In 2010 the Clifford and District Horticultural Society celebrates “Fifty Years of Blossoming with Pride.” The small group of people who met for the first meeting on February 15, 1960 had no idea what a great legacy they were leaving to our community.
It is because of them that we have the beautiful public parks and gardens of which we are justifiably proud. Two of those first chapter members still reside in Clifford and, although they may not be able to “play in the dirt” as they once did, they are still strong supporters of our horticultural programs.
Marion Sangster, who has lived on Elora Street for the past 76 years has been an enthusiastic gardener and exhibitor in our flower shows. Today Marion always presents a challenge to the other planter box caregivers with her colourful display of flowers. Working a little magic with her green thumb, the results are a joy to all who pass by. Marion was the recipient of a china teapot for her exhibits at the 1961 flower show.
Ruby Bell, a resident of Clifford for many years, now resides at Jamesway Apartments. The horticultural members who have worked in Clifford gardens over the years must surely have enjoyed Ruby’s quick sense of humour and mischievous smile. Ruby and her friend, Maude Paulin, spent tireless hours planting and maintaining Clifford gardens. Always willing to lend a hand where needed, Ruby has been actively involved in Clifford Women’s Institute, Knox Church, Senior Citizens, to name just a few.
In 1983 Clifford Lions presented Ruby with the “Citizen of the Year” award and in 1984 she was awarded the Ontario Bicentennial Medal presented by Premier Bill Davis. To quote Ruby, “When I heard I was to receive the medal, I just couldn’t believe it. I thought there were others who deserved it more than I did.”
Back in 1960, Mr. Clarence Miller, then President of the Clifford Rotary Club, circulated a letter on behalf of Dr. G. A. Graham, inviting the community to an organizational meeting for the purpose of electing a slate of officers for a horticultural society along with an active membership to help beautify the village and surrounding area. Rev. J. W. Siebert, District 7 Director from 1957 to 1961, presided over the meeting. An election followed in which Dr. G. A. Graham became the founding president, vice presidents were Mrs. Art Newton and Harold Mackenzie, and Mrs. Bill Smith became secretary-treasurer. The first directors were Tom Pritchard, Henry Amoneit, Mrs. Murray Snider, Gerald Wolfe, C. Pfeffer, Clarence Miller, Mrs. Charles Shannon, George Seip, Mrs. Roy Bonham and Mrs. C. G. McPhail. The group decided to meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month. From the early years of the society, the rose was chosen as the emblem to be used on the society banner and brochures.
By 1966, more and more rural people became interested in horticulture and, to reflect the growing rural membership, the name was changed to Clifford and District Horticultural Society.
In 1970 a new youth program began, with the giving of packets of seeds to children, with the promise that they would exhibit the results at the summer flower show. Mrs. Elmer Yost volunteered to head up that program. Today’s youth have a partnership program where each one gardens with an adult partner. In recent years they have been the recipients the District 7 Heipel-Markle award. In 2009 our society awarded, for the first time, the “Helene Held” Award to the youth with the highest competition points and the best participation in the youth program. This award will be given annually.
Many of the events in today’s program are similar to those held in the 1960s: flower shows, public plantings, card parties, plant exchanges, mini-auctions and, of course, lunch was always an important part of society events. Geraniums and petunias were the flowers of choice for public planting.
So here we are in 2010, celebrating the great gifts given to us by our founding members. Today we have over 235 adult members and about 12 active youth members. Fourteen planter boxes line the streets and 17 gardens are maintained by our volunteers with some watering help from the Town of Minto. Minto also provides and maintains colourful hanging baskets to beautify the main street.
Anniversary plans began in 2009 with the sale of 185 calendars full of Clifford parks and gardens. Our 2010 meetings and events and garden sayings are highlighted each month. An anniversary committee was formed and it was decided to hold an Anniversary Dinner at Clifford Community Hall on July 17, 2010 complete with dinner, awards, prizes and a special guest speaker, Mr. Denis Flanagan.