Hello Fellow Readers,
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with garden clubs and participating in their activities. I didn’t realize until digging into history, the magnitude and impact of garden clubs across the country, even the world. The first garden club in America was founded in January 1891 by The Ladies Garden Club of Athens, Georgia. In 1929, the National Garden Club formed with 13 states as charter members. Today, National Garden Clubs, Inc. (NGC) is made up of over 5,000-member garden clubs in all 50 states totaling about 175,000 members. Plus, there’s more than 400 national and international affiliates around the world.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking with the Shrewsbury Garden Club of NJ during their 60th anniversary celebration. “That’s a lot of digging in the dirt,” I started out the talk. We shared pictures of beautifully styled gardens and some with plants painfully pruned into meatballs or hockey pucks. During Q&A a club member shared the dilemma of the association community in which she lived and asked how she could influence a change from the landscaper creating unnatural shapes. Its true pruning is often a hefty line item along with mulching in landscape maintenance contracts. And, managing size may be necessary if plants chosen are not sized correctly for the space. However, I believe meatballs and over-mulching (or volcano mulching) have become commonplace especially in commercial applications which has then drifted to homeowners assuming it must be the how-to. Pruning branch by branch following the natural shapes of plants takes more time and talent than using hedge trimmers; which by the way also encourages the spread of disease. Have you noticed the demise of boxwoods? Sheering an infected shrub and then moving onto an uninflected shrub without sterilizing the equipment…. well, you know what can happen if you go unprotected.
I suggested putting together a strategy for replacing oversized plants to implement over time within that budget of dollars allocated for pruning. And consider a plan of planting groundcovers to replace costly mulching year after year. That way the parties involved may not be resistant to the shift to ‘au naturel’ as it won’t impact their bottom line.
On the National Garden Club’s website (www.gardenclub.org) is their Conservation Pledge: “I pledge to protect and conserve the natural resources of the planet earth and promise to promote education so we may become caretakers of our air, water, forest, land, and wildlife.” It gives me goosebumps to consider the magnitude of that promise. It starts in each of our backyards. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
About the Shrewsbury Garden Club…
After the presentation, I asked who in the crowd was a member for the longest run. Nancy Stewart spoke up having joined the club in 1969. The room exploded in applause. Also in the audience was Susan O’Donnell, President of The Garden Club of New Jersey with over 120 garden clubs and more than 5,000 members age 6-adult.
Member Bill Gerth, head of the Borough of Shrewsbury Shade Tree Commission, asked if I often use the two favored Japanese Maple in the presentation. Yes indeed! In fact, the slide of the two glories is a photo of my back yard featuring Seiryu Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu) along with Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’ ) mirroring each other in their burning bush red fall color. I then shared the tale of not being able to resist when I stumbled upon them at a nursery who loaded them up. I hadn’t considered how I was going to unload and plant these beauties who weighed in over 350 pounds each. Thankfully gardeners tend to find each other when we get ourselves into a pickle.
After the group photo outside the venue located on the Navesink River, we lingered and browsed through the historic materials on display. Member Terry Blake kindly gave me a “private tour” of the display demonstrating their activities including the installation of an herb garden for The Allen House in Shrewsbury, NJ built in 1710. The lovely design of the herb garden was done by Ellen Preissler.
“Terry and Ellen are our Allen House herb garden gurus,” remarked Susan Hellman (Club President – a post shared with Judy Bonnana).“They chose herbs true to the era which were common then, but some are unusual now. Our herb gurus were able to track them down!”
What a joy to spend the afternoon with this warmhearted group celebrating 60 years of embracing and enhancing the beauty of our world!