A day after a reporter for the New York Times wrote, “Botanical gardens are experiencing an identity crisis, with chrysanthemum contests, horticultural lectures and garden-club ladies, once their main constituency, going the way of manual lawn mowers,”(“Botanical Gardens Look for New Lures,” New York Times, July 26, 2010) I attended the annual awards dinner of The Garden Club of America’s Zone XI. What I experienced affirmed my sense that gardening isn’t dying, that "garden club ladies" are thriving—and growing in their impact—and that the Chicago Botanic Garden is more committed than ever to its horticultural legacy.
The Garden Club of America was founded in 1923. The mission of its 199 clubs is to "stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, to share the advantages of association by means of educational meetings, conferences, correspondence and publications, and to restore, improve, and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs in the fields of conservation and civic improvement.” And throughout the country, the garden clubs deliver on this promise.
The Garden Club of America Zone XI includes the members of 18 garden clubs from Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. These remarkable clubs are deeply committed to conservation, education, and beautification projects throughout the region and are a friend to the Chicago Botanic Garden in many important ways, including providing support for the Garden’s American Flower Show Series.
The American Flower Show Series has been held at the Garden since 1973, the year after the Garden opened to the public. Offered virtually every weekend from January through October, the calendar of flower shows brings together amateur and expert gardeners and educators—giving President’s Circle members and hundreds of thousands of visitors—the opportunity to attend lectures, workshops, sales, demonstrations, and judged competitive shows.
The Show of Summer, held every three years, is an important flower show I hope you will be able to attend in June 2011. Six Chicago-area garden clubs collaborate on this event, and in 2011 more than a hundred Garden Club members from dozens of clubs around the country will present exhibits on the theme “Botanica at the Chicago Botanic Garden.” The competition has individual and club challenges, and next year’s show will feature an exhibit on seed banking and conservation.
By stimulating knowledge and love of horticulture, events such as the American Flower Show Series and Show of Summer reflect a legacy that The Garden Club of America and the Chicago Botanic Garden actively share and honor. They also remind us of each organization’s individual commitments to education, conservation, and civic improvement.
Thank you for supporting the Chicago Botanic Garden in all of its facets. We know the benefits of gardening on health, happiness, and the environment, and rejoice in the camaraderie and community built and shared through gardening together. If you have not already made your contribution to the Annual Fund, I respectfully request you to do so. Your generous support makes everything we do together possible.
President & CEO
Chicago Botanic Garden
The American Flower Show Series is endowed in honor of Louise Durham Mead and Walter Langworthy Mead.