The ladies of the French Broad River Garden Club Foundation will be holding their annual Merry Christmas Greens Market on the first two Saturdays in December at Clem’s Cabin to raise money for a good cause.
In a nutshell, the market will feature wreaths, Christmas trees, ornaments & decorations, rocking horses, handcrafted wooden bowls and toys, cutting boards, nutcrackers, potted paperwhites, pottery, hand-woven baskets, home-baked goods, and other delicious treats.
Elizabeth Flynn, chair of the 2017 Greens Market, said part of the mission of the French Broad River Garden Club Foundation is to support environmental and horticultural education as well as to promote conservation. “We are very proud of our rich history and cherish the opportunity to give back to our community by supporting local students. This is our 90th annual greens market, a fact that we’re celebrating. We want everyone to know that all proceeds from the market support local horticulture and conservation scholarships and projects,” Flynn said.
Club president Stuart Camblos said they began this tradition in 1927 when Sarah Speed encountered a man selling whole holly trees. She told him he could have pruned the branches for holiday decorations and sold them for an equal amount of money as the entire holly tree. He would then still have the tree to prune for more decorations in the following year.
Concerned about wasteful gardening and harvesting practices of mountain families, Speed chose the Hominy Valley area to help people there buy a piece of land, and build a meeting cabin where 20-30 women could come together weekly to learn about growing fruits and vegetables, planning balanced meals that preserved vitamins and minerals, and of course, pruning techniques.
This project, with the twin aims to teach conservation techniques to mountain ladies and to help them provide income for their families, resulted in the newly formed French Broad River Garden Club being accepted into membership with the Garden Club of America in 1930. By 1955 the garden club purchased land on Hendersonville Road and constructed a cabin built with logs from and old cabin on Puncheon Run in Madison County. There they would meet once a month for a daylong session to hone their craft and learn to make new products.
In 1971 the garden club purchased 200 “long logs” from an old barn in Madison County and used them to build Clem’s Cabin, a tribute to beloved garden club member Clementine Douglas who died in a tragic automobile accident. A permanent home for the garden club and the Merry Christmas Greens Market was thus erected.
“It’s all about the spirit of Christmas and honoring the craftspeople who are the club’s vendors such as Anne Grier from Gaining Ground Farm in Leicester, Russell Lyda, Esther Nesbitt, Jennifer Miller, Vickie McCall, Nicole & Jacqueline Riddle, and Kay Miller who makes beautiful wreaths, garlands and table decorations,” Camblos said. “The late Eva Miller and her daughter Jennifer are vendors who have been with us for as long as I can remember.” Camblos remembers while living in Durham how her mother would send her an overnight box with a fresh Christmas wreath from the Millers. “It was made out of fresh cut boxwood and smelled like the mountains. You couldn’t get anything else like that in Durham.”
Other artists whose crafts can be found at the Greens Market include Paul DeWitt who makes beautiful nutcrackers, Wesley Angel a blacksmith from Newfound Forge, and Bud Grey who makes exquisite turned wooden bowls and small ornaments on his lathe. Alicia Williams will bring her one-of-a-kind Heartwood Rocking Horses. Junior Thompson from Burnsville will have fresh cut Frasier Fir Christmas. “The trees we sell are some of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen, and I’ve always been picky about my trees,” said longtime garden club member Vinton Murray.
Members of the garden club will also be selling homemade baked goods such as cakes, cookies, brownies and cheese straws. The bakeshop will feature spiced pecans made by Lynne Froeba at Farm Girl Foodie, Scott Waldrop’s herbed vinegars and dressings, and Kim Ramsey’s honey from Jewel Hill Farms. Colin Richmond will bring his spectacular porcelain sheep ornaments for sale. “We want everyone to come to this event. It starts the Christmas season in a lot of our minds, and the money we make from it goes to scholarships in the community,” Camblos said. “We’ve given out over $300,000 for scholarships since 1955.”
The Merry Christmas Greens Market will be at Clem’s Cabin on the first two Saturdays on the month, Dec. 2 and 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cabin is located at 1000 Hendersonville Road, across from Browntown Road. For more information visit their website at www.FBRGCF.org.
Photographs from previous Merry Christmas Greens Markets (sent under separate cover) are courtesy of the French Broad River Garden Club Foundation.