Blue Star and Gold Star Families Memorial Marker Program

Kathy Austin, Chairman

The National Garden Clubs, Inc. have had a program in place to honor service men and women since 1945. It’s the Blue Star Memorial Program.

In 1944, the ladies of the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs persuaded the New Jersey Legislature to dedicate a six mile stretch of Highway 22 as a memorial drive to our Armed Forces. Through subscriptions of $1.00/tree, they lined the highway with 6,000 dogwoods. The following year the National Council of State Garden Clubs, as it was called at the time, adopted the program and began a Blue Star Highway system, which covers thousands of miles across every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. A large metal Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker was placed at appropriate locations along the way.

The program was expanded to include all men and women who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed services of the United States.

There are now three types of markers: the Memorial Highway Marker, found alongside roadways and at rest stops; the Blue Star Memorial Markers found at veterans’ hospitals, national cemeteries, etc.; and Blue Star By-Way Markers which can be placed in any appropriate garden setting. NGC Member Services provides a guideline for ordering a memorial marker and suggestions for installation.

Helena Garden Club and Malta Dirt Daubers Garden Club are planning new Blue Star Markers in their communities in the near future. Rainbow Garden Club is in the process of having a bench installed by the Great Falls Marker dedicated in 2007. The Great Falls Flower Growers are also discussing installation of a matching bench. In 1953 Miles City ordered a Marker for location by Hwy 10, but it disappeared when the Interstate was built. Upon research about 18 years ago, they and the Highway Department came to the conclusion it got scrapped.  The Miles City Garden Club purchased a new Highway Marker and dedicated it on July 4, 2015.

A new program includes Gold Star Families. HISTORY OF GOLD STAR FAMILIES  Gold Star Families is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization created to provide support to those who have lost a loved one in service to our country through the United States Armed Forces.  All family members representing all conflicts, all branches of service and all circumstances of death are supported.  Family members are referred to as Gold Star famlies of the fallen and/or survivors.  Family members, in conjunction with National Garden Clubs, Inc., may purchase and install a Gold Star Memorial Marker for their lost service member.  Please contact this chairman for further details.

Native Bees — Bee GAP Program

Sue Leferink, Chairman

Did you know that bees pollinate one third of the food we eat? Bees are on the decline along with many other pollinating insects due to a variety of factors. We can make a difference by providing a chemical free garden environment, gravel or muddy areas and nesting locations. National Garden Clubs (NGC) has partnered with Crown Bees, a Washington based mom and pop company. We can join in this new National project in one of several ways to support our bee populations:

              • Sign up for Bee Mail here
              • Become a member of the NGC BeeGap Speakers Bureau and teach clubs, schools and local organizations about the importance of bees by signing up through the NGC signup link immediately above. Crown Bees will provide reference materials. This is another way to earn money for your club. You can charge a speaker’s fee or offer coupons that will give a portion of the sale back to the speaker. Best of all these educational programs will qualify for the National project “Making a Difference – Choices Matter”
              • Sell Crown Bee Products. You can purchase bee supplies through Crown Bees at a 30% discount and sell them in your local community as a club fundraiser.

Internet resources:

Guide to Bumblebees of the Western United States

How to Build a Bee House

Montana Bee Identification Guide

Selecting Plants for Pollinators

Plants in the Pollinator Pathway

Pollinator Conservation – Three easy steps to help Bees and Butterflies

Xerces Society Nests for Native Bees

Penny Pines Reforestation Program

Sharon Doll, Chairman

This is a program for planting trees to restore forest ecosystems and to work cooperatively in the conservation, protection, and development of the natural resources on National Forest System lands. National Garden Clubs partners with the Forest Service by providing funds to plant trees in areas where natural or human-caused catatrophes have created the need for reforestation. By collecting pennies, each $68 covers the planting of approximately one half acre of National Forest System lands with trees native or best suited for the selected area.

Trees are not necessarily pine trees. Trees selected for planting are indigenous to the geographical locations in both species and elevation. This program is intended to be on going.

We propose, if clubs choose, that at each meeting “the hat” is passed around for members to clean the pennies and other coins out of their purses for the Penny Pines program. Each club treasurer can keep track of what is contributed and once a year send it to the state treasurer who will send it on to the National Garden Club project chairman.

So please remember to bring your extra change to your garden club meetings to help fund the Penny Pines project. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Penny Pines Donation Form

Why the Penny Pines Donation is $68.00:

At the start of the program in 1941, seedlings could be produced for about one cent each. Approximately 680 seedlings were used to plant a typical acre. For $68.00, seedlings for ten acres could be purchased. Site preparation and planting costs were met through regular Forest Service appropriations.

The Penny Pines program was so successful that money contributed to purchase seedlings soon far exceeded appropriated funds available for site preparation and for the actual planting job. In 1964, the original cooperative agreement was rewritten to provide that funds contributed under the Penny Pines program be used for reforestation, rather than solely for purchasing seedlings.

National Garden Week: June 4-10, 2018

Use this week to encourage pride in communities and cooperation among groups interested in educating the general public on the importance of general gardening information. The more involved in the community that your garden club can be, the more awareness we can generate for Montana Federation of Garden Clubs and everything we do!  Whatever you do, publicize the event(s) and maximize visibility of the Montana Federation, and the benefits of being a member. Your local news outlets love sharing these good deeds with your community! 

Look at the NGC site to read ideas of what other clubs have done.  The site also has a poster and proclamation you can use for advertising.

History of National Garden Week

National Garden Week was first celebrated nationally in 1923. The idea of a national garden week was thought of by many in earlier years, but in every earlier case the idea was promoted by companies who hoped the event would increase sales. Nevertheless, wisdom and altruism prevailed when Alma Margaret Higgins, who had no commercial motive, with the four most influential leaders of Woman’s Clubs and Garden Clubs in Butte, Montana, boldly persuaded President Warren Harding to sign the proclamation dedicating the first full week in June to be National Garden Week.

Higgins was a Deer Lodge, Montana native. She moved to Butte in late October of 1920. At this time Butte still had a reputation of not being able to grow a single blade of grass as a result of extensive soil, water, and air pollution from mineral processing and smelting in Butte. Higgins sought to reverse that perception.

One of her ideas was to have a Garden Week in Butte to promote city beautification. That effort took off in 1922 with Alma organizing a large array of window displays in the business district that showed examples of fine gardens in Butte. Those gardens had been cultivated a few years after the deadly mineral processing had been moved to Anaconda in 1893.

Higgins further promoted her Garden Week with newspaper articles and radio addresses. Alma Higgins was credited with beginning National Garden Week as a result of her efforts to beautify Butte in the 1920’s. National Garden Week was a major event in Butte from the 1920’s though the early ‘60’s.

Higgins would eventually be recognized as Montana’s premier pioneer gardener. She was responsible for giving Montana its State Tree, the Ponderosa Pine, planting the White House living Christmas tree, promoting forest conservation at a time when conservation was largely considered a frivolous idea, and she was partly responsible for establishing the School of Forestry at the University of Montana. Also, she established and maintained many exceptional gardens in and near Butte.