Bath Gamma Garden Club blossoms in new ways despite pandemic

by Emily Chesnic

The Bath Gamma Garden Club identified innovative ideas for staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, cultivating deeper friendships and keeping green thumbs busy regardless of changing circumstances.

The club, rooted in a love for gardening and community, grew in compassion and creativity amid the pandemic, and remains thriving despite the challenges that sprang up in 2020.

United by a shared interest in floriculture, members quickly acted a year ago to ensure the club, now in its 64th season, would remain vibrant yet protected.

“We are a close-knit group and found ways to safely stay together and active,” said club community relations and project chairperson Pam Reitz.

In March 2020, then program chairperson, current club president Sally Schneider unveiled the schedule for the year, announcing numerous programs and projects at the annual kick-off meeting. Then COVID-19 hit, bringing plans to a halt.

“Everything was lined up. We were excited and then bam,” she said.

Club members then had to decide if the group should go on a hiatus or reevaluate and adjust. They chose the latter, finding paths for beautifying Bath Township and continuing to mature as gardeners despite the unfamiliar situation. They are grateful they did.

“So many groups, when everything shut down, did not keep in touch. We decided to do some creative things to support each other and the community,” said Reitz.

In May 2020, garden club members, in small groups to avoid spreading the virus, managed to do its planting in the township. Annually, club members plan, install and maintain four public gardens in Bath.

“Our members were generous and loyal, paying their dues even though they did not know what was going to happen, so we could meet our community planting obligations,” said club treasurer Mary Anne Slattery.

The club also continued caring for its herb garden at Hale Farm & Village in the spring and fall, which is when members also made and displayed scarecrows at Bath Community Park.

Last June, the club began gathering for small-scale meetings outside, with those not comfortable attending not obligated to participate, said Reitz.

Club members appreciate Hale Farm permitting them to gather in its pavilion, allowing them to keep a safe distance.

“We used to meet in people’s homes, and it was personal and intimate, but we had to figure out what we could do differently, as everyone’s health was the primary concern,” Schneider said. “Hale Farm has been so gracious to allow us to meet there. We could not have continued without their support.”

In the past, desserts and cheese trays were part of the meetings, but refreshments had to change in 2020, too. Schneider said the group began offering individualized, sealed boxes for members, still providing them with a treat.

Since many of the scheduled speakers canceled last year, the club began offering make-and-take project gatherings. The concept was well received.

“We made things, including layered pots, and safely visited members’ gardens in the summer, too,” said past club president Jenny Elzemeyer. “We had to tweak things quite a bit and took it month by month.”

Also, to help stay in touch, club members began putting out a monthly email containing gardening tips and nature facts, with some humor sprinkled in to boost morale, said Reitz.

When it became evident a holiday party was not feasible, the group decided to act on longtime club member Mary Anne Krejci’s recommendation to be charitable instead, brightening the season for those in need through financial donations and gift giving. Members agreed contributing to those less fortunate would become a new club tradition.

Club program chair and vice-president Jennifer Clements said group members are looking forward to what is ahead in 2021, including the June 2 annual fundraiser, the Community Seminar and Raffle at Hale Farm. She said “wonderful programs” are scheduled for club members, with speakers lined up to engage them. Demonstrations and craft projects will be included, said Clements.

Bath Gamma Garden Club, established in 1957, was the third garden club to begin in Bath at that time, said Krejci. The club was designed for professional women, so meetings were held in the evenings to accommodate work schedules, she said.

Bath Gamma Garden Club, the last remaining garden club from that era, persevered through the years, now even during a pandemic, with members dedicated to an appreciation for planting and education on landscaping.

“There just is a beautiful spirit between our members, regardless of age or experience,” said Schneider.

Those interested in joining the Bath Gamma Garden Club should visit its website at ∞