Since 1931, the Barrington Garden Club has maintained public gardens and flower beds throughout the town, which now number seven. It’s part of the club’s objective to promote a working interest in and of the study of all phases of gardening, to cooperate in the protection and preservation of trees, wildflowers, birds and more, and to encourage public planting and beautification.
Member Katy Wardlaw is part of a team that oversees the familiar “Triangle Garden” located on an island in front of Center Ace Hardware on County Road. “We work on it all summer,” she says proudly. One of the club’s chief accomplishments was working with the town to have a watering system installed there, and other locales, to properly hydrate the plants and flowers. “We used to have to hand water them, so we’re very happy. We do the plants, the weeding... and we do it because we’re a service organization. That’s what gardening is all about – creativity and beautification.”
The club was one of the first to join the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs (RIFGC) which was formed in 1930. Sandi Tinyk, current president of the RIFGC, has been a member (and former president) of the Barrington Garden Club for 17 years, while fellow member Blakely Szosz serves as the RIFGC Second Vice President. “It’s a great honor for our club to have two officers in the RIFGC,” says Sandi.
Katy, who has been a Barrington Garden Club member since 2005, says she began gardening soon after she was married, tending to a tiny strip of land next to her downtown Chicago home. “I’ve been in garden clubs everywhere I’ve lived since,” she says, “Ohio, Iowa and now Barrington.” It’s not just her love of the hobby that has drawn her to the clubs; it’s the camaraderie. “Gardeners are great people,” Katy explains. “We get to do projects with people who have similar interests. Everything we do is about making the world a better place.” Barrington’s club, she says, is a healthy mix of superb gardeners and first-timers, all with a common goal of learning more and from one another.
Participating in flowers shows was new to Katy, but Barrington Garden Club has been a longtime competitor at events like the annual Rhode Island Flower Show at the Convention Center each February. “It’s fun to stretch yourself artistically,” she explains. “It’s a new challenge and it’ s something gardeners don’t always do... it’s a great creative outlet.”
Other spaces the Barrington Garden Club beautifies include the gardens in front of and around Barrington Town Hall, the “Booster Board” at Barrington High School and the entrance to the town library. The club also cooperates with other like-minded organizations including the Barrington Land Conservation Trust, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and others. Members help to maintain the Osamequin Nature Trails and Bird Sanctuary by planting native plants and clearing out invasive ones. To help fund projects, the club hosts events including garden tours of private homes (Barrington in Bloom), design symposiums, lectures, workshops and more. Around the holidays, the club delivers custom made wreaths throughout the community to the homebound. Members also work with local youth ages 10 through 14 via a junior gardening club they formed to inspire future gardeners.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s garden club. This isn’t ladies sitting around drinking tea in white gloves and making flower arrangements. This is a dedicated, hardworking club,” says Sandy. In all her years with the club, never, she says, has any member said “no,” when they were needed. “You’re only as good as your volunteers and members. I’m proud to be a part of this.”