A growing tradition

County garden clubs celebrate milestones, look forward

County garden clubs celebrate milestones, look forward

December 23, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

Hagerstown Garden Club historian Rita Mellott keeps the organization's scrapbooks.

The 1948 to 1970 edition tells the story of an earlier time. There are newspaper clippings, flower show photos and pictures of club members - many in hats, some in pearls, a few pouring tea, others posing with arrangements.

The club recently celebrated its 75th anniversary with a party at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, a focus of the organization's efforts since members planted an American Elm on the grounds of the new museum in 1931.

Old-time tea parties . . . and instant tea

The old tea-party photos tell the story of a different time, a time when fewer women worked outside the home, a time when garden club members were identified not by their first names, but by their husbands'.


"It's hard today," says Hagerstown Garden Club President Jeanne Stoner, "because so many of the young people work."

"We don't have time to sit around and drink tea," says Jenni Hatcher, president of Woodland Garden Club, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary year. "Instant tea," she adds with a laugh.

There is an educational aspect to the garden clubs. "I feel I've learned a lot," Stoner says.

And the social part of garden clubbing is undeniable. Fun and friendships are part of the plot.

But the six gardening groups in Washington County are about more than that.

Members wear gloves - not little white gloves with elegantly extended pinkies, but work gloves.

Hagerstown Garden Club takes care of the planters at the fine arts museum in City Park. Members planted the hillside and the shrubbery at the base of the bust of George Washington and weed the gardens, says Jean Woods, museum director. They regularly conduct activities at Hagerstown Day Nursery, Stoner says.

Woodland Garden Club has been working at Western Maryland Hospital Center for 46 of its 50 years.

"They have been totally devoted to us," says Cynthia Pellegrino, director of the chronic care and rehabilitation facility. Garden club members assist in all of the therapeutic gardens, they have written grants and raised funds for garden projects at the hospital. "They are a big help to us," Pellegrino adds.

All of the Washington County Garden Clubs take part in decorating the Miller House, headquarters of the Washington County Historical Society, for the Christmas holiday season. Hagerstown Garden Club decks the halls of the museum; Woodland adorns the hospital.

"I think garden clubs are important because they preserve some of our heritage," Stoner says.

But the clubs also are looking toward the future.

Susan Fowler, who moved to Hagerstown from Atlanta four years ago, has been a Hagerstown Garden Club member for three years.

She has fun with the "wonderful group" of women, and she appreciates the invaluable information fellow members are willing to share, helping her to garden in a growing zone totally different from the one she knew.

Nurturing future gardeners

Fowler and her children are involved in the Junior Gardeners program, new for the Hagerstown Garden Club this year. Fifteen children ages 6 to 12 are involved.

Each will plant a garden - a type of his or her choosing - and document it with a photo diary. There will be a tea in September to celebrate the harvest. The group plans a "tree hike" and picnic, an overnight visit to a pumpkin patch and a visit to River Farm in Alexandria, Va. Once owned by George Washington, it is now headquarters of the American Horticultural Society.

Fowler is excited about the club's youth program because preserving traditions - some she remembers from her grandparents' gardens - is important.

Her 8-year-old son grew his first corn last summer, and Fowler loved seeing him check his plants every day. Her "6 and 3/4-year-old" daughter prefers red roses. For Fowler, gardening is a wonderful way to share with her kids.

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