The garden club’s greens-for-scholarships tradition

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Once upon a time, a member of the Rappahannock County Garden Club went to visit a home to preview the greens that were going to be cut in late November. She knocked at the door, said hello to Phyllis (the names have been changed to protect the innocent), was invited inside, given coffee and taken around the garden to see the boxwoods and pines that might be used in the wreaths and garlands the club makes every year to raise money for scholarships. All seemed well, but after the third time the member called her “Phyllis,” the woman said, “But that isn’t my name!”

The Garden Club member had arrived at the wrong house, but this is Rappahannock County, after all, and the homeowner was friendly and gracious to a complete stranger.

And, of course, the club has been cutting greens at her house ever since.

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Another time, a member was raised up high in a front-end loader, in order to cut the best branches of blue-berried cedar for wreaths and centerpieces. When she was finished and the loader was full of branches and being lowered, she lost her balance and somehow managed to get stuck, and had to be extricated by her laughing fellow greens-gatherers. Good thing there wasn’t a camera handy!

When a group has been doing the same thing for a long time — as the Garden Club has — a routine is established. Rappahannock high school students have been getting help for college, and Rappahannock elementary students have been sent to nature camps, for more than 60 years. And the women of the Rappahannock County Garden Club have been cutting fresh greens of all varieties, and fashioning them into beautiful wreaths, garlands, centerpieces and swags in order to raise the funds for those scholarships for exactly that many years. They have been turning nature’s bounty, homeowners’ generosity, plus their own skills and talents, into money.

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Some things have changed, of course. The first year the club raised $29.10 – which wouldn’t be much help for college these days. And wreaths were sold outside homes, or in front of the Washington fire hall, and now they are ordered online ahead of time.

Cash was frequently used in the old days, as payment, but now most people use PayPal. Styles have changed too, in the greater variety of centerpieces and swags available, in the clothes of the workers (jeans and sneakers now, much more formal in 1954), and even in the meals the members consume as they work (lots of kale now, none in the old days!).

Still and all, the project has a lot of history and the Rappahannock County Garden Club is proud of its continuing efforts. Join the members in their fundraising, beautify your homes and offices, send children to college and nature camp, get in the holiday mood, and be part of a county tradition.

Helen Williams is president of the Rappahannock County Garden Club. For more information about the club, visit

Going greens

Greens may be ordered online at, or contact Karen Crow at 540-675-9917 or Early ordering is advised as quantities are limited. The deadline for orders is Nov. 23.

After ordering, greens may be picked up at the Washington fire hall from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, or between 9 a.m. and noon Thursday, Dec. 3.