COVINGTON -- Since 1929, members of the Covington Garden Club have been sowing seeds of goodwill and hard work that have blossomed into a more beautiful community.
The club is continuing that work as it celebrates eight decades of service.
Its most recent project is an arboretum at Academy Springs Park. Since 2005, the club has purchased and planted approximately 20 trees at the section of the park that fronts Conyers Street. The trees, redbuds and four varieties of holly trees, have been planted in memory of past club members in a cooperative effort with the city of Covington. The city's arborist consults with club members on the selection of trees, which are purchased by the club and planted by city employees. A small plaque by each tree bears the names of those being honored as well as the names of the trees.
Recently, the club added a granite bench to the arboretum to commemorate its 80th anniversary, which took place in November. The bench is made of Dakota Mahogany, a brown granite that blends in with the wooded environment, and was designed and built by Keenan Byrd of Grayson.
"This was a part of the park that was not being well-used ... It seemed like a nice area to put in something that would be more meditative," said Covington Garden Club President Patricia Mayfield.
Club members plan to plant more trees soon and eventually hope to add walking trails.
The arboretum is the club's primary focus these days, which is fitting, given that Academy Springs Park was the Covington Garden Club's first project when it was formed by Essie Callaway in 1929.
The club's membership is limited to 36, and of those, nine are family of the 12 charter members. They meet in each other's homes to show and share the fruits of their individual gardens.
"We've really been focused on arranging flowers we grow in our gardens," said Garden Club Vice President Loy Summers.
Each month, members also create flower arrangements to give to local nursing homes.
"That's a large contribution to what we feel like are people who grew up as gardeners and miss fresh flowers," Mayfield said.
Since its inception, the club's mission has been to beautify the city, and to that end, it has created numerous pocket parks on vacant lots, including one at the former site of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd at Monticello and Church streets, and on Floyd Street, where they have created Ann Masten Park to honor a deceased club member.
The club also erected the first welcome sign at exit 90 off Interstate 20, which was later torn down and has now been replaced by a sign put up by Keep Covington-Newton County Beautiful.
"We've put a lot of effort into making (the city) a prettier place," said Esther Williams, chair of the club's 80th anniversary committee.
The longevity of the club is no doubt due to the dedication of so many of its members.
Williams has been a member since 1975, while Mayfield has been in and out of the club for about that long as well. Summers holds the record, having joined the club in 1952.
Carole Pratt, who chairs the arboretum committee and has been a member of the club for 30 years, said it's the friendships that have blossomed just as much as the flowers that keep her coming back.
That, and the chance to make a difference in the community, the ladies agreed.
"We're not just a group of ladies who get together and have refreshments. We're a working club," Mayfield said.