Even in late October, there were hibiscus, asters and even irises still blooming at the Nichols Park bandstand in Beatrice.

It's not unheard of to see flowers still in bloom so late in the year, says Roselyn Shaffer, but it's certainly a pleasant surprise.

"It just depends on the weather," Shaffer.

Or perhaps it depends on the green thumbs that care for the plants. The bandstand's foliage has been cultivated by the Beatrice Civic Garden Club since 1987 in an effort to beautify the city. 

In 2018, the club celebrated its 45th anniversary, according to Shaffer, the club's president. 

It was also a year that saw the passing of one of the club's founding members and mainstays, Norma Lohse, who died in July.

"It was a big lost," said Shaffer. "We had depended on her for so much knowledge and information over the years. She knew more about flowers than most of us."

Lohse had joined the club's founding members — Fran Sage, Irene Hinz, Leonard and Emily Bird, Voley and Wilma Steele and Rachel Diettloff — a month after the the club was chartered on June 25, 1973.

For many years, Lohse was the club's president, later serving as its adviser in her final years.

Shaffer, who keeps a collection of scrapbooks detailing the club's history, said Lohse was an essential part of the club's growth.

"From the very beginning of the scrapbook, she is an integral part of the garden club," Shaffer said. 

So much so that the Daily Sun would devote an article to Lohse and her expansive garden in the paper every few years, Shaffer said.

Lohse also served as the superintendent of the horticultural flower department at the Gage County Fair, helping link the Open Class Flower show at the fair with the club, who has sponsored the show for many years. 

Just as the club has grown, the Open Class Flower show has blossomed under the club's sponsorship. In 2000, for example, there 593 entries at the fair, while in 2018, there were 1328.

How has the club been able to keep going all these years later?

"People love flowers and gardening, I guess," said publicity chairwoman Karen Mains shortly before the club's anniversary. 

Many of the club's gardeners are certified master gardeners through the University of Nebraska extension office in Lincoln. Shaffer said Lohse was one of the early master gardeners in the club. 

To remain certified, members have to complete a certain amount of training and volunteer hours. 

Much of the club's volunteer work is at the library and Gage County extension office. The club previously took care of city's many public gardens, but Shaffer said the city has started to do that work for itself.

Training starts at the end of January and runs through March. Those interested can contact Nicole Stoner at the extension office.

In May, the club hosts it annual plant sale and backyard farmer panel. 

"It's a good opportunity to bring their plant questions," said Shaffer.

The club meets the second Monday of every meeting, a tradition that goes back to at least 1993, accordring to the club's yearbook. 

While the club focuses on gardening, it's also a civic club, working with the community to keep the city beautiful.

In 1987, the club adopted the bandstand in Nichols Park as part of the "Adopt the Spot," program that encourage local organizations, groups and individuals to get involved in beautifying different areas of the city. 

Today, the club continues its work in Nichols Park, in addition to garden work at Charles Park and the Centenary Methodist Church, according to Shaffer.

"I would invite anyone interested in yards or gardens to certainly come to the garden club," Shaffer said. "We have a program each month and try to learn from each other. We shares ideas, we share plants."

While other garden clubs may exist elsewhere, Shaffer said Beatrice's combination of horticultural and civic engagement is pretty special.

"We're kind of unique in a lot of ways," she said. 

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