Garden Club’s holiday labor of love is only natural  

Since 1952, the Rappahannock County Garden Club’s annual sale of holiday greenery has been raising funds for county students to attend nature camp and to help high school seniors with college tuition and other costs.

It is a daunting task, making hundreds of wreaths, swags and centerpieces, along with what seems like miles of garland, in just over three days. Working at the Washington fire hall from Sunday evening, when the tables for greens, wreath machines, ribbons, pine cones, and other décor are assembled, until Wednesday, when the last broom has swept the last pine needle from the floor, all is organized chaos, as mounds of fresh, local pine, cedar, yew and boxwood cuttings are turned into beautiful household celebrations of the season.

The "Sunrise" Wreath is among the Garden Club's holiday greens for sale this year.
The “Sunrise” Wreath is among the Garden Club’s holiday greens for sale this year. Courtesy photo


But where do the greens come from? And how do they get to the fire hall? It all begins with the generous Rappahannock residents who open their yards, woods and fields to the women who collect the greens. These community members have been so important to the garden club over the years, providing the freshest, most fragrant and perfect materials at no cost to the club, increasing the amount given in scholarships. From the smallest garden on U.S. 211, to the widest field outside Flint Hill, all yield their treasures for the undertaking.

Whether it is on a windy ridge near Castleton, or in the woods up the hill off Viewtown Road, club members, armed with clippers and big plastic bags, are ready to cut and bag in all kinds of weather and conditions. Flying snowflakes, freezing rain and soggy ground are very familiar to these hardy folks, whose only goal is to fulfill the quotas given them by the greens cutting chair, who for the past few years has been Aleta Gadino.

Aleta scouts and inspects prospective sites early on, making sure that the trees and bushes are healthy and accessible, and updates the homeowners on the cutting schedule. The cutters and gatherers are directed as to the type of greenery to cut, how long to cut the pieces, and how many bags of each to collect. Bags are tagged, and then sent to be stored and conditioned at members’ barns and sheds and garages until they are delivered to the fire hall. Besides the collection of greens, members pride themselves on leaving the property looking as good as or better than when they arrived. Judicious cutting is a skill, honed over many years.

When all is complete, and the last wreath is made, leftover greens are shared with high school students who use them for making their own, smaller decorations. None of the bounty is wasted. Nature, allied with the generosity of our citizens and the skill of the garden club members, is the source of the finished products, which have been used for generations to celebrate the season in Rappahannock.

Helen Williams is president of the Rappahannock County Garden Club.

Greens for you

To order holiday greens, visit or contact Karen Crow at 540-675-9917 or The order deadline is Nov. 21. Greens may be picked up 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 30, or 9 to noon Dec. 1 at the Washington fire hall. Order soon; quantities are limited.