Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

When Garden Clubs Work Together

This week email-connected garden clubs smacked down a slur by the Washington Post. In a tribute to the late Lady Bird Johnson, staffwriter Ann Gerhart compared her work to "garden club fluttering." Among the emails/letters in response was one by Idaho Garden Clubs president Dotty Hurd, who gave an excellent review of the history of American garden clubs. She has agreed to its being included here:

Dear Ms. Gerhart,

Perhaps you are not familiar with the efforts, energy and volunteer work that "garden club" members do. Allow me to explain some of the accomplishments of garden club "fluttering".

The idea of an organized garden club came about in 1891 in Athens, Georgia. The primary purpose of this group was to study plants, with each person studying a particular variety. This was during a time of reconstruction after the war where great damage had occurred to monuments and buildings and public gardens. Over the years, garden club members worked diligently to restore these areas.

By 1913 more and more garden clubs were formed, and found advantages in numbers and joined into federations to address common concerns such as groundwater and parks. During 1929 the organization established committees to oversee billboards and roadsides, conservation and legislation.

The Quarantine Act of 1912, resulted in the ban of Dutch bulbs. The group felt the government should concentrate on "scientific research on extermination and control". A letter to President Hoover asked for a non-partisan committee investigate the problem. He replies "that action must occur soon".

Even back in 1933, a Save the Redwoods committee had been formed. In 1949 National Garden Clubs purchased 40 acres of redwoods and donated it to California Park System. An additional 40 acres was given 1951.

It didn't take long for garden club members to take on menacing highway billboards. In Long Island, NY, action was taken to save sand dunes and wooded headlands of the sea from advertising boards. The highway into D.C. had the worst billboards in the country. The zeal to rid the billboards was unabated. Garden club members became a protest advertising in the landscape.

During 1935 National Garden Clubs endorsed Certificates of Merit for roadside, gas, oil and food stations for environmental improvements. A Roadside Development Chairman position was adopted. With more than 2 million automobiles on the road, used for business and recreation a slogan of "Favor the Firms that Favor the Scenery" was developed. Members introduced legislation to protect trees, shrubs, wildflowers and establish roadside parks. In addition, they objected to having political signs on the highway. Campaigns against billboards included two essentials. First develop a backing for making the highways beautiful by addressing Men's Civic Clubs and Chambers of Commerce. Second, obtain publicity showing support for restriction of billboards which garden club members wanted limited to commercials districts. With an emphasis on horticulture, conservation and roadside protection, the garden club movement forged ahead.

Decreased traveling during WWII was benefited the Roadside Development Committee in its fight to control highway billboards. With gasoline rationing and the cessation of the manufacture of automobiles after 1942, highway travel decreased by 75 percent. However, the Committee urged garden club members to remain vigilant so that billboards didn't return in the same number after the war.

The Blue Star Memorial program was adopted in 1945 beginning with New Jersey's Blue Star Drive, a five mile stretch of 1,000 dogwoods and no billboards. Highways were identified across the nation and every state participated by seeding approval of State Legislatures and the cooperation of the highway departments. State garden clubs bought the identifying markers and landscaping materials and installed at the chosen locations.

Veterans were provided horticultural therapy at hospitals. Garden club members gave courses in plant identification and operated small greenhouses.

In 1949, National Garden Clubs compiled lists of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants in each state. This was published as a horticultural travel guide. The Guidebook - What Grows Where You Are was printed under the title A Traveler's Guide to Roadside Wildflowers, Trees and Shrubs.

In 1952 a perky figure was introduced to be used on posters, seals and signs to help with the war on litter. "Litterbugs" dropped into everyday vocabulary as National Garden Clubs adopted the slogan "Don't be a Litterbug". Keep America Beautiful, Inc., got on the bandwagon and included the slogan and figure in its programs. The popular "Litterbug" program encouraged safer and more beautiful highways. Garden club members purchased more than 300,000 litterbugs to encourage disposal of waste.

The highway watchdogs now were concerned that the Federal Highway Act of 1956 didn't include provisions "for preservation of the natural beauty through which highways are constructed". Restaurants and service stations were ruled off the highway, but not billboards. Garden Club members got into the fight to control billboards by supporting changes in the legislation.

"Operation Wildflower" appeared on the horizon with Oklahoma providing one of the major inspirations. The Oklahoma Highway Commission was enlisted to plant seeds provided by garden clubs which resulted in 12,000 miles of Oklahoma roadside planted in one year.

The mission statement of National Garden clubs, Inc. " provides education, resources and national networking opportunities for its members to promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility."

Thank you for your attention. We don't just "flutter".

Best regards,
Dotty Hurd
Idaho Garden Clubs, Inc.
website: www.gardencentral.org/idgardenclubs

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Healy Dean Garden in July

Homestead Gardens

Oversized hanging baskets in the parking lot at Homestead Gardens on Saturday, July 7.

Phlox paniculata.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Firecracker Fourth

After 2 hours on Woodrow Wilson Plaza enjoying Tito Puente Jr. and his mambo band and then several more wandering through the Folk Life Festival, we found refuge in the Mary Livingston Ripley garden that snakes between the Hirschorn Museum and the Arts & Industries Building.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Adkins Arboretum

Adkins Arboretum is fabulous! Situated just west of Denton, MD in the middle of the Delmarva Peninsula where the Northern and Southern Coastal Plains overlap, Adkins features the native plants of Delmarva wetlands, meadows and forests.

We left DC Saturday, June 30, about 8 a.m. to beat the beach traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and arrived at Adkins just as it opened at 10 a.m. [There was very little traffic returning on Saturday evening.]

Adkins comprises 400 acres of the 4,000-acre Tuckahoe State Park and was founded in 1980 with a "generous" grant from Leon Andrus. Since Adkins concentrates on native plants, it's work is primarily restoration and preservation. Our docent said they spend a lot of time removing invasive, non-native species.

The spade-shaped leaves (right) are of the edible duck potato. The white dot in the lower right is the duck potato blossom [click on any photo to enlarge or right click to open in a new window or new tab].

We looked to our left and there was a blue heron fishing. For the second week in a row, we spied an indigo bunting! There were also dragonflies in the wetlands and damselflies in the forest.

The meadows are cut or burned every three years to prevent establishment of the forest. Adkins has 23 boxes in the meadows to promote the eastern bluebird. Blooming in the meadows were milk weed and Maryland's black-eyed susans.

Adkins is by far the best documented of any arboretum we have visited. For the $3 admission, one can take a laminated trail map and a radio listening device to explore the arboretum trails with narration at points of interest. Also available are laminated cards with color photos showing what's in bloom this month, and another showing what birds, butterflies and insects are "on the wing." There are also docent guided tours at 11 a.m. on Saturdays (and 1 p.m. on first Wednesdays).

In addition, along the trails there are many small placards identifying various plants and occasional signs covering more general topics. [Insufficient plant labels are a huge problem in American arboretums, but not at Adkins.] We saw the fruit of the Mayapple that is favored by box turtles and the developing fruit of the Pawpaw that is favored by foodies.