Bits 'n' Pieces: Ridgefield garden club marks 75 years

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

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Unexpected beauty has been the driving force behind the Ridgefield Garden Club's 75 years of helping its community.

Downtown flower planters, park and cemetery benches, high school horticulture scholarships and the Ridgefield clock at Pioneer Street and Third Avenue are all touches from the garden club.

"I just enjoy things to look nice," said Jeanette Claiborne, the club's oldest member at 89 and the daughter-in-law of one of its founders.

In July 1938, 15 of Ridgefield's "pioneer ladies" formed a club based around their interests of gardening and giving back to the community. Meetings were hosted in members' homes, Claiborne said, with a co-hostess "furnishing the tidbits and snacks." But that kept the group's membership numbers low.

"In a person's home, it's pretty hard to have more than 20," Claiborne said. "Now, we find it easier to have a meeting place."

The club now has 32 members -- from those in their early 40s to those their 80s -- and meets once a month on Thursday mornings at the Ridgefield Church of the Nazarene, 747 Pioneer St.

They were going to build a clubhouse, Claiborne said, and had set up donation drives. But they decided it wasn't economically feasible, so in 1963 they donated the deeded land they had to the city of Ridgefield. That land became Davis Park.

"The club had a lot to do with the decision for the trees and shrubs," Claiborne said.

"Because all of us belong to this community, a lot of us take pride in how it looks. We just want our little town to just be a shining star in Clark County," club member Barbara Pfeifer said. "And as our town has grown, so has the necessity of providing pretty things."

The 78-year-old said she joined the club in the early 1970s to learn more about gardening and flower arranging. The club used to arrange flowers for weddings, high school graduations and the veterans' hospitals.

"When we planted all the trees (downtown), we had to water them by bucket. We had no source of watering in downtown," Pfeifer said. "So me and my husband filled up buckets of water from our home, put them in the back of our pickup.

"At a lot of our meetings, we have speakers come in, and we learn how to prune or learn about what plants go together best in the garden."

"It's an active club. It's always been very active," Pfeifer added. "We have dedicated gals, with new gals always coming in. (They're) really enthusiastic. We're always looking out for new members to keep it going."

The club will serve anniversary cake for the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Ridgefield Heritage Celebration at the Ridgefield Community Center, 210 N. Main Ave.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.