Master Gardeners get ready for WCHS Ice Cream Social Aug. 19

Master Gardeners get ready for WCHS Ice Cream Social Aug. 19

While the kids have their eyes on the ice cream prize, older visitors to the Washington County Historical Society’s 51st Ice Cream Social Aug. 19 might want to stop and smell the roses — and the zinnias and sunflowers and tomatoes and perennials and flowering shrubs.

Last year, 29 Master Gardeners devoted 1,034 hours to beautifying the gardens at the historical society’s Fayetteville home, Headquarters House, and their work continues this year as they maintain an heirloom perennial border, medicinal and culinary herb garden, vegetable demonstration garden, moon garden, rose garden and a butterfly and pollinator garden, as well as shade and sun-loving spots in the garden.

Jan Lefler is one of five project leaders at Headquarters House, along with Geraldine Alvis, Wanda Gore, Terry Smyers and Kristi Campbell.

“All of us are retired professionals from medical, accounting and transportation fields,” she says. “We have been Master Gardeners from one to 15 years. We bring individual skills and expertise in our gardening activities at Headquarters House. Some Master Gardeners at Headquarters House came to the project for the first time this year; others have been coming to the gardens for over 20 years.”

The gardens will provide a colorful setting for the Ice Cream Social, a major fundraiser for the Washington County Historical Society since 1972, according to event chairwoman Debbie Groom, and “a popular tradition in Fayetteville as an end-of-summer, before-back-to-school event.”

This year, in addition to ice cream provided by Hiland Dairy, assorted cookies, cakes, lemonade and water, there will be music by Jumpsuit Jamey and the Can’t Wait to Play Boys, along with a photo booth for guests to have souvenir pictures made in period costume.

“Last year was our first Ice Cream Social after a two-year absence during the pandemic,” Groom explains. “We had an enthusiastic turnout of visitors last year, and we are looking forward to seeing the community visit us again.”

The Ice Cream Social predates the Master Gardeners, a national organization that came to Arkansas in 1988, to Washington County in 1991 and to Headquarters House in 1997.

“Master Gardeners are members of the local community who take an active interest in gardening,” Lefler explains. “We are enthusiastic, willing to learn and to help others and able to communicate with diverse groups of people.”

What really sets a Master Gardener apart from other home gardeners is special training in horticulture, she adds. “In exchange for this training, Washington County Master Gardeners volunteer our time providing horticulture-related information to communities throughout the county. Through our relationship with the Washington County Cooperative Extension Service, we have access to research-based proven answers to local gardening questions.”

The project at Headquarters House started when the Historical Society asked Master Gardeners to help establish “an heirloom perennial front border edging the brick walkway leading to the front of the historic house,” Lefler says. Over the past 26 years, the volunteers have added and maintained multiple garden areas, created a master list of plants for interested WCHS members, helped with garden-related programs and tours and more.

Even with fall just around the corner, Lefler assures that work won’t slow down for the Master Gardeners. It’s time to divide perennials and move them around the garden, plant new trees and shrubs, collect seeds from heirloom plans for re-seeding in the spring, plant bulbs and test soil as needed. “We often garden into December if weather permits.

“We volunteer our time to the garden because we love the special historical nature of the property,” she says. “The massive trees on the front lawn, the historic Smokehouse and Archibald Yell Law Office, as well as the original Greek Revival home built in 1853, all stand as wonderful examples in the Fayetteville Historic District. We want the surrounding gardens to reflect the historical nature of the property and provide garden visitors with a memorable experience.”


WCHS Ice Cream Social

WHEN — 3-6 p.m. Aug. 19

WHERE — On the lawn of Headquarters House Museum, 118 E. Dickson St. in Fayetteville

COST — $2.50 for children ages 6-12, $5 for adults, $15 for families


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