For more than 80 years, the Elverson Garden Club has been meeting to share their love of nature through guest speakers, picnics, field trips and covered dish dinners.
Recently the club won the prestigious blue ribbon from the Philadelphia Flower Show: the world's largest and most famed indoor flower exposition.
Winning accolades for their exhibit 'Dali's Surreal Garden Fusion,' which the group created around the theme of 'ArtiCulture: Art Meets Horticulture,' the Garden Club was honored with the treasured blue ribbon as well as with a trophy in the Best of Show Garden Division.
'Here we are, gardeners from a sleepy little town, competing against big-time designers,' said member Patricia Beaton, who serves as the club's corresponding secretary.
'It just goes to show that no matter where you live, you can accomplish great things,' Beaton added. 'When we started thinking about this year's entry, we said, 'Let's go for the gold.' And that's what we did.'
Beaton is a self-taught gardener whose son Paul McEwen Jr. of Birdsboro served as her 'sidekick,' assisting with the labor, transport and set-up of the exhibit. McEwen, service manager at ElMor Chevrolet, is also self-taught in the art of gardening.
'I believe we might just be the first mother-son duo to be on the winning team,' said Beaton.
The project began with about a dozen members of the Elverson Garden Club putting their heads together and brainstorming ideas for this year's Show. (Last year's entry had been a Harry Potter design that revolved around 2013s 'Brilliant Britain' theme.)
'We knew that we had to get out of our box; push past our comfort zone,' Beaton recalled of the meeting that took place in her Morgantown home. One of the group members suggested Salvadore Dali's 'Persistence of Memory' painting as inspiration, and the ideas took off from that jumping point.
The building of the Spanish façade of the exhibit began in a stable on the Morgantown property of Donna and Phil Silbaugh, who worked with fellow members Jeanne Hutchinson, Lisa Cherpanich and Pat Trego. The design was that of Dali's Cliffside Spanish home in Catalonia, Spain, with an arched seascape painted by artist Linda Horner and Wendy Fox, with help from Carol Simonetti, Shirley Hopkins, Sandra Greenly, Carla Trego and Patricia Beaton. The group also built a niche in which a bronze and gold statue designed and built by students of the Owen J. Roberts Art Club would be placed.
Member Vanessa Peterson created a cement hand that reached for a lemon tree, with Ginger Reed creating the Fountain of Illusion. Tropical plants were carefully cultivated by garden club members, and concrete pavers were created that incorporated the faces of antique clocks.
'We all worked together,' said Beaton. 'We proved that you could take a bunch of practically nothing and make it into something beautiful.'
On Feb. 26, the first group of six Elverson gardeners made their way to Philadelphia for the initial stages of setup.
'It was a lot of work, but it was worth it,' said Beaton.
The group's victory was announced and lauded by the end of the week at the Flower Show, and the Elverson Garden Club was honored at a luncheon and awards ceremony. They also had their own celebration in Morgantown, at the home of Wendy and Calvin Fox.
'We're already excited about next year's show,' said Beaton. 'We really did bring home the gold, but it was blue instead. We are all very honored and proud.'
The Elverson Garden Club is open to new members, and info may be found at www.elversongardenclub.com.