Blooms on the Boulevard
THE OXFORD GARDEN CLUB REVIVES A 60-YEAR-OLD BEAUTIFICATION PROJECT.
WRITTEN BY Sarah Hooper | PHOTOGRAPHED BY Brandall LAUGHLIN
By any standard, Oxford is picturesque. Full of both local color and historic grandeur, storied places as well as people, its tree-lined streets, rolling hills, gardens and green spaces add to its considerable charm.
Oxonians are known for their hands-on involvement with the day-to-day preservation of the city’s distinctive culture and aesthetic. Since 1967, the Oxford Garden Club has worked across the community in private and public spaces alike, as a key player on the team responsible for local beautification efforts.
Long a social staple of the community, the club does more than simply meet and mingle. Members are responsible for many of the public spaces we enjoy around Oxford today, such as the fence around the county courthouse, landscaping at the schools, and tending and refurbishing the historic Saint Peter’s and Oxford Memorial Cemetery.
“The Oxford Garden Club has been making a difference for more than 60 years in our community,” said Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill. “Not many groups can make that claim. So many of the things we enjoy and take for granted every day as we pass them are contributions of the Oxford Garden Club members.”
Brandall Laughlin, OGC president, is making it her mission to “get her hands dirty” by renewing the club’s efforts to be more visible in the community. Two recent efforts include a table at the local food pantry with gifts of potted flowers for the pantry shoppers. Another is biweekly flower arrangements for the hospice wing of the state veterans’ home.
A new and notable project Laughlin has revived builds on work that began over 60 years ago. Charter member and past president Margaret Fancher said that community beautification was an early mission of the organization.
“One of the very first major projects was to plant daffodils on North and South Lamar,” Fancher said. “Daffodils became our big thing.”
It was a community beautification project through and through. Ladies from the OGC planted bulbs up and down Lamar Boulevard. Daffodils naturalize, so the gardeners knew they would spread.
Plants from the original 1959 daffodil project still line North Lamar. However, over time, due to weather and aging, many have run their course and now bloom in lesser numbers than before. Noticing their somewhat diminished state, Laughlin recognized an opportunity for the club to undertake a renewal effort.
“After seeing how sad the plantings were looking, I felt like this was a great way to promote the replanting of one of the OGC’s original projects,” Laughlin said. “The plantings have been redone maybe twice in the last 60 years, but not to this extent.”
While the original plantings were done the old-fashioned way, by hand and trowel, technology helped speed up the recent project. Greg Pinion with the City of Oxford building and grounds department used a gas-powered mechanical auger to dig holes, while volunteers and garden club members used smaller handheld augers attached to cordless drills. In one afternoon, club members planted more than 2,000 bulbs. Varieties include Fortune, Barrett Browning, Trumpet Yellow, and others that will bloom incrementally beginning in February and continuing for about eight weeks in all. The bulbs will naturalize over time and should last for decades.
The blossoms will begin on North Lamar near the Church of Christ and continue north for just over a half-mile on both sides of the street — some 2,000 bulbs dedicated as gifts shared from one person to another.
Laughlin offered community members the opportunity to dedicate bulbs, for a gift of $24, as a living memorial to a recipient of their choosing. The gift will last for generations, and it’s not just the recipient who will benefit; so will the troves of passers-by who delight in the blooms each spring.
In November 2019, before the daffodils were planted, senior OGC member Fannie Elliott died. In honor of her 60 years with the club, 60 of the bulbs on North Lamar were planted in her memory. “I’ll think of Fannie every time I see a new blossom,” Fancher said.
Thanks to the enthusiastic response from the public and the support from the City of Oxford, the daffodil project will continue. South Lamar is already slated for the next round of planting.
“When the Lamars are full, we may move to another location — a park or another thoroughfare — to keep the project going,” Laughlin said.