80th Anniversary of the Vernon and District Horticultural Society
by Pat Bayliss and Janet Stoll
Pat Bayliss and Janet Stoll are both Vernon residents, and garden club members for over fifteen years. Pat included research on the Garden Club's inception while working in the Vernon Museum as a volunteer recording all births, marriages and deaths of the Okanagan from the Vernon News.
In November 1925, the Vernon News was advertising a meeting for any interested in an informal gathering for a possible horticultural society. Enough residents showed interest and it was decided to have an organizational meeting at the Vernon Court House to form a Horticultural Society in early February 1926. 75 people attended the inaugural meeting and soon a constitution was adopted. A committee was set up consisting of : Honourary Presidents Mr. A.O. COCHRANE and Dr. K.C. MacDONALD, President Mr. Sam HAMILTON, Vice-President Major J.A. HENDERSON, Secretary-Treasurer Mr. H. H. EVANS, Mr. R.W. PATON of the Coldstream, Mr. W. F. Van ANTWERP of Okanagan Landing, Mrs. F.A. PRICKHARD and Mr. George GREENLOW of Oyama, and Miss GIBSON, Messrs W.G. DREW and M.H. WAKEFIELD of Vernon.
Acting chairman Mr. A.O. COCHRANE said the Society would encourage members to beautify their properties to compliment the natural beauty of the North Okanagan and promote flower shows.
At this inaugural meeting, Mr. W. M. FLEMING was the guest speaker and his topic was "The value of shrubs to the community". Soon the new horticultural society was planning two flower shows, one to be held in June when peonies and iris would be at their best and visitors would begin arriving in the area, and the other for late August or early September .
At the March meeting, again at the Vernon Court House, Mrs. PRICKHARD suggested tours of member’s gardens, which was quickly approved. Other members suggested a plant exchange and having a question and answer column in the Vernon News. One problem brought up at the March meeting was the water supply in the Vernon city limits, which in past years had been cut off, when gardens needed it the most. A committee of horticultural society members agreed to meet with Vernon City Council to try and correct this situation. By early April 1926, Vernon City Council promised the Vernon Horticultural Society members a good supply of water for their lawns and gardens in 1926, however, people had to abide by watering regulations. In 1925, 8 convictions had occurred, when local people failed to heed the watering times.
Horticultural Society members were soon preparing for their first flower show held 8
th June at Stirling and Pitcairn building (built in 1912), with 159 entries by 54 exhibitors. Four hundred people attended this inaugural flower show. All the prize winners and their entry sections were noted in the Vernon News. The first annual summer flower show was held 19th August 1926 at the Recreation Hall, Vernon, with 208 entries in 56 classes.
The Vernon News trophy for one bloom each of aster, gladioli and dahlia, was won by Mr. Sam E. Hamilton, of Vernon. The F.B. Jacques trophy for asters was won by Mr. J.H. Hitchen of Armstrong. Vernon News gave full coverage after each flower show or garden tour.
The March 1927 meeting held at the Board of Trade Rooms in Vernon was well attended. At this meeting it was decided to have annual memberships at first adult family member a fee of $l, additional adult member fee being 50¢ cents each and children between ages 10 & 16, 25¢ each. Horticultural society members could enter any future flower show for free.
By May 1927 five more trophies had been presented to the Vernon and District Horticultural Society. They were the Triangle Chemical Company of New Westminster trophy for the 10 best vegetables and the BERRY'S Empress trophy for best dahlias. Both these trophies were awarded at the August Show. The P. BURNS and Company trophy was for the best 6 roses in the June Flower Show. The Frank SPENCER and the DREW trophies were for the garden competition and it was noted in June 1927 that if the SPENCER trophy was won by the same person, 3 times, that person would be allowed to keep the trophy. The garden competition was held in early August 1927.
The Second Annual Flower Show was held the 18th June 1927 at the ALHAMBRA Hall in Vernon with 30 classes of flowers. The Vernon News again advertised all the prize winners and flower classes. Weather affected the quality of entries, especially roses. People felt in hindsight that the Flower Show should have been a week later for better results, especially in the rose sections. The Second Annual Summer Flower Show, held 27th August at the Recreational Hall, Vernon, had approximately 60 classes of flowers and vegetables.
In 1929 it was decided the main work of the Society would be city beautification and flower shows would be secondary. Plans for city beautification included: a flower bed in the Station grounds, a border of shrubs and perennials at Central School, and a nursery plot in the Park.
Today the garden club carries on many of the same activities as it did originally: monthly meetings (mini flower show and speaker), Plant Sale, Flower Show, flower arranging sessions, garden tours, bursary, help with community gardens, and social gatherings.