Creating A Legacy

In spite of the vagaries of spring weather in the Midwest, Mother Nature came through with another spectacular display for the Garden Club’s luncheon on May 6. The entrance drive to the Oak Park Country Club was a showcase of gorgeous blooming trees, flowering shrubs and plants.

Centerpiece by Sue Milojevic
Centerpiece by Sue Milojevic

The human touch wasn’t bad either. The tables bedecked with beautiful floral centerpieces and pink napkins, along with the twenty colorful floral raffle items all presented a powerful “wow” factor upon entrance to the dining room. Add to that the guests wearing beautiful hats and lovely clothing and you get an idea of the visual impact we felt.   Yes, it is nice to enjoy the four seasons!


Wearing a floral decorated hat to the luncheon is a tribute to our club’s 98 year heritage of women loving flowers. Granted hats and gloves were de rigueur for the well dressed women even fifty years ago, but today it is an enjoyable event at our luncheon. We promenade our creations and vote for our favorite decorated hat. Delia Vargas, Ginger O’Malley and Linda Zwierz received the People’s Choice awards this year.


Delia, 1st
Ginger, 2nd






Another returning favorite was speaker, Cornelia McNamara.Cornelia We last saw Cornelia’s floral magic at our luncheon in 2010. A Chicago native, who graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago, she lived and worked in Manhattan, was a candidate for the position of Chief floral designer at the White House and finally she returned to Chicago and opened her own firm in 2005. Although Cornelia has handled the floral designs for numerous prestigious events and weddings in Chicago, she maintains the demeanor of a girlfriend chatting across the table from you. While creating gorgeous arrangements with ease right before our eyes, Cornelia was also telling us about her flower farm outside of Chicago, “Five Row Farm” and her participation in “Chicago Honey Co-op”, an urban bee farm both in an effort to reduce her carbon foot print on the world. She maintains that 85% of the flowers sold in the US are grown on another continent with unregulated pesticides and shipped in refrigerated containers to the final destination. We can do our part to lessen the carbon impact, she told us, by buying locally grown flowers in season or to grow our own.

The Oak Park Country Club has been such a wonderful venue for our annual luncheon. In addition to being a beautiful location, Tracy Reyes and her crew are unbelievably cheerful and helpful assisting us with our early morning set up, special diets, bar tender, punch, car valet and clean up! Chairwoman Kathy English was ably assisted by board members, club members, guests, and husbands to deliver a beautiful event

Special thanks to Sue Milojevic for designing the centerpieces and to the Ways and Means team of Mary Ellen Warner, Ruth Rowe and Barbara Graham for the unique raffle items. We couldn’t have had a better day-of-supporting crew! Ticket sellers: Alice Blanchard, Sherry Pavel and Cindy Rossi plus  GC male auxiliary of Graham, Vitullo and Zwierz were outstanding.

Thanks to all who helped continue the Garden Club legacy.

View the “Photo Albums” in the side panel on the main page for additional pictures of the May 2015 Luncheon


















67th May Luncheon – Garden Club Oak Park – River Forest

2007 May Luncheon
Hats 2007

Although the name has changed  some of the time, the annual May Luncheon Festival has continued since the late 1940’s according to our records.  The hat parade began in 1949 and the prizes were $5 The funniest hat theme that year was “A Nest of Robbins in Her Hair” worn by Mrs. Chris Licht.  Is that inspiration enough for you?   Maybe the Kentucky Derby hats will start the flow of creative juices?  Mary Ellen Warner will be in attendance this year…she has always been a formidable foe.  Let’s please give her some hat competition!  ps the hat prizes are worth more than $5.

Something special at this year’s luncheon will be the awarding of two scholarship for graduating seniors from the local high schools.  Profits from the 2015 Garden Walk will determine how many scholarships will be give next year.  Two Garden Walk tickets will be in your packet at the Luncheon.  Please purchase these tickets.  We will have  the “Helper Husbands” : Graham, Vitullo, Zwierz, sitting at the tables ready to accept your credit cards or checks or even cash will do!

The Ways and Means committee of Graham, Rowe, Warner and Zwierz have been very busy creating unusual, whimsical, useful, and just plain beautiful plant creations for the raffle.  Did I mention unique?  You will not find anything like them at your local stores.  Ways and Means are necessary to fund our Club’s activities.  We do not charge for individual meetings/speakers and our dues do not cover everything.  In addition to our usual expenses for Community activities, we have our 100 year anniversary in 2017.  We would like to hold some extra special events during that historic year and our fundraising needs to start now.  Please support our efforts by purchasing some raffle tickets at the luncheon raffle.

At this writing there are more than 80 reservations made for May 6.  Beautiful people, lovely location, good food and a spectacular floral designer.  It will be a fantastic event.  We hope to see you there.

Linda Zwierz




Gardeners Networking

River Forest Wildflower Preserve
Virginia bluebells, White trillium

Gardeners networking in Oak Park and River Forest were in full force this past week.  I received an email that I will share with you:

“Give yourselves a spring treat!  Drive or better yet walk to the Forest Preserve Park in River Forest.  The northwest corner has a meadow of wild flowers in bloom that is truly lovely.  They don’t last too long so take your cameras.  The contrast of the Virginia Bluebells and the giant white trillium is breathtaking.  Monet would have loved it.  Look closely to see the little trout lilies and many other ephemerals as they are called because they do not last long.  It will put a smile on your face.  Enjoy, Joan Meister”

Marilyn Moore and I walked over to Quick and Bonnie Brae in River Forest to see those beautiful wildflowers.  We were struck by the huge colonies of white trillium and wondered how long they had been there.  Marilyn recalled reading in our history pamphlet that the Garden Club had planted hundreds of tulip bulbs in one of the parks.

Later, I was telling our club historian, Mary Ellen Warner, about the field of wildflowers and not surprisingly she knew all about that garden.  In 1921 members of the Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest established a wild bird sanctuary at that location.  The members planted wild flowers and put out birdhouses and a pool of water.  Later the Forest Preserve took over and renamed it Wild Flower Preserve.  Mary Ellen recalled that the Forest Preserve had also planted shrubs and trees in that location.  Over the years the area had become overgrown and unattractive and eventually the trees and shrubs were cut down.  Voila the trillium and Virginia bluebells were back in the spring light.

Red trillium
Red trillium

More emails followed to say that there was also a nice patch of wildflowers at Austin Gardens on Forest Avenue in Oak Park.  In the early 1950’s Mrs. Henry Austin’s historic 1859 estate at 167 Forest was featured in the club’s Garden Walk.  The Austin family later bequeathed four acres of the property to the Park District of Oak Park, and thus Austin Gardens became part of the Oak Park landscape.  In 1965 the Park Board began plans to develop Austin Gardens and of course our garden club members planted wild flowers there.  Marilyn and I viewed more spring ephemerals including patches of red trillium and spring beauty.  These lovely flowers will soon go dormant and disappear for another year.

spring beauty
spring beauty

My thanks and appreciation go out to all of those past Club Secretaries that dutifully recorded the minutes of our organization, and to the Oak Park Historical Society for being the repository of the Club’s documents.  Thank you to Mary Ellen Warner and Marilyn Moore for researching the club history and passing on the information via the history pamphlet and our web site.  Coincidentally, Joan Meister. has been elected our club Secretary for 2015 to 2017.  Keep up the good work ladies.