Year round there is lots of information concerning garden clubs but in the spring they seem to sprout up like daffodils! They are EVERYWHERE! Garden tours abound. So what are these groups and where did they come from??
Story and select photos contributed by: Judy Ripley
Garden clubs are numerous. National Garden Clubs Inc. is in fifty states, the national capitol area and has 49 national affiliate members. There are 447 international affiliate members in Mexico, South America, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Europe and North Africa. In all there are 6,218 clubs, with 198,595 members. This is the largest volunteer gardening organization in the world. Information concerning these clubs can be found on www.gardenclub.org. Members have access to many of their publications.
There are State Federated Garden Clubs as well with the Virginia Federation of garden clubs having 6,000 members.
The United States is further divided into Garden club regions. Virginia is in the South Atlantic Region (SAR). Within Virginia there are six districts: the Blue Ridge, Piedmont, Shenandoah, South Central, Southwest and Tidewater. Garden clubs in this area are in the Piedmont District with information available at www.vfgpiedmontdistrict.com.
The national and state clubs are varied in their form and function. The handbooks for flower shows and design types and staging are exclusively NGC and this is the only garden club that has accredited judges (judges that have gone through extensive training to evaluate design and horticulture).
NGC “provides education, resources and national networking opportunities for members to promote gardening and floral design.” It is a not-for-profit educational organization. Their goals include aiding in the protection and conservation of natural resources, promoting civic beautification and encouraging improvement of roadsides and parks. They also establish botanical gardens and advance the study of gardening. The Ladies Garden Club of Athens, Georgia, was the first garden club in America and formed in January 1891. Garden clubs continued to grow until May 10, 1958 when they established a permanent headquarters building dedicated in St. Louis, Missouri.
Garden clubs include in their focus scholarships to Nature Camp, public beautification, and environmental awareness. Most garden clubs are private clubs with members attending monthly meetings. The monthly meetings consist of exhibiting horticulture (plants) and design (specified arrangements of flowers), short business meetings and sometimes a luncheon and program. The programs are designed to aid the members to further understand how best to grow these plants and how best to design with them. Guests are encouraged to attend and join.
Garden clubs are closely involved with their communities. They do flower arrangements for patients in local hospitals.
They also design and maintain gardens for local clinics and municipal buildings, Boys and Girls Clubs, schools and the Blue Star Memorials. Blue Star Memorials are handsome bronze plaques honoring the military that are serving or have served our nation. These memorials are installed on public land, along highways and byways, and in towns, villages and cities. Please keep an eye out and honor them as well. The funding for these memorials, their maintenance and often surrounding gardens are all provided by the garden clubs in cooperation with the communities where they are located.
Many scholarships are provided for local students to attend Nature Camp, which is a summer environmentally focused experience. Students are screened, interviewed and provided with the funds and sometimes the supplies to attend the week-long experience. The recipients often attend a garden club meeting following their experience and speak with the members. These recipients frequently are directly affected in their career choices by this scholarship and camp experience.
This spring you can visit some of the many garden tours run by garden clubs. These tours are often years in planning. They reflect the focus of the garden clubs to teach and inspire. So as you are touring beautiful gardens this spring thank the lovely ladies that host the tours, design the arrangements, and delight in gardens.