In a world of constant change it's reassuring to know that some things are able to survive the test of time and flourish for decades.
Take, for example, the West Vancouver Garden Club, which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this month. It's no small accomplishment for any organization to continue to grow for 50 years; it's a testament to the vitality, enthusiasm and commitment of the club's members.
Founded in 1964, the WVGC has continued a tradition of educating and engaging its members in all things horticultural. The club has had many supporters such as Frank Dorsey who regularly contributed plants and educational seminars to the club. Or the enthusiastic and outgoing Jim Hemphill who was club president in the 1960s. And the late North Shore News gardening columnist Roy Jonsson, who was a club member and educator for many years. Those members and others too numerous to mention herein have helped shaped the nature of gardening in West Vancouver for the past five decades.
In most gardening clubs, women often comprise the majority of club membership and I wondered why men do not participate as much as women do. So I asked Wendi Kottmeier, a longtime club member who told me, "We are more nurturing than most men so we get involved and work at developing things, like the garden club. Our club contains many vital women from the community. Men are often singularly focused in only one aspect of gardening and are therefore less likely to join."
Most gardening clubs exist solely for the benefit of their members, but the WVGC has made some notable contributions to the community. According to the club's president, Louis Peterson, "We have run plant rescue programs to save old plants from demolition when houses go up for sale in West Vancouver. Some of those rescued plants are sold at our annual plant sale and the larger specimens are donated to various organizations including the West Vancouver parks department."
Several of the rhododendrons growing in West Vancouver's Memorial Park were donated by the club. The club also previously funded an annual scholarship for the now closed Capilano College horticulture program and still regularly contributes funds to West Vancouver, Rockridge and Sentinel secondary schools. Peterson also told me that the club has helped with building Christmas wreaths for Ambleside's festive beautification, worked to help seniors garden at local eldercare homes and helped with growing in the greenhouse at Lions Gate Hospital. The club also runs an annual plant sale at St. David's United Church where members contribute plants from their gardens to sell to the public with proceeds going to fund the club's various community programs.
The club (westvancouvergardenclub.com) holds meetings on the first Wednesday of every month for its 102 members to socialize, network and learn about gardening. During each meeting an educational seminar is delivered to teach members how to grow specific plants like rhodos, or provide more general information on topics such as veggies, tree care, perennials and annuals, growing plants from seed and many other horticultural topics.
The club uses its own members who have specific areas of expertise to teach members as well as bringing in outside experts to lecture on specific topics. During my conversation with some of the members of the club I found out that club membership is not all about education. It is much more, according to Hedy Hartmann, who said, "Gardeners are physically active, which keeps us healthy well into old age." Peterson told me, "Gardening helps people to relate to their environment." And Virginia Munro added that "Participation has broadened my awareness of what is possible in gardening."
Munro has taken "what is possible" to heart by creating her own lovely garden that she carved out of a steep hillside in West Vancouver by terracing the space into manageable levels to create her own backyard sanctuary.
I started this story by talking about things that survive the test of time, which the West Vancouver Garden Club has done successfully for the past 50 years. In an unrelated story in this newspaper, Kate Zimmerman recently wrote in her column, "What possible societal use can there be for people like me if we can't be sold gadgets and related gear that must be constantly updated and replaced?" Well, Kate, your valuable wisdom may be lost on all those "tech junkies" but maturity is virtue realized, a fact exemplified by the club, which continues to make contributions to society. And where gardening is concerned, without using the Internet, most young people can't even grow a tomato or head of lettuce to feed themselves. Maybe all those tech junkies should join the West Vancouver Garden Club and learn a few things about the natural world.
Todd Major is a journeyman horticulturist, garden designer and builder, teacher, skills trainer and organic advocate. For advice contact him at email@example.com.
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