Novice or expert. Green thumb or withering hand. Whatever your level of expertise and interest, members of the St. John Garden Club stand ready and willing to offer advice to make yards more aesthetically pleasing.

Marilyn Spisak has been a member of the organization for about 20 years, joining when the club was just a few years old. 

“We've been around quite a while,” Spisak said.

Spisak has been gardening for several decades. Before moving to St. John about 30 years ago, she tended a small yard. Now her property encompasses three-quarters of an acre. Her favorite part of her garden is the lilies that grow more than 5 feet tall.

Though she has much gardening experience, she always enjoys picking up tips from club members. “I learned a lot more here,” she said, including which types of flowers and plants grow best in the heavily clay soil on her property.

And there's no shortage of opportunities for such education. “We do quite a bit,” Spisak said.

Members regularly visit each other's gardens and share clippings and seeds in addition to tips. 

Then, there's the community outreach. 

The group maintains the areas around two “Welcome to St. John” signs along U.S. Hwy. 41.

Spisak said the club's more than 20 members also tend the garden at the library in St. John. 

That work started before the expansion of the public library, which took the facility at 9450 Wicker Ave. to 16,000 square feet in 2005 from 3,500. 

“It's a much bigger area now,” Spisak said.

In 2013, the club donated a small statue of two children reading a book to the library.

Members also have created a human sundial at Prairie West Park at 9359 W. Oakridge Drive.

Spisak said people can stand at a marked location there and raise their arm to tell the time from the shadow cast.

“It's not completely finished,” she said of the sundial project as the members address some drainage problems. They expected to be done soon. 

The club plans several road trips throughout the year to visit garden displays, including out of state.

Spisak enjoys those travels that she said spark ideas. 

The club has visited gardens in Illinois and Michigan. One of Spisak’s favorites the Quilt Gardens near Shipshewana, where the gardens are planted to look like quilts.

“That was really nice. We have been talking about going back again,” Spisak said, because it’s been a few years since the club's last visit. 

She said the club also hosts a plant sale at the St. John Farmer's Market, held on Sundays from May through October.

Members recently decorated a tree stump to look like a fairy home for the fairy garden at the Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest in Valparaiso. 

During the summer, it also has regular picnics. And winter activities include a Christmas party.

She said members often work on crafts when the weather is colder and plants aren't growing. Around Thanksgiving, they create wreaths with fall foliage and acorns, she said.

For Spisak, one of her favorite aspects of the club is the camaraderie. 

“I really enjoy just being with the people,” she said of the club that's always looking for new members, particularly younger ones. 

Spisak invites those interested in learning more about the club to attend one of its meetings the second Monday of every month at the St. John library.

“It's a fun club,” Spisak said.

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