How to Create a 21st-Century Garden Club

Recently I have been reminded of the gardeners’ truth: no one gardens alone. Garden clubs may seem like a thing of the past, but I’m here to tell you they are alive and well, and that they just don’t necessarily look like your granny’s garden club.  (No One Gardens Alone happens to be the title of a popular gardening book about Elizabeth Lawrence—landscape architect and garden writer.)

garden clubs

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) was a landscape architect and prolific garden writer.

The last two weeks I have been reminded that this is the gardeners’ truth: no one gardens alone. The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati recently hosted its inaugural Building Community event in which the famed local gardener Clara Berger was honored. Clara embodies what it means to be a gardener. She is passionate about plants, sharing her garden knowledge and expanding the garden community. As I sat there listening to her devoted friends reflect on her life as a gardener, I was inspired to do more, as I am sure most everyone in the room was. It wasn’t Clara’s spectacular garden that reflects her impeccable taste in plants and design that we were in awe of, rather, it was that this one woman, with her love of gardening and willingness to reach out to others, who built the very gardening community that was at that moment gathered to celebrate her accomplishments.

A few nights later I was meeting with members of Cincinnati’s Park Advisory Councils. Once again, gathered in one room, was a group of folks passionate about public gardens and parks. I was surrounded by individuals who volunteer their time and talents to make local parks shine. They plant trees and host parties, dances, movie nights, concerts and nature-education programs. They, too, though not all strictly gardeners, are building a garden community.

garden club

Gardeners today have busy lives with work and other responsibilities, which does not mean we don’t want to get together to talk gardening!

I have often heard other gardeners my age lament the fact that garden clubs that fit into their busy work and family schedules are hard to come by. But I have found that garden clubs of a different nature can be found. I’ve been meeting with and sharing dinners with my fellow adopt-a-plot gardeners for years now. We may not be a traditional garden club, but we are a group of like-minded garden enthusiasts, which is pretty much a club, yes?

Perhaps garden clubs today are entirely different. Perhaps they are the followers and fans of popular social media outlets that feature garden blogs  people who are are in constant communication with each other. Are they gathering in someone’ living room for tea while discussing plants? No. But they are together, in one way or the other, sharing their love of all things gardening.

Jennifer Smith is a horticulturist, garden writer and photographer for Wimberg Landscaping, a Cincinnati-based landscaping firm. She is the author of the Adventures of a Landless Gardener blog here on hortmag.com. She is also the former managing editor of Horticulture.

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