The Portsmouth Garden Club is marking their 80th anniversary this year with a tea at Glen Manor House this September, just a short walk from where the charter members came together to formally establish the club in 1934. Today, the club stands by their original mission: “To promote the love of gardening, floral and landscape design, and demonstrate civic and environmental responsibility by example.”
Current club president Sofi Cofield looked up to her own gardening examples at as young as three years old. Her aunt told her back then that “little girls that dig in the garden don’t need to wear nail polish,” and having perfect manicure hasn’t been a concern for Sofi ever since. She also recalls her grandfather, a Greek immigrant, planting 100 rose bushes in his yard as soon as he saved the money to buy the beautiful bushes. The action deeply affected her and it is what Sofi says inspires her love of roses today. “I’m a member of the American Rose Society,” she says proudly.
The Portsmouth Garden Club has grown more than fourfold over the decades, from 13 inaugural members to 44 members and 11 honorary members today. They remain committed to civic beautification projects which include beautifying Portsmouth landmarks like town buildings and Legion Memorial Park. Another site they maintain is the Blue Star Memorial Marker, which honors local veterans. The marker, which was unveiled last August in a moving ceremony, is located at the Portsmouth Free Public Library. The National Garden Clubs (NGC) launched the program to honor our service men and women in 1944. The next year, the NGC began a Blue Star Highway System with Memorial Highway Markers and Rhode Island received the program’s first endorsement.
In addition, the club plants memorial trees throughout Portsmouth, decorates wreaths for town buildings and participates in events including the Newport Flower Show and the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs annual flower show in Providence. The club has won prestigious ribbons at both.
Sofi says that for her personally, being out in the garden is rewarding. “I get a lot of peace and quiet out there. I talk to God,” she says. Inspired by the way she feels when gardening, she themed the first year of her presidency of the club Finding Joy in the Garden.
Though she’s been at it for decades, Sofi says it’s never too late to start what has become one of her most impassioned hobbies. “Ask someone; don’t be shy,” she advises novice gardeners.