It's time to read and vote for your favorite article in the 2013 Write-Off Contest! The four finalist's articles are featured in the May 13 newsletter and can be found through this link. Hurry! Voting ends May 18.
Many people have preconceived notions about groups of people. For years, I imagined that garden clubs were nothing more than groups of prissy ladies who wore hats and gloves to their monthly tea parties. I had no idea that they were enterprising women who had serious agendas and who have made major contributions to the health and beauty of our planet. I learned the truth when I became one of them.
Garden clubs come in many forms and sizes. Some are small neighborhood clubs that wish to work just in their neighborhoods. Others are larger, but choose to do their own thing, partly because belonging to a federation of garden clubs seems expensive to them. They are not interested in traveling outside their neighborhoods, and they don't wish to participate in activities suggested by others or to attend district, state, and national conventions. All of these clubs are great places to be and satisfy the needs of many members. Other clubs, though, belong to National Garden Clubs (NGC) because they enjoy benefits offered by the organization and deem them worth the paltry dues that are required.
National Garden Clubs (NGC) makes up the largest volunteer group in the world, weighing in at 198,595 members. All 50 states have member clubs, as well as the National Capital Area and affiliates from Canada, Mexico, South America, South Africa, Australia, and Japan. It is a non-profit educational organization headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Since I live in Florida, I am a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs (FFGC) and the Deep South Region of Garden Clubs, as well as NGC.
Is being a member of a club affiliated with NGC better than being a member of a club that is not? That's like asking if an orange is better than an apple. Everyone has an opinion. It is a decision that each group has to make based on their preferences and needs. It was important to me to join a club that is a part of NGC, and I promote it when I can because I believe in it and enjoy partaking of the smorgasbord of opportunities that are offered by the organization.
A friend approached me recently with this comment. "Members of my club have been thinking of joining National Garden Clubs. Some wish to do so, but others question the wisdom of sending $9 per member to a federation when we could just as well spend the money at home." Other clubs want answers, too. "We're just a neighborhood garden club," they say. "We want to learn about gardening in our neck of the woods and to work in our community. We can do those things without joining NGC." These are good points, and they deserve a good response.
Usually when I start delving into questions like these, I have to bring it down to a personal level. I have to ask myself, "What do my dues pay for? What does membership in NGC bring to me, my club and district?" Put that way, I find answers aplenty. The key word is opportunity.
The opportunity for education was the drawing card for me. It all began shortly after I retired from a 30-year teaching career, and a club in my neighborhood offered a Basic Floral Design Study Course, which is sponsored by FFGC. NGC has a similar program that teaches about basic flower arranging, creative table settings, and includes much "how-to" information, as well as many ideas to inspire creativity. After participating in these floral design courses, I was afire with zeal to learn more. I relate the following progression of steps not to regale you with evidence of some personal feat, but to illustrate only one aspect of possibilities that exist within the organization.
The next step for me was to take Flower Show School and become a Flower Show Judge. Over a period of about three years, and after attending four Flower Show Schools, writing a Flower Show Schedule, and passing a comprehensive examination, I became an Accredited Flower Show Judge. After several years of displaying in flower shows and judging them, I finally earned Master Flower Show Judge credentials.
Following this, I decided that I wanted to teach horticulture for NGC Flower Show Schools. I wrote outlines, had them approved, and began teaching. Although it sounds rather simple, it is a long and continuing process. It gives me opportunities to travel that I had not previously had. So far I have taught schools in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. I anticipate invitations from other parts of the country.
Would you believe there's a next step? Now I'm on the road to becoming a Symposium Instructor and Flower Show School Procedure Instructor. I don't expect there will ever be an end to the challenges and rewards that I have found in this field. I attend educational symposia, conventions, short courses, judges' groups and many other events. I chair flower shows for my club, and display and judge in other flower shows. I meet many talented people and make friends that I would never have met in a garden club that is not a part of NGC.
But that is far from the whole picture. Flower Show School is only one series of schools offered by NGC. Many people choose other schools, such as Landscape Design Studies, Gardening Studies and Environmental Studies. These schools are held throughout the country. Information about them can be found on the website or in the National Gardener, the magazine of NGC.
Add to these the opportunities we have for participation in special projects that are sponsored by the Federation and its leaders. During this two-year administration, we have focused on Florida and worked to improve its environment, raised thousands of "Dollar$ for $cholar$," and nurtured the earth by planting natives. All of these were themes chosen and sponsored by our leaders.
The Federation provides many opportunities to make a difference in our world. Members do much with birds and butterflies, reclamation and recycling, water and wetlands, Bartram Trail, and Blue Star Markers. The group contributes to the Nature Conservancy, World Gardening, and Natural Disasters. It supports Habitat for Humanity landscape projects across the country, and perhaps most significant of all, influences legislation that will affect our environment and the welfare of our earth. We work with youth gardeners, promote energy conservation, roadside beautification, school and community gardens, and many more worthwhile projects.
Participating in the activities of NGC promotes creativity, sharpens my skills, and introduces me to new ideas and concepts. I expect that it will keep me busy and happily occupied for the rest of my life. NGC never promised a feast, but it's there for the taking. We have only to help our plates from a table laden with irresistible treats. Choose only the tastiest tidbits to satisfy your cravings.
Visit the website to learn more about NGC. You will see that it is a mighty force for good in our country and abroad. And the first step was joining Valparaiso Garden Club and sending in my dues. It is the best investment this gardener ever made.
Goals of National Garden Clubs
To co-ordinate the interests and activities of the State Garden Clubs with similar organizations in the United States and abroad
To aid in the protection and conservation of natural resources, to promote civic beautification and encourage the improvement of roadsides and parks
To encourage the establishment and maintenance of botanical gardens, arboreta and horticultural centers for the advancement of science, enjoyment and education of the public
To advance the study of gardening, landscape design, environmental issues, floral design and horticulture and assist deserving students through college scholarships in these fields of endeavor
To co-operate with other organizations furthering the interests of horticulture, conservation, environmental protection and beautification.
About Marie Harrison
Serving as a board member for Valparaiso Garden Club, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and the Deep South Region, and National Garden Clubs takes a chunk of my time and attention. Being a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener crowds a bit more into my busy days. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at www.mariesgardenanddesign.com.