fields Park, the Butterfly Garden at the Boone County Conservation District, sponsoring Camp Redwing campers, awarding two scholarships for students going on to college who are taking courses in conservation and horticulture, and working to give the Poultry Barn a facelift in the spring.

Throughout the years, the Boone County Gardener’s of America have stood the test of time while sticking to their motto: “Friendliness through gardening.”

As first president, Owen M. Johnson once recited as his favorite quote from Lee Fetzer, “I like gardening because I have something to show for my efforts.”

After 60 years, the Boone County Gardener’s of America have a lot to show for their efforts and the Belvidere and Boone County community have a lot to be thankful for because of the efforts of this wonderful organization.

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