Stella arboretum blossoms into Southeast Nebraska oasis

STELLA- With nearly two decades under its belt, the Stella Garden Club has grown more than just flowers and vegetables in a field—they’ve grown an entire community in Southeast Nebraska.

When it was established in 2007, the Stella Garden Club’s goal was to promote and maintain the beauty within the Village of Stella. Now in 2021, although that’s still its main focus, the club is also preparing for its fourth art show, “Haunted Garden” in the fall, and numerous prom and wedding photo opportunities.

Secretary of the Stella Garden Club Vicki Beilke says she can still remember the day the club decided to take full responsibility for the maintenance of the garden. 

“We got to talking—us girls,” Beilke said. “We decided that this was something we needed to do. We needed to save the area. We were willing to put in the work and the time, and it has paid off.”

The population in Stella, Nebraska, is 152 people, but according to Beilke and Stella Garden Club President, Chris Joy, the club ranges upwards from 20 members at any given time.

“We’ve had anywhere from 25 to 35 members since we started,” Beilke said. “Right now, as Chris (Joy) said, we’re at about 25 members.”

Those 25 members are completely volunteers. In the last year or so the club, and members, were given another obstacle—COVID-19. The club responded by showing its most growth since it started.

“First of all, they (people) couldn’t do anything except stay home,” Beilke said. “So, the interest in gardening really expanded. We had the best sales (donations) we’ve ever had.”

Along with the added interest in gardening, Beilke and Joy say that every event the club has hosted has been extremely well received. Total numbers of attendees range from 60 to just under 100 people. 

With a smaller population than nearby cities, Joy and Beilke have a message for the rest of Southeast Nebraska who might be hesitant to make the trip to Stella.

“We tell people that we are the hidden gem in Southeast Nebraska,” Joy said. “We would like to find a way to have the rest of Nebraskans know about us.”