Greensboro Council of Garden Clubs, a ground-breaking organization, in more ways that one, celebrated its 60th anniversary in March.
When the council was established by 11 garden clubs in 1929, there were no models to follow. According to council historian Ruth Jackson, no similar type of organization for garden clubs existed in Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina.The council's objective became to have ``a more beautiful Greensboro through civic planting; the inspiration of flower shows and garden tours; a wider knowledge of horticulture, landscaping and flower design; the promotion of well-kept lawns; the protection of birds about us; and the preservation of native trees and plants.'
Current council president Peggy Maynard puts it this way: ``Since the beginning, garden club members have played a major role in the beautification of the city of Greensboro.
``Growing from 11 clubs in 1929, the garden clubs have demonstrated that gardening and its related artistic endeavor make for a happy and pleasant way of life and that it opens up a world so rich and so rewarding that only those whose hands have been thrust in garden loam can hope to fully know its delight.'
Mayor Vic Nussbaum gives the garden council credit for much of what makes Greensboro a nice place to live. ``Greensboro is such a beautiful city and one of the primary reasons is because of the hard work of the garden clubs and the council,' he said.
At one time in the council's history, more than 100 local garden clubs were members of the organization. The council currently is composed of 43 garden clubs with a total of 1,044 members. A full council meeting is held four times a year for the exchange of ideas and planning, Maynard said.
One of the primary ways the council has broken ground - and beautified the community - is by planting trees and flowers through Greensboro.
In 1955, in connection with the 25th anniversary of the council, members voted to lease from the city 12 acres in Lindley Park between for a municipal Anniversary Garden. A united effort of over 2,200 garden club women, the garden featured flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs and a rustic bridge.
The garden was turned back to the city for maintenance in 1973 because of increased vandalism, the increasing burden of maintenance and the construction of Wendover Avenue, which destroyed many of the plantings. In 1986, 17 1/2 acres of the Anniversary Garden area was presented to Greensboro Beautiful, Inc. to build an arboretum, using many of the remaining plants as a base.
The Bicentennial Garden, begun in 1976, was proposed by the council as a project for the 200th anniversary of the United States. The council contributed $10,000 of the proceeds of the previous year's Decorator House for the garden, located between Holden and Hobbs roads.
Some 20 flower beds redesigned each year are maintained with spring plantings of bulbs, summer plantings of annuals and fall plantings of chrysanthemums. A Fragrance Garden on the site features a sundial donated by the council. There also is a wildflower garden, an azalea area, a rock garden and a rose garden.
The council has been one of the main sponsors of the nonprofit organization Greensboro Beautiful. Individual garden clubs also contribute to the organization and participate in its projects.
The council also has taken on projects in neighborhoods, such as Woodland Hills on New Garden Road and the New Irving Park entrance on Cone Boulevard, Maynard said. The council also beautifies the Greensboro welcome areas with plantings.
Throughout its 60 years of existence, the council and its member garden clubs have broken ground in other ways - holding educational programs and sponsoring community events such as home tours, flower shows, designer houses and antique fairs.
``Ours is a nonprofit organization,' Maynard said. ``The only thing we get any profit from is the Home and Garden Tour. We turn that money back into the community.'
This year's Home and Garden Tour, which will feature six local homes and three gardens, will be held April 27-29. Tickets, $6 in advance, are available from garden club members and the council office.
``The council has been innovative and creative in coming up with fund-raising events,' Maynard said.
Through the years, the council also has sponsored educational events and lectures, flower judging workshops and a garden center.
The council isn't content to rest on its laurels. Council members have set a goal this year of bringing more youth into the council. ``We are doing that by having essay and plantings contests at schools,' Maynard said. ``'Tomorrow's Legacy' is the theme for 1990, and we are looking toward the future.'
The council hopes to complete its 25-year search for a permanent home this year. Funds for a council building have been set aside throughout the years, and the building committee is working to find a suitable location for a building to house the council's office and programs.
``The garden clubs are not just social; we learn a lot,' Maynard said. ``Our goal this year will be education involving horticulture, flower arranging, flower show judging and environmental awareness.
``It definitely is a cooperative effort and it originated with the bonding of the first 11 clubs,' she said. ``With the founding of the council, the clubs were able to work together to make a difference in Greensboro.'