Carolyn Quinn

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Welcome Carolyn Quinn

Carolyn joined The Gardeners as a provisional member in July 2013. We are so fortunate to have someone with her energy and desire to participate in many aspects of club activities.

Who proposed you for our club and how do you know one another?

I am delighted that Peggy Shaver proposed me for membership in the Gardeners. I met Peggy and her husband at a Colonial Dames function soon after moving to Philadelphia and we became fast friends. While I am not a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames, Peggy has been working with my husband in support of the Museum of the American Revolution.

Center City Philadelphia is a different lifestyle from the open spaces of Virginia where you once lived. Tell us about your present lifestyle and what you left behind.

My husband Michael and I are currently living adjacent to Washington Square on the 26th floor of the St. James apartment building. It is quite a change from our rustic cottage, surrounded by gardens and trees, on the 2,600-acre property of James Madison’s Montpelier in the Piedmont area of central Virginia. While we love the view of the Philadelphia skyline at night and the many wonderful sunsets, we do miss our gardens, one of which was designed in the mid-20th century by the renowned Virginia landscape architect Charles Gillette. The other was a large oriental garden. However, after 12 years in the country with only one grocery store and three, maybe four, restaurants (not counting fast food ones), it is exciting to be in the heart of a vibrant, big city with all its cultural and history attractions. Our biggest problem now on weekends is trying to decide what to do among many options—the opportunities seem endless.

Did I hear that you were in two garden clubs in Virginia? Can you tell us how you were involved and the kind of gardening you did? Do you favor horticulture, floral design or both?

When I arrived at Montpelier, I was invited to join the Dolley Madison Garden Club, mostly because of my husband’s position as president of the James Madison Foundation which runs Montpelier. I really had very little gardening experience at that time, having been raised in a military family that moved every two to three years. We were never anywhere long enough to think of growing much except annuals. While I served as chairman of the horticultural committee, my main contribution to the club was more in an organizational capacity. I worked especially on programs, membership, and the garden tours which we organized annually, because the Dolley Madison Garden Club is part of the Garden Club of Virginia as well as the Garden Club of America.

However, we were fortunate to have the bones of wonderful, historic gardens at our Montpelier home, and we became deeply engaged in restoring them to their previous glory. We were so pleased when we were asked to share our achievements by being part of the 2008 Historic Garden Tour. During this time, I certainly expanded my knowledge of horticulture but I am far from an expert. With the Gardeners, I hope to learn more about two areas of special interest to me, photography and flower arranging. I took my first steps towards that goal this week by attending an introductory Flower Arranging Class offered by GCA and am doing some reading online. I have recently purchased a new camera, but so far it is much smarter than I am. I have a lot of work to master it, but am hopeful that with help I can.

Do you and your husband still have careers or are you retired? Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds?

We came to Philadelphia because of my husband’s new position as President of the Museum of the American Revolution, a new museum which is to be built on the corner of Chestnut and 3rd Streets adjacent to Independence National Park. Michael was very excited to have this opportunity as it allowed him to expand on the skills and knowledge he gained as Director of James Madison’s Montpelier, where he oversaw the restoration of James and Dolley Madison’s home and launched the Center for the Constitution, and his previous job as Deputy Director of Mount Vernon. His love of our country’s early heritage made this new position a perfect match for him, and he is especially enjoying living in a city so rich with our cultural heritage. He is not at a loss for historic markers to read (one of his favorite past times). I was a very active volunteer at Montpelier and began a ladies luncheon series in honor of Dolley Madison that raised over $300,000 that we used to help refurnish the Madison home. Once I was called for jury duty and, when asked my profession, answered “professional volunteer” since I was also on the board of a local art center, the Boys and Girls club, and involved in our children’s schools. Before moving to Montpelier, I worked in a Senator’s office on Capitol Hill and in corporate advertising for a local newspaper chain.

Are there any other members of your family besides you and your husband? Pets?

One reason for my checkered work history—or I should say two reasons—are our daughters, Sarah and Lucy. Sarah, our oldest, is 28, married, and living in Richmond, but will soon be moving to Birmingham, Alabama for a wonderful job opportunity for her husband. They are very excited but we hate to see them move farther away. Lucy, who is 24, lives in Arlington, Virginia, and is just starting her career as a consultant to museums and other nonprofits with a company in downtown Washington, D. C. Both have enjoyed our move as they love to come to Philadelphia to explore all the attractions, the events and the many wonderful restaurants. We also have a 15-year old Bichon Frise; luckily for us, the St. James welcomes pets.

I understand that your mother-in-law was an expert on orchids. Are you fond of orchids too; or, do you have another favorite species that you like to grow indoors?

Yes, my husband’s mother was an orchid expert. She spoke at many garden clubs in the Charlottesville area on the care and cultivation of orchids. Her house was always filled with orchids and when she moved to a retirement community, she rented space in a greenhouse to continue growing orchids. I always had a constant source of flowering orchids as she not only provided fresh, blooming orchids, but would take the spent one away and rejuvenate it. Bess also was very proud when she became the first person on the East coast to be certified an Ikebana master after taking many classes in Washington, D. C in the 1960s and 70s. She was very well known for her beautiful arrangements. She loved sharing her knowledge and was very generous in conducting classes for garden clubs.

Do you feel welcomed in our garden club? Is there more that we can do for you?

Yes, I feel very welcomed and very blessed to be part of such a wonderful group of women. I look forward to getting to know everyone better as time goes on. As every club is different, I am still learning how the different committees function and just how I can best contribute. I especially appreciate the many kindnesses from Peggy, Wyn and Betsy as I am making this transition to Philadelphia.

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