(Photo by John Cook) An example of the flowers on display at the Caro Garden Club Botanical Garden.

COVID-19 restrictions have limited social activities for people throughout the world.

But here in Tuscola County, there is a safe place for residents to enjoy a little outdoors time while practicing safe, social-distancing procedures.

The Caro Garden Club’s Botanical Garden, situated across from McLaren Caro Region Hospital on the corner of Hooper and Sherman streets, features nine separate gardens, each of which is tended regularly and features informational signs about what is growing.

“I do my little part, and there’s a whole bunch of gardeners, nine in all,” said Joyce Muz, who is in charge of the garden for the Caro Garden Club. “There’s a different section for each gardener to take care of, and others will pick up the slack if someone can’t make it for a while.”

This year mark’s the 50th anniversary of the botanical garden, which was established in 1970 by the garden club. In 2015, it underwent a renovation, funded largely by memorial donations. The Caro Garden Club received a Landscape Award and Certificate of Appreciation for Civic Beautification from the Michigan Garden Club following the upgrades.

“We want everyone to feel like this is Caro’s garden, that there’s someplace local to go,” said Kathy Sauber, Caro Garden Club member and immediate past president. “We just want people to enjoy this.”

There has been quite a bit of traffic recently at the garden, Muz said.

“I was working here the other day, and a neighbor and his three kids – the whole family – walks through,” she said. “And he says every time he comes through, he picks up sticks and pulls some weeds. He’s teaching his kids how to be (good citizens).”

Sauber said announcements on the garden club’s Facebook page for the annual “planting day” and clean-up days have resulted in good turnouts.

“People come and help out, which is awesome,” she said. 

“Many hands lighten the workload,” current Caro Garden Club President Melody Crossett said.

One of the features of the botanical garden is the “Three Sisters Garden.” Inspired by Lynette Smith, a member of the Chippewa tribe who oversees the Reservation Garden in Mount Pleasant, the garden includes three vegetables – corn, beans and squash.

The garden also includes a Blue Star Memorial and Vietnam Memorial. 

Engraved bricks honoring those who served in past wars line the ground at the Blue Star Memorial. The National Garden Club honored the memorial recently as one of the “most beautifully landscaped Blue Star Memorials in the country,” Sauber said. 

The Vietnam Memorial was constructed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. This portion of the garden features a Firespire American Hornbeam tree, which was donated by the United States Defense Department.

There is an insect hotel on the premises which provides a habitat for beneficial insects. One of the garden’s newer additions is a water fountain. For her 80th birthday, former Caro Garden Club President Marilyn Holloway asked that instead of gifts, family and friends donate to the botanical garden.

“Because of this water feature, we can now be a wildlife sanctuary,” Muz said “That was the last thing we needed because we had food and shelter, but we were missing a water source.”

Residents are not only encouraged to just walk around the garden.

“Due to the amount of veterans who come here, we have a picnic table that is handicap-accessible,” Crossett said. “And we encourage people to come stop by and have a picnic.”

The Caro Garden Club is celebrating its 90th year in 2020, and had planned a birthday event for July 18. The event has been canceled, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.