Red Bluff Garden Club: Work, History, & Floral Design Program & Luncheon Oct. 3

On Oct. 3, the Red Bluff Garden Club Annual Floral Design Luncheon will be held at the Rolling Hills Casino from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year entitled: “Garden Splendor – a Luncheon and More,” the design program will be led by nationally acclaimed floral designer Lorna Bonham, who will provide simple but unique floral designs that anyone can create. If you have never attempted a floral arrangement or you’re an experienced designer, you will go home with new ideas. Come early to look over the raffle, amazing silent and live auction items as well as check out all the vendors: The Plant Barn and Gift Shop, Gourds Galore, Jenny’s Jewelry, Birdhouse and Crafts, The Gifted Garden, Graceful Charm Jewelry, A Stitch in Time, Natural Soy Candles, At Two Foxes and Photos by Megan! Tickets are available from Red Bluff Garden Club members and in Red Bluff from California Kitchen and Red Bluff Garden Center; in Corning from Interland Business; in Los Molinos from Latimers Pharmacy; in Chico from the Plant Barn, Little Red Hen Nursery, and Little Red Hen Gift Shop; in Redding, from Wild Thymes Nursery. For more Info: 530-529-2306 or 530-824-5661 or Photo: Flowers on the front page of the Red Bluff Garden Club’s very good website: – check it out – you’ll love the music and butterflies entering to join in the fun.

Below is an profile about the Red Bluff Garden Club and their history and ongoing work in our region, and which was published early this year.

Until I moved to the North State, I had never belonged to a garden club. My mother was never in a garden club, nor was my father, for that matter. I am not sure why, but in my own mind garden clubs were – well – ‘clubby’, sort of stuffy and a bit exclusive and not my cup of tea. But I had aunties – and not stuffy ones – who were very involved in their local garden clubs. My aunt in Virginia was one of these. When my cousins, her daughters, were married (at different times), the garden club ladies who had been long-time friends with my aunt came out in force – dressed in dirty jeans and muddy shoes, with their clippers and their beat-up cars full of garden stuff. They picked masses of flowers from their own gardens and spent the better part of the day before each of the weddings arranging. Finally, they arrived at each of the weddings cleaned up and flower-proud. This was not stuffy or clubby – this was a sisterhood of good gardeners doing good things. Photo: The new Cone & Kimball Plaza Clock Tower on the same corner in downtown Red Bluff where the historic clock tower stood.

Lorna Bonham, a retired educator, and Cathy Wilson, a retired nurse, are just such garden club ladies. Both are members of the Red Bluff Garden Club, a very active garden club dating back to the 1950s. Lorna’s mother was a charter member and her father was a well-known regional horticulturist. Cathy on the other hand has lived and gardened throughout the west and was a Master Gardener in the Yuba City area before moving to Red Bluff fairly recently. She has been a member of the Red Bluff Garden Club for a little over a year. But lifelong member or new member notwithstanding, Lorna and Cathy are both excellent examples of what garden club members for the most part actually are: good gardeners doing good things. Photo: Cathy Wilson (left) and Lorna Bonham (right), are members of the Red Bluff Garden Club and instrumental in the club’s part in the Cone & Kimball Plaza restoration project.

My copyright 1936 Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening has this to say about garden clubs: “Second only to the experiment stations, the garden clubs are the greatest single agency of the advancement of gardening in America. Their lectures, test gardens and influence for better standards of the art of horticulture are of incalculable value.” According to the National Garden Clubs (once known as the Federated Garden Clubs) Inc., website: “The first garden club in America was founded in January 1891 by The Ladies Garden Club of Athens (Georgia).” Originally garden clubs were often Ladies clubs or Men’s clubs, but in this day and age, they are men and women, young and old. Here and now, the North State is a region of active and dedicated garden clubs, the Red Bluff Garden Club being just one. See below for contact information on other garden clubs in our region.

One of the many good things that the Red Bluff Garden Club has taken on in the past few years is being a part of the community-based committee overseeing the restoration of the historic Cone & Kimball Plaza in downtown Red Bluff. As part of this committee, the garden club is working on the planting and garden aspect of the restoration and Lorna and Cathy have been instrumental on this front. I met with them one crisp morning last November to tour and to talk about the project. Photo: The raised planters have a vibrant combination of burnt-red Nandina ‘Firepower’ and Gaillardia ‘Little Goblin’ among other plants.

Here’s some background: The Cone & Kimball Building, with its 100-foot ornate Victorian clock tower, was originally built in 1886 and became “one of the most photographed buildings of the region.” It was often referred to as the “heart of Red Bluff” and was a regional icon. People driving across the North State often gauged where they were in their progress by how far they had to go to or how far they had come from the Red Bluff clock tower – which was visible for miles in all directions. On April 30, 1984 – at 98 years old – the building and its tower burned down. The resulting empty lot was fenced and lay barren for nearly 14 years. In 1997, the Red Bluff Rotary purchased the derelict lot and from there, formed a committee of community members and organizations, eventually including the Historical Red Bluff Association, city personnel, concerned individuals and the Red Bluff Garden Club. Together these groups hoped to “return the spot to a source of pride for the residents of Tehama County.” Photo: Vintage photo of the historic Cone & Kimball building in downtown Red Bluff. The building was often called the “heart of Red Bluff.”

According to grant applications written in 2001, “the plans for the Cone & Kimball Plaza included a replica of the tower on the corner where it originally stood, a small outdoor covered stage area, and a water feature along with benches and trees and shrubs to provide lots of shade and a restful downtown park…that will eventually become a part of the city park system.” The Red Bluff Garden Club took on the assignment of securing the funds and materials for the plantings as designed by the consulting landscape architect, Patrick Sullivan. The idea behind the design being to “select trees and shrubs and particular cultivars that suited to the area and will add color and/or a green background throughout the year.” Photo: Plans for the restoration of the Cone & Kimball site.

Ultimately, George Winter of Wyntour Gardens Nursery in Redding and the Red Bluff Garden Center in Red Bluff, agreed to provide many of the plants for the first stages of the plantings in 2001, including the seven prominent ornamental pears that form the backbone of the new plaza’s canopy. In the years since then, and under the direction of the Cone & Kimball committee, the new clock tower, the covered gazebo, the benches and walkways have all been completed.

In terms of the plantings, the sod is laid, the pear trees are maturing nicely, the planter boxes are filled with colorful and easy care perennials that can stand up to Central Valley heat. The raised planters have a vibrant combination of burnt-red Nandina ‘Firepower’ and the wide-leafed and wooly-textured silver sage, Salvia argentea. “Embracing” and “framing” the covered gazebo in fairly shady, far-back corner of the plaza are beds planted with the plump and welcoming shapes of Alberta Spruce (Picea) as well as the bright-yellow, strappy leaves of Acorus gramineus, and Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’, with its holly-like texture and its multicolored, variegated leaves. Daffodil bulbs and Gaillardia ‘Little Goblin’ are planted throughout many of the beds to round out the early spring and late fall flowers. Photo: Burnt-red Nandina ‘Firepower’ and the wide-leafed and wooly-textured silver sage, Salvia argentea.

A mural on a wall adjacent to the plaza depicts a Victorian era park and avenue, complete with a Victorian couple strolling the boulevard. Working with that, the garden club planted an “avenue” of ‘Little Ollie’ Dwarf Standard Olive trees, under planted with purple-leafed Loropetalum chinense, or ‘Fringe Flower’. “We wanted to complement the mural, and with it to refer back to the Victorian history of the area as well as the importance of the Olive farms to the region,” Cathy explained to me. Paying homage to the history, pride and value of the heart of Red Bluff is clearly central to what this garden club project is about. Club members, currently overseen by President, Sharon Kessey, provide a good portion of the maintenance to the plantings throughout the year. Photo: The garden club planted an “avenue” of ‘Little Ollie’ Dwarf Standard Olive trees, under planted with purple-leafed Loropetalum chinense, or ‘Fringe Flower.’

The final phase of the total restoration project, and fund-raising for it, are well under way. The restoration committee has still to choose, purchase and install a water feature of some kind against the last remaining empty wall of the plaza. The Red Bluff Garden Club hopes, with the approval of the committee, to back the feature with a hedge of Camellia bushes, varieties of which they are researching as I write. The final touches are being placed on the walk-ways, including the laying of commemorative bricks edging main walkways to recognize the many people who have supported the overall project these many years. Donations are of course still being taken to finish the project – which the entire Cone & Kimball restoration committee hopes will be this year.

And you can still buy a brick with your name on it. How simple a gesture is that to help mend a broken heart? More information about the Red Bluff Garden Club and their monthly programs and community outreach projects, including their part in the Cone & Kimball Plaza restoration, can be found at:

National and State Garden Club Organizations:

For Regional Garden Clubs:

Anderson Valley Garden Club – President: Sue Anderson, Redding,, YAC: Anne Capes, Anderson, CA

Cottonwood Garden Club – President: LaSaine Ware, Cottonwood, CA, YAC: Alice Spinks, Cottonwood, CA

Lake California Garden Club – President: Genevieve Leigh, Cottonwood, CA,

Lewiston Garden Club – President: Barbara Bailey, Weaverville, CA,, YAC: Jenni Brookins, Weaverville, CA

Redding Wonderland Garden Club – President: Pat Malotte, Redding, CA,

Lake Shasta Garden Project – President: Lynni Miller, Shasta Lake, CA,

Trinity Garden Club – President: Rusty Lester, Weaverville, CA?email:

Chico Horticulture Society – Co-Presidents: Anna LaRossa,, Chico, CA, Emilie White, Chico, CA

Friendly Garden Club, Orland – President: Jo Wigdahl, Orland, CA,

Garden Club of Colusa County– President: Cynthia D. White, Colusa, CA,

Lake Oroville Area Garden Club – President: Joyce Rivera, Oroville, CA,

Magalia Beautification Association – President: Linda Weeks, Magala, CA?email:

Paradise Garden Club, Inc. – President: Donna Beronda, Paradise, CA?email: site:

Sutter Buttes Garden Club – President: Kay Cockrell, Yuba City, CA Bev Foss 530-673-4565

In a North State Garden is an outreach program of the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State, based in Chico, CA. In a North State Garden is radio and web-based and celebrates the art, craft and science of home gardening in California’s North State region. It is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved In A North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio KCHO/KFPR radio, Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here. Weekly essays are also posted on a regional news source that is positively North State.

Jennifer Jewell

In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.