Garden Club’s ‘Designing Divas’ create holiday zest with annual tour
The women of the Coral Gables Garden Club are called “Designing Divas” for their work on the club’s annual Holiday Home Tour. Former club president Kay Murff coined the name, and it stuck for a reason.
For the past 40 years, members of the club have selected and decorated homes in the Coral Gables area with much flair and lots of holiday spice, this year being no exception. The 40th Annual Holiday Home Tour, “Fiori Belli,” is set for 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
“This year we have six really amazing homes in the Italian Village and every homeowner that is part of the tour is absolutely thrilled and delighted to be working with us,” said Sharon Trbovich, club president.
Getting the homes picked and ready for the tour is no easy feat. A large committee and two chairwomen ask club members, neighbors and others to help get different homes for the Holiday Home Tour, which also features a plant boutique and bake sale.
Tickets are available from the Coral Gables Garden Club by emailing [email protected]. Proceeds fund community projects, including scholarships for college students interested in horticulture and children’s attendance at Camp Wekiva, a nature camp sponsored by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, and the City Trekker Summer Camp at the Coral Gables Museum.
Activities and sponsorships like these, Trbovich says, make her want to applaud. “I am amazed,” she said. “The Coral Gables Garden Club is made up of an incredible group of women. When they put their minds to something, they do it!”
This go-getter attitude has benefited the city for years. Since its founding in 1925, the Coral Gables Garden Club has educated the community on landscape design, conservation, garden therapy, world gardening and flower arranging, and its projects have helped beautify the City Beautiful.
The club’s “Adopt An Entrance” program is just one example. Since 1991, the club has created and donated three entrances and two statues to the city. Both statues commemorate figures essential to city history: one of city founder George Merrick in front of City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way; the other of Althea Merrick, his mother, in the garden of the Merrick House, 907 Coral Way.
“Even though we have almost 200 members, we do so many things,” said Nita Norman, club historian. “No one is paid in our club; it is all volunteer work. We’ve raised quite a bit [of money] over the years.”
The Garden Club’s earliest projects focused on the landscaping of public buildings. As such, it was responsible for the inner courtyard at Coral Gables Elementary School (now Coral Gables Preparatory Academy), the landscaping at Ponce de Leon High School (now Ponce de Leon Middle School) and the University of Miami’s patio construction in the late 1920s.
After World War II, the club raised money for landscaping and provided sprinkler systems for the city’s Youth Center, Coral Gables Senior High School, the Coral Gables Library, Alhambra Water Tower and City Hall.
Today, the club can boast it has had a hand in beautifying most of the schools and physical attributes of Coral Gables, creating “an oasis,” as Norman put it.
The club’s website, www.coralgablesgardenclub.org, reflects how the club has been able to accomplish so much: “Never underestimate ‘ladies with a purpose,’” it says. “The secret to the club’s success has always been the tireless expenditure of time and talent by every member of the Garden Club.”
That time and talent is on display in the club’s flower shows, garden tours, floral design and horticulture workshops and in its Arbor Day celebration marked by tree plantings with the city, decoration of the Merrick House for the holidays and preservation of the Coral Gables Library butterfly garden, complete with a monarch butterfly statue in the library’s entrance.
A special interest has been the Junior Gardeners, an effort that began in 1963. Club members work with young students to stimulate interest in the environment and gardening.
So whether Garden Club members are called “Designing Divas” around this time of year or not, they are all, as Trbovich notes, “accomplished and wonderful individuals.”
Andrea O’Neal is a sophomore at the University of Miami studying public relations. A native of West Palm Beach, she aspires to become a public relations professional.