OXFORD — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc and garden clubs are suffering also.

However, club members remain hopeful, celebrate past achievements and welcome new members to help plan future events, including a self-guided tour of “secret” Oxford gardens in June.

Oxford Garden Club’s public meetings, events and fundraisers have been shelved. Like other local nonprofits, club members are forced to be creative to connect with each other in a virtual or safe fashion, and using Zoom for business meetings and feature monthly presentations on gardening related subjects.

One of the biggest continuing projects of President Dorothy Williams’ term has been the concentrated effort for her Sunshine Committee, which continues to reach out to members who have lost a spouse or suffer from health issues on the home front. The club continues to use email to keep members connected.

Beginning in late March of 2020, when the pandemic hit the state, many members utilized their sewing and quilting skills to create masks which were donated to local first responders when PPE was in short supply.

This past December, many club members gathered while wearing masks and working 10 feet apart to create special holiday wreaths that were sold by the Oxford Business Association as a fundraiser.

Members joined in the Wreaths Across America event locally and helped place (and later remove) wreaths on the graves at Maryland Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery in Hurlock. Typically, this event is open to the public with a planned, patriotic program and speakers but this ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic.

With a limited number of people, every veteran gravesite was donned with a wreath to honor them. All wreath donations were sponsored by local garden clubs on the Eastern Shore. Oxford Garden Club has a proud history of honoring veterans and servicemen and look forward to honoring servicee men and women in a more formal service in the future.

The Oxford Garden Club received many awards during spring and fall 2020 by the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc., The Central Atlantic Region of State Garden Clubs and the National Garden Clubs, Inc. organizations for the club’s 2019 activities.

The FGCMD notified the club of two community service awards, one for an event held on Memorial Day 2019 which featured guest speakers, District Director Doris Key and the Mid-Shore Community Band.

Another Community award was for the club’s “Lunch Bunch” program in which the OGC met monthly to create small, seasonally appropriate floral designs for the local Meals on Wheels program throughout the year. OGC also received a Yearbook Award for the club’s publication consisting of scheduled activities, bylaws with membership information.

District I of the FGCMD, Inc. announced several awards for the Oxford Garden Club for 2019-2020. The entire club was awarded the Marguerite Wiley Award for the best district club project in promoting one of the state or national objectives of the FGCMD, Inc. for a District Standard Flower Show held Oct. 19, 2019. This award traditionally is delivered by the previous year’s club winner, filled with a beautiful daffodil display. Marguerite Willey was president of the Somerset County Garden Club in District I, and had a special interest in daffodils and emphasizing community service and garden therapy.

Terry Holman also was honored to receive the prestigious Joanna Lloyd Tilghman Award of Special Recognition. This award is a pewter Jefferson cup presented at the District I annual Zoom meeting in October by District Director Doris Key, for exemplifying the objectives of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc. by special dedication to District I work.

Every 20 years or so, a club in the District I hosts the District I – FGCMD, Inc. Standard Flower Show. The club was able to host this show for public education and enjoyment before the pandemic hit. This National Garden Club Standard Flower Show consisted of all 11 district garden clubs on the Eastern Shore. Halloween was the theme for this special District Standard Flower Show, and it was held at the Oxford Community Center on Oct. 19, 2019.

The club won won first place, awarded by the Central Atlantic Region of State Garden clubs for the District Flower Show Schedule. In addition, OGC received a Flower Show Achievement award from National Garden Clubs, Inc. for the high caliber Standard Flower Show. Club members hope to participate in future shows and to share their love of gardening, floral design and educating the public when it is safe to do so.

Forever a hopeful bunch, a large committee is planning the club’s Secret Gardens of Oxford Tour fundraiser, typically held every other year. This year, the fundraiser committee will be adding COVID-19 CDC and state safety protocols. The outdoor event is planned for June 5.

This club sells tickets in advance to be picked up the day of the garden tour. Maps and the featured secret gardens with garden descriptions are revealed on the day of the tour, along with a ticket in the form of a special mask.

Self-guided tours, with signs and garden club docents, allow the public a secret glance at gardens typically unseen from the street. Each year the club features different gardens for public enjoyment. This year, OGC is planning for the safe viewing of eight different gardens, all within walking distance of the center of Oxford. More information will be shared in coming months.

“It is no surprise as gardeners are typically very hopeful and positive folk by nature,” an OGC press release stated. “We nurture people like we nurture our plants, and we welcome the opportunity for new members to grow with us.”

Oxford Garden Club is a member of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc. and National Garden Clubs, Inc. The club’s mission is to promote the knowledge of gardening and floral design, to participate in civic projects to conserve and beautify the community and to actively support all forms of conservation. OGC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit www.oxfordmdgc.org or email oxfordmdgc@gmail.com.

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