Still Growing After More Than 30 Years

Grace Allen
The Garden Club of Norfolk held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 23 at the newly-renovated Memorial Rose Garden. (l to r): Michele Drolette, Garden Club of Norfolk Co-President; Susan Brindley, Garden Club of Norfolk Memorial Rose Garden Co- Chairman; Mary Gould, Original Visionary and Benefactor; and Liz Davey, Garden Club of Norfolk Memorial Rose Garden Co- Chairman.
Issue Date: 
August, 2018
Article Body: 

It’s been said that gardening is an exercise in optimism. You could say then that optimism has been the motto of the Garden Club of Norfolk for a very long time. The club recently marked its 30th anniversary, and is confidently looking toward the future.
In late 1975, Norfolk resident Helena Drolette placed an ad in a local paper. She invited anyone interested in gardening to meet at her home on December 15. Seventeen women showed up that night, and the Garden Club of Norfolk was born.
“Within 3 months, we had almost 70 members,” recounted Drolette, who served as the club’s first president. “It just mushroomed. We would meet in the old library, and we had to cut off membership and form a waiting list. We could not fit any more people in that room.”
Drolette moved to town from Culpepper, Virginia, where she had been active in the area’s gardening scene. Norfolk did not have a garden club at the time, so she joined the Medfield Garden Club before deciding to start a club in Norfolk.
In 1978, the club became an official member of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts.
The group is responsible for plantings in several areas around town, including the rotaries, around the signs at Town Hall and center of town, and the MBTA platform. Near the Tramp House on the town hill, the group maintains three gardens: an herb garden, a birdhouse garden in memory of a former member, and the rose garden at the 9/11 memorial. The rose garden was recently renovated, with assistance from Norfolk’s D.P.W.
The club’s original mission—civic beautification—has evolved to include education and outreach, and the group hosts several programs throughout the year, open to the public.
According to Sharon Pierce, the club’s treasurer and a past president, the group participates in several service projects.
Around the holidays, the members create baskets of greenery for the food pantry so visitors can choose a centerpiece for the holiday table, along with their groceries. The group has created ornaments for the Fisher House in Boston, and several times a year they also work with the residents of Maples Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Wrentham, making table decorations for the facility’s dining room.
Pierce noted the group funds a scholarship for a graduating King Philip High School senior, and new this year, established a Stony Brook camp scholarship.
The club has also partnered with the Norfolk Grange in their Clean and Green Campaign, and works with local Girl Scouts to help maintain the town’s three butterfly gardens.
Liz Davey, the garden club’s recording secretary, points out that gardeners are natural stewards of the environment, and gardening responsibly helps the environment. In May, the group hosted a Water Smart Gardening program to educate the public about water conservation. The group’s award-winning website lists local environmental concerns and notes resources for interested residents.
Popular programs hosted by the garden club have included presentations by top designers---the rock stars of the gardening world. This fall, the group will host Tony Tedesco, an internationally-famous floral designer.
“All my life I had hoped we could someday have him come to our garden club,” said Drolette.
Drolette herself has won many awards for floral design. Before moving to Norfolk, she was involved in garden clubs in Virginia, Ohio, and New Jersey at the state level. She is mostly self-taught, but has also taken courses and design seminars.
It seems the gardening gene was passed down in Drolette’s family. Her daughter Michele is now co-president of the club.
Drolette said that Norfolk’s garden club has beginners as well as professionals, and anyone with an interest in gardening activities is welcome.
“It’s a great group and you don’t have to be a master gardener to join,” she emphasized. “You just have to appreciate gardening.”
Membership, which has waxed and waned over the years, includes people of all ages as well as several men. The club’s activities are supported by modest membership dues, as well as several annual fundraisers.
The biggest fundraiser is the club’s yearly plant sale, held in May on the town hill. The event is so popular that a line forms more than hour before the sale starts. The event includes baked goods and an area of donated yard equipment and planters for sale.
According to Drolette, the plants at the sale are grown by the club’s members and are native to the area.
“They are tried-and-true, and reasonably priced,” said Drolette. “People know to look for plants from certain gardeners.”
Drolette is justifiably proud of the garden club she founded, and believes the club’s work over the last 30 years has helped improve the town’s aesthetics and quality of life. She points out that the town center improvements started with the brick walkways on the hill, a joint project the club undertook with the Norfolk Community League. Coupled with the club’s gardens and the gazebo, along with the new library, the town hill is a natural and attractive gathering spot.
“We’ve had major history in starting the beautification of this town and making it a desirable place to live,” she noted. “We have won awards and we love to show it off. My slogan is, ‘I live the good life in Norfolk.’”
For more information about the Garden Club of Norfolk, visit