In 1949, Mary Ward and Helen Rice joined 11 garden-loving friends to form the Camellia Garden Club.
This year, the club is celebrating it's 50th anniversary. Mrs. Ward and Mrs. Rice, the only remaining charter members active in the 30-member club, want to continue their membership into the new millennium.
"We've tried to retire and become associate members, but they just won't let us," Mrs. Rice said, joking. "The truth is, we enjoy being around all these young faces because they make us feel a little younger."
Club members are working on their 50th anniversary flower display for the Sacred Heart Cultural Center 1999 Flower and Garden Show, which will be held March 26-28. The display will include props from 1949, such as aviator jackets and pearls, said Brigid Pursley, club president.
Although the club is named after the camellia, members discuss a variety of flowers and plants. "I think we got our name because camellia's were very popular in Augusta at the time we started the club," Mrs. Rice said.
The Camellia Garden Club became affiliated with the Augusta Council of Gardening Clubs in its first year and joined the Georgia Federation of Garden Clubs and the National Federation of Garden Clubs in 1951.
"Our garden club isn't strictly social," said Ms. Pursley. "Because we are associated with city, state and national clubs, we have rules to follow and expectations to live up to."
Through the years, members have given money to many charities and sponsored several projects. Last year, the club sponsored the Interfaith Hospitality Project, which gives money to local churches that help the homeless.
The club also works with Georgia Regional Hospital's garden therapy project. "We go to the hospital and help the patients plant flowers and spend the day with them outdoors," Mrs. Pursley said.
Monthly meetings feature lectures on seasonal gardening tips and conservation efforts.
Mrs. Ward and Mrs. Rice are less active in the garden now, but still enjoy learning and sharing information about the pastime Mrs. Ward said.
They met long before they formed the Camellia Garden Club. "We've known each other forever," Mrs. Ward said. "And the club has meant so much to us throughout the years."
Katie Throne covers gardening. She can be reached at (706) 823-3351.
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