In March 1907, a group of friends met one afternoon to talk over the possibility of a garden lovers club. Before they separated, “The Gardeners” was organized. A paper was to be read at each meeting, the hostesses’ garden was to be inspected and enjoyed, and tea was to be served. The dues were fixed at 25 cents a year and the membership was limited to 25.
Before three years were up, the membership had increased to 30, and in 1912, the Gardeners had grown to 35. The papers read at meetings became wider in scope, sometimes featuring outside speakers. Even in those early the small beginnings of present day activities could be seen. An annual plant exchange between members was held; a desire for civic improvement was fulfilled in planting a small garden around the bandstand in Bryn Mawr Park. Joint meetings were held with the Weeders and Garden Club of Philadelphia which lead to the eventual founding of the Garden Club of America in 1913.
In 1921 The Gardeners took part in the Rittenhouse square Flower Market for the first time, and in 1924 the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society first asked four garden clubs to cooperate in staging their flower shows. At the first Inter-Club Show held June 6th in Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, the Gardeners won a silver cup for the best collection of perennials
The Junior Gardeners were formed in 1924. They were a group of young women interested in learning about gardening under the auspices of the parent club but with their own organization and separate meetings. This club proved a huge success and when the juniors had grown in size, as well as experience, it was decided to amalgamate. The Garden Club of America consented to the Gardeners/Juniors combined membership being increased to 90 in 1930 as one organization.
Since the 1930’s despite changes in individual lifestyles and in the world at large, the focus of the Gardeners has remained the same. Although meeting are now only held once a month, (in 1924 there were reportedly 24 regular meetings in 15 months!), they have remained interesting, with many outside speakers on a wide variety of topics including horticulture, conservation, landscaping and flower arranging. The program is further enriched by many hands on workshops, on topics form propagation to niche design. While many meetings are still held in member’s homes, community centers, parish halls and libraries with spaces large enough to hold a flower show are frequently used. To accommodate young mothers, morning meetings, followed by refreshments have replaced the leisurely teas of yesteryear.
The Gardeners continue with Community outreach. For many years, the club maintained plantings at the Luddington Library, which was built as a memorial to one of our early members. In 2010, the expansion of the library necessitated the removal of the plantings, and the Gardeners took on minor maintenance at the Ardmore Branch. At the same time, a new commitment for the club became the replanting and maintenances of several garden areas at the Grange, a historic property in Haverford township, that had been the home of another former member, Mrs. Benjamin Hoffman.
Individual members assist in the maintenance of several other gardens, including the Magnlia Tribute Garden, the Physic Garden at Pennsylvania Hospital, and Bartram’s Garden, all in Philadelphia. At Bowman’s Hill wildflower preserve, the Gardeners maintained the Mary Helen Lloyd Evergreen trail for many years. In 1950, the Gardeners won the Founders Fund Award, which provided the Preserve with a much needed small pond.
For many years the members sold flowers and plants at the Rittenhouse Square Flower Market. An annual plant sale is held in May with the proceeds supporting the student conservation Association. In December, holiday arrangements are made and distributed to local nursing homes. The Gardeners help decorate Fairmount Park Houses for the annual Christmas tours. The Gardeners also continue to participate in the Philadelphia Flower Show, both as individual members and with club entries.
Environmental Issues are extremely important to members of the gardeners. State and National Legislators receive petitions from many members. In the 1920’a, the issues were roadside planting, and billboard control. Now the issues are acid rain, pollutants and climate change. The internet has much simplified the communication process.
In April 2007, the Gardener’s celebrated its one Hundredth Anniversary with a GCA Small Flower Show and festive dinner at the Radnor Hunt Club. The Garden Club also donated a grove of trees and a commemorative bench in Fairmount Park. Despite a speedier pace and more casual appearance reflecting changing times, The Gardeners still pursue the same interests with the same dedication that began with the founders of the club. But one thing is now only a happy memory, the 25 cent dues.