When newly transplanted Denver resident Delaine Rosenau was looking for a garden club to join, she learned none existed in her neighborhood.
Sylvia Holmes, a friend of Rosenau's and president of the East Lincoln Betterment Association, liked the idea of a new garden club and arranged for a $200 grant to get them started.
Monthly meetings began in January 2000, with 17 members, and as the club grew, they moved from the members' homes to a permanent meeting place at Webb's Chapel United Methodist Church in Denver.
Twelve years later, the East Lincoln Community Garden Club is flourishing, with 60 members, of which 40 are actively involved. Twenty members have completed the North Carolina State Master Gardening Program, which requires classroom instruction through the Lincoln County Extension Service, followed by 20 hours of volunteer gardening activity.
Although all of the current members are women, men are welcome to join.
"We would take very good care of them," said past president Marie Krapovicky. "We had one male member, but he jumped ship and joined the Lincoln County Master Gardeners Club."
Meetings, which take place on the second Monday of the month, are planned for the entire year in January. A different member hosts each meeting, and activities may include a gardening project or a guest speaker from the Lincoln County Extension Agency.
Topics presented have ranged from soil preparation and container gardening, to pruning, drip irrigation and Ikebana (Japanese) flower arranging.
The club motto, "Friends are the flowers in the garden of life," is a good indication of the way in which members enjoy the social aspect of their group as well. "We like to go out for lunch," said Krapovicky. "For that matter, we like to go anywhere, lunch included."
"Our trips are legendary," says Paula Mitchell, publicity chair.
In the past year, they have ventured to South Carolina twice, once to see orchid greenhouses in Newbury, and a second visit to the zoo gardens in Columbia. Other trips took them to Asheville, for the Biltmore Estate botanical gardens, and to Hendersonville for a look at Carl Sandburg State Park, with its gardens and the Sandburg family home.
, "We go to the places you read about in magazines," said Dace Swenson, publicity chair.
This year's trips will include the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, encompassing 55 acres on the campus of Duke University, and the Reynalda House, the summer estate of the Reynolds family, in Winston-Salem.
In addition to the visits to well-known gardens and estates, club members are involved in several public service projects. They have worked on the gardens at Webbs Chapel UMC and East Lincoln Christian Ministry, as well as the Lakewood Nursing Home on Optimists Club Road in Denver.
"We've adopted the Lakewood Nursing Home as an ongoing project," said founding member Mary Ellen Hawkins. "We installed hummingbird feeders, we maintain their garden, and we deliver 'goody bags' to the residents at Christmas."
In addition to annual dues of $15, club members hold a sale each spring to raise money to supplement the cost of the trips and the community projects.
This year's spring plant sale, Under the Arbor, will take place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 9 at Webbs Chapel UMC on Webbs Chapel Church Road in Denver.
Besides several local nurseries, participating vendors include Wendy Edwards, a Denver potter, the Wild Bird Mart & Gift Shop of Denver, and J.B. Luke Bird Homes from Mooresville. For the hungry folk, Kim's Kitchen of Denver will have cinnamon rolls and fresh breads for sale.
Hypertufa pots, or cement planters, made by members of the club at a recent meeting will also be for sale.
"It was fun and messy - a few people got squirted with the hose - but we ended up with 20 pots to sell," said Mitchell.
Swenson said joining the right group gives you ties to the community.
"You become quickly involved. Most people who attend a meeting of our garden club join. Perhaps it's because we cultivate friendships as well as flowers," she said.