Garden clubs were something I always associated with my grandmother. So maybe it’s only fitting that one of the first things I did as a new member of the Yadkin Valley Garden Club was to take a field trip to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, a place Grandma and I visited together 15 years ago. They held a media day, and as an eager young editorial assistant at Carolina Gardener, I jumped at the chance to go tour and take advantage of my press credentials. I asked Grandma if she wanted to come too, and we set out for an adventure.
That first visit was quite an experience, for me and Grandma. They had only built the welcome center and a big fountain. What I remember is a lot of red clay turned up, ready for planting, and some very excited people associated with the garden ready to get the word out to start raising money. They had a lot of hopes and dreams. It was hard to envision their dreams on that hot, summer day with the clay baking in our North Carolina sun, but Grandma and I still enjoyed ourselves. It was pretty special to be one of the few to see the garden at the beginning. She always said she wanted to go back to see how it turned out, but we never did take a follow up trip.
Until now. I didn’t get to go with her, but I did think of her as I walked through the beautiful grounds of the garden. Elaborate perennial borders, carefully trained hedges and lots of water features have filled up that expanse of clay soil. The fifteen intervening years have been enough for many of the plants to become well established. I saw a lorepetalum that had been trained into a tree-shape that looked very much like a crape myrtle, and some big-leaf magnolias that took your breath away. I was also glad to see the garden filled with children on field trips, taking advantage of the educational opportunities the staff has made possible.
But most of all, I enjoyed the chance to visit the garden with some of the people in the garden club. Some I already know, but others I’m getting to know. It’s fun to have a group of people to talk with about things like whether your thyme will come back after our harsh winter and to debate the merits of pine straw vs. wood chip mulch.
I admit, I used to think of the garden club as an ancient institution, for women of my grandmother’s generation to have tea and talk about flower arranging, but now that I am involved I see that it is alive and well, and doing many great things in our state. When you join a garden club, your membership dues go to support various state botanical gardens, and the chapters are also dedicated to preserving and educating people about our beautiful state tree, the flowering dogwood. The garden club also provides opportunities for learning new things, whether it’s how to care for a new type of plant or how to get involved in some of your community’s beautification projects.
When I told my mother about our trip and how much fun we had, she said I was carrying on grandma’s legacy. And I take that as a big compliment. I didn’t join the garden club with that in mind, but I do hope that I will help a new generation of people see the merit in keeping alive an institution that has the beauty of our Earth at heart.