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Garden club helps city grow more beautiful

Born and raised on a farm, Elsie Ness has always had an interest in gardening. When she moved to Florida in 1969, Ness was determined to tame the sandy Florida terrain.

Ness used the resources at the Little Red Schoolhouse Library to research as much as she could about Florida and its soil. After cultivating her own garden, Ness decided she wanted to help the rest of the residents in Spring Hill do the same. So in 1978, Ness joined the Spring Hill Garden Club.

"People move to Spring Hill from all parts of the United States and have no idea how to grow things on Florida terrain," said Ness. "We try to teach people how to grow things in a sand pile."

The Spring Hill Garden Club was established in 1973 with 18 members. It met at First United Methodist Church in Spring Hill.

The garden club celebrated its 25th anniversary Friday at Bouma Hall, formerly the Spring Hill Civic Association Community Center, on Kenlake Avenue. Members reminisced about garden club experiences and how much Spring Hill has grown since the club started.

To encourage residents to beautify their yards, the Spring Hill Garden Club had the Garden of the Month Award. Each month, a home was picked to receive the award, based on the upkeep of the yard.

An active member of the garden club, Ness was chairwoman of the Garden of the Month Award. Ness recalls there being so many beautiful homes in Spring Hill that it was often hard to choose a winner.

When the club stopped giving the award a few years ago, 379 had been given out.

The main purpose of the garden club's projects is to beautify the community. A lot of the work the garden club does involves informing people of all ages about gardening.

The club sponsors the Green Thumbers, a garden club for students at Notre Dame Interparochial School. The garden club members assist the Green Thumbers in learning early on how to garden.

An upcoming project for the Spring Hill Garden Club is building a botanical garden off Parker Avenue. There will be scented plants for people who are blind so everyone in the community can enjoy the garden.

On May 8 and 9, the garden club will hold a nationally accredited free flower show at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Spring Hill. At the show, the club will use flowers to interpret music and art.

"The only difference between the art we do and paintings is the materials we use," said flower show Chairwoman Ruth Antonson. "The arrangements we do are very artistic and unique."

Garden club President Jim Erickson is pleased with the group's success.

Erickson said the only problem is the club needs new members because current members are getting too old to do physical work.

The garden club meets once a month at Bouma Hall. Members share garden success stories and introduce new types of plants and how to grow them.

"Not enough people in Spring Hill know how much beautification we do," anniversary chairwoman and garden club member Adeline Grieco said. "I wish everyone in Spring Hill would send us a dollar, like a chain letter, as appreciation for the work we do."

The Spring Hill Garden Club is responsible for maintaining the landscaping around the waterfall entrance to Spring Hill off U.S. 19 and the landscaping at the Northcliffe entrance.

The club has a nature trail and nursery behind Bouma Hall. A tree is planted on the nature trail for each past president of the garden club. Twice a year, the club has a plant sale to raise money for its projects.

"The community has been enhanced by the garden club," former member Jean Richards said. "I feel proud (to have been) a part of a group that I know is making an impact."