Since its organization in 1924, the Mystic Garden Club has been beautifying the village of Mystic, Connecticut, through a wide variety of projects. As the holiday season approaches, this year will mark its 44th annual Greens Sale, an event eagerly anticipated by the community, taking place on Dec. 1 from noon-3 p.m., and December 2 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Mystic Museum of Art, 9 Water St, Mystic.
Behind the scenes for this fundraiser begins early in September with planning and workshops that involve many of club’s 98 members. The Greens Sale generates funds to help the club pursue the beautification of Mystic, and benefit various community organizations and programs. Cassie VanDine and Cathy Alsop are co-chairs for the sale, and they are both relatively new members of the club.
Alsop says, “I think it’s amazing to see all this talent coming together, and the level of detail and work, and ability of the various members is really quite something.”
Van Dine agrees. “It’s a nice community event. And the money we raise goes back into the town,” she says.
Proceeds from the sale benefit the local community in many ways; support of Coogan Farm and Denison Homestead, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, college scholarships to local students, Mystic Chamber of Commerce, Mystic Museum of Art, Mystic Noank Library, Northeast Academy Arts Magnet School, OutCT, Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Riverfront Children’s Center, Groton Open Space Association, FRESH of New London, Mystic River Historical Society, and Safe Futures.
Judy Salerno is chair for the advance group sales and her enthusiasm sparkles. “I love the camaraderie, coming to the workshops, working on the projects,” she says. “I like meeting the downtown business owners who buy wreaths from the advance sale.”
Countdown to the sale is accelerated as the workshops generate ornaments and decorations for the finished greenery pieces. “There are two parts to the sale,” says Salerno. “The advance wreath sale occurs before the greens sale, and that is so important. The merchant wreaths are decorated and delivered before Thanksgiving so they are ready when Santa’s tugboat comes down the river for the parade on Saturday,” she says.
Once the wreaths are delivered to the merchants, club members go to the Mystic Museum of Art and work that entire week designing and constructing the beautiful greenery creations for the sale. The offerings aren’t just wreaths—although the selection is large—but also table toppers, candle rings, ornaments, swags, and other holiday-type designs.
“One thing that people don’t know,” says Van Dine, “is that all the greenery comes from local residents who open their yards to club members the week before the sale.” Every item for the sale is designed and hand-tied by club members, who also go out and collect holly and other greens.
Is the sale a success? The committee chairs nod vigorously. “Oh, yes,” says Salerno. “We sell out. There is a waiting line at noon on opening day, and the wall of decorated wreaths is mostly sold in the first two to three hours.”
Funds from the sale are also used to purchase plants, soil, amendments, and many other expenses involved with maintaining the club’s projects, such as the downtown flower boxes. Amy Bush has been involved with the boxes for many years and notes that the first boxes, years ago, were quite small and contained only a couple of geraniums.
“Then we organized a garden stroll,” says Bush, “and all the profits went into purchasing the current beautiful big boxes.” Bush says that almost half of the active members take part in the flower boxes project. Watering these planters is no small feat, as there is no water source on the street, so members carry gallon jugs of water in their cars at all times.
The flower boxes give downtown Mystic a beautiful boost and each planter is different, having been planted and maintained by different people. Once the summer annuals begin to fade, the boxes are replenished with holiday greenery just before Thanksgiving.
Bush is clearly proud of the commitment of the club members to keep the flower boxes looking wonderful, but it does have challenges. “It’s sad to find junk and trash thrown into the boxes,” she says. And there’s been some vandalism in the past. “But when we’re downtown watering, everyone stops to tell us how much they love the boxes,” says Bush.
Club president Karen Wolfskehl shares some wonderful news. For all this dedication and hard work, the Mystic Garden Club was informed in late October that they were being honored with the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut Silver Bowl Award.
“These awards highlight what a unique club we have here in southeastern Connecticut,” says Wolfskehl.
The awards were “in recognition of the continued community involvement by planning, funding, designing, and planting a pollinator garden at the gateway to the ‘Giving Garden,’ our coastline’s largest organic community garden,” the Federated Garden Clubs said in a statement.
“Our members are an impressive group of civic-minded individuals who love to give back to the community by the yearly work on the boxes downtown, and at Coogan Farm,” says Wolfskehl. “Our club is delighted with this recognition.”
The club’s work includes creating a large herb garden, planting 32 blueberry bushes, funding an Invasive Plant Patrol Plan, and adding an herb patch at the historic farmhouse on Coogan Farm.
For more information, visit mysticgardenclub.org; email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write Mystic Garden Club, PO Box 326, West Mystic, CT 06388.