History of the Rochester Garden & Flower Club

RG&FC history was begun by Laverne Theel, and was updated by Pat Friederichs in 2006, two of the many members who have passed away and whose memories and accomplishments we honor.  This history was once again updated in 2019 by Peggy Marchesani.  In 2018 the club turned the history records over to the History Center of Olmsted County for permanent archiving. That archives will be augmented each year with contemporary documentation.
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The Rochester Garden and Flower Club was organized in March 1929. Dr. E. H. Rynearson was president, Mrs. Higgins was vice president and J.P. Dibble was secretary-treasurer. Ben Dunn was chairman of the organization committee. 

The club’s first official meeting was held on April 9, 1929 in the junior assembly of the Rochester High School. The first speaker was Leon Snyder of the Shannon Nursery of Charles City, Iowa, who spoke on flowers and gardening.  

Subsequent meetings were held in the community room at City Hall. In 1936 the location was changed to the South Hall of the Mayo Civic Auditorium where meetings continued to be held until 1982. The First Minnesota Savings Bank was used from 1982-1992. From 1992-2002 the meetings were held at the Southeast Service Cooperative. In 2002 a new state-of-the-art Horticulture Technology facility was completed at Rochester Community and Technology College (RCTC).  In recognition of the common interests and potential for collaboration between the RCTC Horticulture Department and RG&FC, beginning in 2003 the Club’s meetings have been held at RCTC, in the Heinz Center, 1926 Collegeview Drive SE. The relationship between the Horticulture Department and RG&FC continues to grow and compliment both organizations.

In 1939 the first plant sale and auction took place as a fund raiser to finance club projects and has continued every year since. The annual plant sale remains the primary source of funds for various club activities.

From 1965 to 1969 our club held tours of various homes decorated for Christmas in several themes. Among them were An English Christmas, Religious Christmas, Blue Christmas, Old Fashioned Christmas, Farm, Western, German, Gold and paper Christmas. After these tours, members enjoyed a pot luck supper at the R.E.A. building. Although these tours have been discontinued, our club continues the tradition of the Christmas party each year. Photos from this event and many other club activities are posted on the RG&FC Facebook® page.

Holiday Panorama of the 1st Congressional District (MSHS 1st District)
From 1963 to 1977 RG&FC collaborated with the 31 MSHS-affiliated garden clubs across southeastern Minnesota, from Albert Lea to Winona, to host an event known as the Holiday Panorama. The idea was proposed by Ora (Mrs. Les) Hedegard of Grand Meadow. Early shows were held in the Austin area. Later shows were held in Rochester at Mayo Civic Auditorium and eventually in the Heintz Center. The purpose of the Holiday Panorama was to: 1) bring the District’s garden clubs closer together  2) encourage members to grow and display specimen plants (flowers, fruits and vegetables) 3) promote artistic flower arranging, and to further craft skills.

The event showcased many types of flower arranging, It was a very popular competitive activity at the time, with certified judges evaluating the merits of each entry and adherence to the rules of flower arranging. There were many classes of participation, depending on one’s previous experience and skill, and different divisions of competition based on plant material or intended use. The Holiday Panorama was held each September and open to the public. The event became large enough to have its own slate of officers, committees and finances.

♦RG&FC is involved in garden projects across the community. We presently plant and maintain: 
  • flower beds at the History Center of Olmsted County
  • flower beds and planters at the Olmsted County Fair Grounds at Graham Park
  • the gardens at the Soldiers Field Veteran’s Memorial
  • the large sidewalk planters at the Rochester YMCA
  • a garden at the RCTC S.M.A.R.T.* Garden that has evolved from a rose garden to a rose and flower garden.
Each year since 1968, RG&FC has sponsored a flower arranging workshop and flower show at the Olmsted County Fair.

The RG&FC provides a horticulture library for our members.

RG&FC provides scholarships for RCTC students interested in a career in Horticulture.

The club sponsors an annual garden tour open to the public, based at the RCTC outdoor horticulture classroom - The S.M.AR.T.* Garden - to attract community members to this valuable community gardening resource. Proceeds from some of our past summer tours were donated to Habitat for Humanity for landscaping, and members did all the planning and planting. The club has a collection of plants and shrubs to provide for Habitat for Humanity homes.

Although most of our activities take place in summer, we are also quite busy during other times of the year. From 1982 to the present RG&FC has decorated a room at the Historic Mayowood Mansion each fall as part of a fund-raiser for the History Center of Olmsted County.

Some years we have also participated in tree decorating for the Festival of Trees benefit for Hiawatha Homes Foundation.

RG&FC monthly meetings provide educational and entertaining programs for both the members and the public eight months each year. Upcoming programs are publicized in the Rochester Post-Bulletin and The Northern Gardener magazine. In addition, the club sponsors educational tours for members during the summer to visit gardens and garden centers and nurseries. 

  • The RG&FC publishes six “Trumpet Vine" newsletters per year. 
  • In 2003 the club inaugurated a club web site, and continues to expand it for both public relations and for private, members-only information.  
  • A Facebook® page has been in use since 2015. 
  • The Rochester Garden and Flower Club is affiliated with the Minnesota State Horticultural Society (MSHS), and currently has approximately 150 members. 
  • In 2014 MSHS recognized the RG&FC as the state “Garden Club of the Year”.  
  • In 2015 MSHS honored our club for the “Community Garden of the Year” for the Soldier’s Field Veterans Memorial Garden.  
  • In 2017 the City of Rochester recognized the Rochester Garden & Flower Club’s Annual Garden Tour as one of the community’s top three arts activities for their “People’s Choice Award.”


What does the RG&FC logo represent?
The broken box is to function as a symbol for RG&FC. The logo shows the flow of knowledge and sharing between the club and the community. The box represents the club as a whole and the space beyond represents the community. “Leaves” reach out to show sharing of knowledge with the community. “Swoops” come from inside the box to the outside, and then back in again to show how a club member can go into the community and bring knowledge back. The text is called “flora” and is black bold to show that the club is strong. There are capital letters in every word to give the logo character and independence.