Prior to the formation of the Maplewood Garden Club, gardening groups in the township were exclusively for women and were a part of other organizations, such as the Woman’s Club and the Civic Association. Many of the Civic Association’s members were interested in horticulture and discussed starting a separate garden club which would include men, to encourage their husbands’ participation in the community.
In 1927, two modern-thinking Maplewood women, Miss Mildred Ock and Mrs. E. Stuart Mills, joined together to sponsor the new club. The small, enthusiastic group that joined with Miss Ock and Mrs. Mills to launch the Garden Club were true to the original purpose—they not only admitted men, but elected Lewis Morley as their first president. Miss Ock became the first woman president in 1934.
From the outset, meetings were held on the first Monday evening of each month from September through May and featured speakers on various aspects of garden life (propagation, growing plants from seed, perennials, shrubs, trees, birds, etc.) as well as artistic design and horticultural exhibits.
In those days, the biggest event of each MGC year was an annual flower show, which was co-sponsored by the Civic Association and held at Columbia High School each September. Exhibiting was open to all residents of the Township and certain categories were open to out-of-town gardeners. Soon after it began, it became the largest one-day flower show in the suburbs. In 1936, the event was expanded to two days to accommodate all the visitors. The Garden Club also sponsored an annual garden contest open to residents of Maplewood, with gardens grouped according to size. There was also an award for the most improved garden.
Then, as now, MGC sponsored a Junior garden club (beginning in 1946), participated in community projects, ran a yearly plant sale, and had members who taught courses at the Adult School.
In keeping with tradition, the Maplewood Garden Club continues to earn its reputation among New Jersey garden clubs as the “Husbands and Wives” Club. A list of its past presidents shows a generous mix of male and female presidents, as well as a number of husbands and wives who, separately, have held this office.
The Maplewood Garden Club today continues to be a vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic group.