Members of the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs have worked for more than 50 years to make their yards, and neighborhoods, cities/towns, state and even nation more beautiful.
Take Plaza Midwood’s Mary Hollins for example. She learned the love of gardening from her mother, Mary Starkley, while growing up in New York City. Her mother had a small garden not far way in New Jersey.
“One of my favorite pictures is of my mother standing on the stoop in New York City holding a big tomato in one hand and what appears to be a foot-long cucumber in the other,” Hollins said.
That childhood memory, and the invitation of a stranger, drew her to the University City Garden Club several years ago. She is now president of the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs.
Hollins is one of 200-plus Council members who belong to garden clubs scattered throughout Mecklenburg County. Some were gardeners almost from birth; some acquired the interest later in life. But all share a love of friendship and plants, and a desire to make their corner of the world a better place.
The council is a nonprofit organization composed of 13 garden clubs, five youth clubs, and six associate horticulture societies. The clubs are federated, meaning they also are members of the Garden Club of North Carolina Inc. and National Garden Clubs Inc. Belonging to the state and national organizations gives club members access to a wide range of gardening information, and opportunities to participate in flower schools, landscape design and many other classes and activities.
It also means the clubs can participate in state and national competitions, and programs such as the Blue and Star Memorial Marker, a project of the National Garden Clubs that honors veterans; the state highway beautification program; state scholarships; and other activities.
Members say each club has its own personality. Some clubs prefer socialization and programs while others are working/service clubs that concentrate on projects. Still others are a mixture of the two.
Council past president Susan Hooper is a member of the Sardiswood Garden Club, a service oriented club that meets at the Betty Little Council House, 1820 E. Seventh St. Many of the clubs meet at the house, complete with an urban garden out front. The council also rents the house for showers, parties and other special events.
“We do a garden club with third graders at the Fletcher School called the Snapdragons. We even have a Snap Dragon mascot costume. We also maintain two teaching gardens there for garden therapy,” Hooper said.
“We bring programs to Charlotte Square, a retirement community on Carmel Road, and this year we are contributing funds to the National Parks in honor of the 100th anniversary.”
Lacy Dick, president of the Davidson Garden Club, says her club loves to socialize, but also works hard.
They conduct a plant sale each fall where members share their plants and their gardening expertise with the community, while raising money for other club projects. They make the green baskets that hang outside the shops on Main Street each holiday season. Their biggest project, the Davidson Horticulture Symposium, takes an entire year to plan and successfully execute.
“The symposium is a cooperative venture with Davidson College and our garden club to bring the latest things in gardening to our area. We had 440 people attend last year and had to turn some away,” Dick said.
She said next year’s Symposium is scheduled for March 7. A detailed website will soon be up with ticket and other information.
Judy Barnes, a past president of both the Charlotte Council and the Garden Club of North Carolina and current scholarship chairperson and president of the Flower Show Judges Council of North Carolina, belongs to the Flower Power club. That club has members from the Mountainbrook subdivision and other subdivisions in South Charlotte.
In addition to community projects and fundraising, Barnes says her club sponsors the Blazing Bees, an elementary-school-aged club led by Queen Bee Helen Mayhew.
Mayhew meets with the 15 young members each month presenting a lesson, leading the children in a gardening craft, and extending the idea of gardening far beyond their own backyards.
“I have a firm belief that when you start children young – even as young as age 2 – you can teach them to be loving and to care about one another and about the earth. This is my chance to help them learn to love nature,” Mayhew said.
“I tell them that my generation really messed up the environment, but that they can do much better. I want them to understand that the earth is our home and we’ve got to take care of it.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs and to find a garden club that may interest you, visit www.charlottecouncilofgardenclubs.org and fill out the contact information or call 704-375-4373.
Blue Star Marker
Mecklenburg County’s first Blue Star Memorial marker, sponsored by the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs and North Carolina DAR District III, will be dedicated on Oct. 29, 10 a.m., at the North Carolina Welcome Center on I-77 North at mile marker 3. The public is invited.